A return to form for Felipe, a podium and the series lead for Fernando

Fernando Alonso has edged a few points clear of his nearest rival at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings thanks to another bravura performance which saw him step onto the unique podium that awaits the top three in the Monaco Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver finished third, in a race that was won by Red Bull’s Mark Webber – the sixth different driver to win in six races – with Nico Rosberg second for Mercedes. Equally pleasing for the Scuderia is the fact that Felipe Massa has shown a strong return to form all weekend long and ended the afternoon in sixth place, to bring home valuable points for the team, which is third in the Constructors’ classification. Even if, as usual at this tight and twisty street circuit, there was not as much overtaking as we have grown used to, this was a thrilling race with several heart in mouth moments. Cars ran nose to tail, inevitably there are plenty of backmarkers to deal with and, right in the closing stages, the rain that had threatened all day, finally made an appearance over the Monegasque harbour.

At the start, Fernando immediately moved up one place to fourth behind the lead trio of Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton. Felipe was right behind his team-mate having gained two places, as Grosjean’s Lotus was sent into a terminal spin when he was clipped by Schumacher’s Mercedes on the run to Ste. Devote the first time. When Maldonaldo crashed the Williams at the end of the opening lap, the Safety Car came out for a couple of laps. The places remained unchanged, but Fernando progressively lost ground to Hamilton’s McLaren, the gap extending to 4.2s on lap 16, while Felipe was always around half a second behind his team-mate. After this, the Spaniard picked up the pace, even setting a race fastest lap at that point, so that the gap to third placed Hamilton came down, while the distance to Felipe increased, with the Brazilian comfortably ahead of Vettel, who was destined to do a very long stint, having started from ninth on the harder of the two Pirelli compounds.

On lap 27, Rosberg was the first to change tyres on his Mercedes and on 29, Webber, Hamilton, Raikkonen and others came in, while Fernando pitted on lap 30, dropping to fourth, one lap before Felipe, who came out in seventh place, although Schumacher ahead of him had yet to stop. The two Ferrari men were on the same tyre strategy, starting on the Pirelli Supersoft and making just the single stop to fit the Softs. A few drops of rain fell around half distance, but not enough for anyone to consider rain tyres. Vettel who obviously led at this point finally made his stop – nearly the entire field opted for just one tyre change this afternoon – on lap 46 and it was at this point that Webber inherited the lead he would keep to the flag. He was followed by Rosberg and then there was a bit of a gap to Fernando, Vettel, Hamilton with Felipe sixth, in fact the order that would be maintained for the remaining 32 laps. In the closing stages, it began raining again, a bit harder than earlier but still not enough to consider Intermediate or Rain tyres. However it made for an exciting finale because there was very little separating the top four as they negotiated their way in the slippery conditions, past the backmarkers. Behind the Brazilian Ferrari driver, the remaining points went to the Force India duo of Di Resta and Hulkenberg, with Raikkonen ninth for Lotus and the final point going to Senna in the Williams.

After just two races on the Old Continent, the F1 circus heads for the New World and the seventh round of the championship, the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, fortnight from today

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