Monaco Grand Prix 2012

/ Commentary

Race

Hello and welcome to ESPNF1's live coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix. After a sense of deja vu in qualifying - when Michael Schumacher took provisional pole - what does the race have in store?

I say provisional pole, because Schumacher had a five-place grid penalty held over from Barcelona and starts the race in sixth place. As a result, Mark Webber starts from pole and has every chance of making it six different race winners this season

This is the most glamorous grand prix of the season and it's evident just from the names on the grid. So far we've seen Antonio Banderas and Will Smith out there, as well as Eric Clapton and Jools Holland

And there's Rush director Ron Howard. I don't know how people move around down there, let alone work on the cars

Still, in 15 minutes we'll see the lights go out and racing will get underway. Mark Miller has emailed in to ask: "What are your thoughts on how Webber will start the race? He seems to have horrible starts throughout this year and last."

Agreed, he's not been starting well, but being Monaco he just needs to get his car across the front of Rosberg on the run down to turn one and he should lead out of Ste Devote

Now if you want to get in touch with us during the race with any questions or comments you can do so using the link above. You can also keep track of some of the images and news from the paddock via Twitter @ESPNF1

With ten minutes to go the drivers are getting in to their cars, Schumacher looking relaxed and happy in his Mercedes. And why shouldn't he be? He starts from the best position he possibly could going in to the weekend, which also means he has a quick car today

I tipped Lewis Hamilton for victory in our race preview and I'm quietly confident as he starts in third place. Not just that, but he's looking very relaxed; in fact, who knew these two got on so well?


© Sutton Images

Our editor will be very pleased with this bit of feedback from Robert on email: "OMG!! To those girls sun baking in Monaco on the ESPN F1 pics!! Awesome!"

Tom on email asks: "What tyres are most drivers starting on considering the sunny conditions?"

Well the top eight have to start on supersofts having set their best times on those, but Vettel has a choice and we're yet to see his hand. I know Button is definitely on softs though down in 12th place

The tyre covers are coming off and we'll soon have the formation lap. And away they go

Just one pair to keep an eye on is Perez and Maldonado at the back of the grid. Maldonado is back there as a result of a clash with Perez in FP3 which earned him a ten-place grid penalty, and then a gearbox change added another five places. Could be feisty.

Confirmation, Vettel is also soft tyres. Di Resta, Petrov and de la Rosa go with softs too, along with Button

Webber takes up his slot on pole position. The rear of the grid is still forming...

Getting in to turn one is going to be massively crucial. The most important start of the season. And the five lights are on...

Lap 1

Grosjean and Schumacher come together on the run down to turn one, tipping Grosjean in to a spin and taking out Kobayashi and Maldonado too

Webber leads from Rosberg and Hamilton. Alonso up to fourth ahead of Massa. Schumacher has damage and needs to pit.

Maldonado in the wall, safety car deployed

Lap 2

That call came too late, we were crossing the line to start the second lap and marshals were on the inside of turn one clearing the Lotus.

Replays show Kobayashi getting hit in turn one and getting knocked against Button, while Maldonado ran in to the back of de la Rosa - who is now in the pits with a broken rear wing

Lap 3

Still under the safety car. Just to confirm, Grosjean, Maldonado and de la Rosa are out. Schumacher is lucky to not have more damage.

Safety car coming in this lap. Quick work by the marshals

Lap 4

Webber gets away well on the restart, leading Rosberg through Ste Devote but Hamilton struggles to get the power down and has to defend from Alonso in to the final corner.

Kobayashi has had to pit after his first corner damage but has rejoined

Lap 5

Webber only 0.7s ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton a second further back. Alonso has Massa all over the back of him. Vettel is sixth having cut turn one completely avoiding Grosjean at the start. Raikkonen close behind him.

Vettel won't get penalised for cutting turn one by the way - or shouldn't - because he was taking avoiding action

Lap 6

As you were at the front, very close lap times with only a tenth between them. Kovalainen is up in 13th and keeping pace with Ricciardo in front. Button is behind him after being caught up in the first corner trouble.

Petrov does the fastest lap having pitted. That's what clear air does for you

Lap 7

Button gets encouragement from his race engineer despite being down in 14th place. He'll hope he can go a long way on the prime tyres. Webber has extended his lead to a second a the front, and Massa is still pressuring Alonso for fourth

The DRS zone is on the start-finish straight and now enabled. Kobayashi is in the pits to have his car checked over, so he's now gone a lap down

Lap 8

The race stewards are investigating cars cutting the first corner on lap one. That was definitely Vettel, and I believe Hulkenberg too. They were forced there by the spinning Grosjean in my opinion

Lap 9

Webber extends his lead to 1.3s. Hamilton is now a second behind Rosberg, with Alonso only 0.4s ahead of Massa - he appears to be holding him up at present.

It's close throughout the field with Karthikeyan in 19th just 20 seconds off the lead

Lap 10

It looks like Kobayashi has retired now as he's taking his helmet off in the Sauber garage

We've got quite a train of cars behind Alonso, he's 1.7s behind Hamilton but they're all running close together back to Hulkenberg in ninth. Schumacher pressuring Raikkonen for seventh place

Lap 11

Webber with another fastest lap but it's matched by Rosberg - the gap is 1.4s. Hamilton does the fastest first sector and closes to a second behind the Mercedes ahead. Really ebbing and flowing right now.

Mark emails in to say: "I'm wanting Hamilton as well. Do you think he is conserving tires or is really in trouble having so much pressure from Alonso and Massa? Or is that what he and Alonso were talking about prior to the race (LOL)?"

I think his car isn't quite dialled in and he's struggling with traction, but Hamilton's still driving as well as ever to stay in contention and is now 2.3s clear of Alonso

Lap 12

Button in 14th is just 0.8s slower than Webber at the front. That's probably a result of the pack bunching up under braking - you can't get on the power until the car in front does.

Perez tries to pass Vergne in to the Nouvelle Chicane but Vergne cuts it to keep position

Lap 13

There will be no further action over the turn one corner cutting - right decision.

How's this for team radio to Raikkonen - "We could see some rain in 15 laps". Oh boy, that's really going to make things trickier for everyone if it happens. The message will be to look after your tyres until then

Lap 14

Webber leads by 1.6s, with Hamilton the same amount behind Rosberg. Nobody seems to be on the ragged edge at present, and that's keeping everyone close together.

Perez has passed Vergne for 16th - I presume in to turn one but it wasn't shown

Lap 15

Webber again has his lap time matched by Rosberg. Perez in clear air does the fastest lap - and it turns out Vergne was told to give Perez the position having cut the chicane defending. He's not happy, but it looked like he gained an advantage by not making the apex

Lap 16

Suddenly it looks like Webber has put the hammer down. The fastest lap and 0.4s quicker than Rosberg so he now leads by two seconds. Nobody else has been able to match that time.

Need to point out what a good job Kovalainen is doing - 13th and keeping Button 1.5s behind him. Not such good news for Petrov, who radios in to say he has an issue that needs checking

Lap 17

Henrik asks: "And the rules say what if you cut a corner/chicane and gain positions by doing so? If Vettel and Hulkenberg gained positions, why should the people illegaly overtaken suffer for it?"

That's because they were taking evasive action, so there was nothing they could do about it. Really, they're just lucky that avoiding one car gained them positions.

I mentioned Petrov's problem - he's now retired the car

Lap 18

Alonso with the fastest lap and it was 0.8s quicker than Webber. Massa radioed in to ask about Alonso's pace and was told that his team-mate was looking after his tyres. Looks like he's bored of that now!

Vergne pits for soft tyres

Lap 19

Webber's lead up to 2.2s but Alonso is still the quickest man out there and has just taken 0.8s out of Hamilton in front of him.

Perez dives up the inside of Glock in to the Nouvelle Chicane, the Marussia cuts it to stay ahead but then just about lets Perez through in to Tabac

Lap 20

20 laps on supersoft tyres which were used in qualifying, and now we can see the pace changing. Alonso with another fastest lap and he's a second quicker than Webber and Hamilton. The teams expecting rain in about 14 laps time now, but they will need to pit soon

It appears that Alonso has looked after his tyres the best and that's bringing him back in to play

Lap 21

Another fastest lap from Alonso. He's now 5.6 off the lead and 3.1s behind Hamilton. The lead at the front is 2.2s for Webber. Raikkonen and Schumacher appear to be starting to lose a bit of time

Lap 22

Jeffrey asks: "IF SCHUMMY HAD STARTED ON POLE AND GOT AWAY CLEANLY WHAT ARE THE CHANCES HE'D BE STILL IN THE LEAD??"

Apologies for the capital letters, but the way the race is going you'd say he would almost certainly be leading.

Rosberg closes to within 1.9s of Webber. Massa radios in to ask when they will pit as he's starting to struggle now. Raikkonen also is as he slides out of Rascasse with Schumacher behind him. He's dropped four seconds behind Vettel now

Lap 23

Webber has responded with a quick lap. Vettel is in a bit of nomansland, he's 4.6s behind Massa and four ahead of Raikkonen. Schumacher close behind Raikkonen now

Lap 24

Vettel skips the the Nouvelle Chicane but continues. Everyone still waiting for rain. Surely someone needs to gamble and pit?

Kovalainen in 13th is just five seconds from a place in the points. Could today be Caterham's day?

Lap 25

Button is told the option runners ahead are starting to struggle, but I don't see that on the lap times. Hamilton is in the 1m20s while most of the top six is in 1m19s so he needs to respond

Lap 26

The gap at the front is 2.1s. Rosberg is told to expect light rain in four minutes. We do need it to spark this race in to life again - everybody watching the skies. Now Webber is told it will be 12 minutes?! Nobody knows!

Hamilton's dropped four seconds behind Rosberg and is only one second ahead of Alonso

Lap 27

Raikkonen is really slow now as his tyres degrade. He's got a train behind him all the way to Ricciardo in 12th place

Rosberg pits! Finally someone did it. Raikkonen is told to stay out because rain is expected in five minutes, so that pit stop could have hurt Rosberg if it rains. Soft tyres for him and he comes out ahead of Raikkonen

Lap 28

Quickest man on track now? Vettel. He's 3.5s behind Massa and closing.

Alonso all over the back of Hamilton for second.

Schumacher has half a look up the inside of Raikkonen in to the Nouvelle Chicane but does commit fully

Lap 29

Raikkonen complaining that his rear tyres have gone, but the team are adamant it will rain and that he must stay out. Kovalainen and Button have joined the back of the Raikkonen train.

Webber puts and that's a quick stop. Hamilton in too and soft tyres for both. Alonso stays out so leads, and sets the fastest first sector

Lap 30

Button is told McLaren will wait for the rain. Vettel is in good shape now as he's on soft tyres too and can keep going.

Alonso pits after two fastest sectors. Will he be able to jump Hamilton?

Lap 31

Alonso exits ahead of Hamilton, comfortably. Kovalainen and Glock pit. Senna, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen have been in for soft tyres too

Massa told to pit from the lead, and in he comes. Vettel now leads. Schumacher still out and could leap Raikkonen after a quick lap in the 1m19s

Lap 32

Massa rejoins behind Schumacher who has yet to pit. Vettel leads Webber by 9.7s at present.

An early stop for Vergne has jumped him up to 12th place

Lap 33

Quick lap from Vettel - a 1m19.6s while Webber and Rosberg behind are in the 1m21s.

Still rain expected according to Red Bull over the radio to Vettel - if it rains he's in great shape

Lap 34

Vettel extends his lead to 13 seconds over Webber, while Rosberg is 1.4s behind in third place. Raikkonen rejoined behind Pic who hasn't pitted, so Schumacher is gaining time on him right now despite not having pitted.

Everyone who has put on new tyres is running slower than they were before pitting. Schumacher pits now

Lap 35

Schumacher rejoins with Vergne coming after him but he makes it out in front, so tenth place and with di Resta, Ricciardo and Button ahead yet to pit.

Lap 36

Vettel continues to pull away, his lead is now 14.7s.

Raikkonen tried to pass Perez out of Rascasse, but the Sauber turned in to the pit lane and Raikkonen had to slam on the brakes. Hulkenberg behind then jumped ahead of Raikkonen before the final corner.

Alonso closing in on Rosberg for third place

Lap 37

Hamilton is catching Alonso ahead of him too, so it's just bunching up a bit behind Webber again. Seven seconds between second and sixth places.

Reports of a few spots of rain in the paddock, while the Perez and Raikkonen incident is under investigation by the race stewards

Lap 38

Vettel's doing a great job as he extends his lead to 16.2s. Perez has been given a drive-through penalty for a late pit entry and impeding Raikkonen. A bit harsh if you ask me

Lap 39

Button is told to pit in order to overtake, and in he comes.

Supersoft tyres on Button's car, while Webber just went quicker than Vettel for the first time - perhaps the softs are going off? Button rejoins just behind Kovalainen who is on soft tyres

Lap 40

Webber again marginally quicker at the front, taking 0.3s out of Vettel. Rosberg is 2.1s behind and Alonso 1.2s further back. Perez takes his drive through and rejoins in 18th

Lap 41

Rosberg, Alonso and Hamilton all going quicker, but Hamilton radios in to say "At this pace, my tyres won't last very long - the rears"

Apparently no rain is no forecast! Never trust a weatherman. If it doesn't rain, however, Vettel's lead doesn't looks so secure

Lap 42

Six seconds now cover second to sixth. Massa told that he needs to close up on Hamilton to ensure Vettel can't pit and rejoin in front of them

Lap 43

Vettel doesn't appear to need to pit, though as he extends his lead to 16.8s.

Hamilton's team radio says: "Light showers all around us, heavy rain in half an hour". Make your minds up!

Lap 44

Button is right behind Kovalainen still in the battle for 13th. Kovalainen was quick at the start but now can't match pace and is 1.5s a lap slower than Senna ahead of him.

Perez outbrakes himself in to the Nouvelle Chicane trying to pass Pic and skips the corner before giving the position back

Lap 45

Vetetl's lead is 17.2s now. Still five seconds covering the next five cars. Schumacher is quick in seventh place but 22s behind Massa

Lap 46

Jafar emails in to ask: "If any of the Marussia drivers finish 15th or so, will it move them to 10th place in the construction championship?"

Marussia is already 10th, Jafar, but Kovalainen's current 13th place would put Caterham back above Marussia.

Vettel pits at the end of the lap and puts on a set of supersoft tyres. Where will he rejoin?

Lap 47

Vettel rejoins just ahead of Hamilton. Great strategy from Red Bull. So now our top six cars are all running within six seconds of each other. If Vettel wants to one-stop he'll need to do 30 laps on theses supersofts

Lap 48

And then Massa is the quickest man on that lap so first to sixth is covered by 5.3s. Schumacher is seventh and 27.9s off the lead.

Raikkonen is told that Lotus expects no rain and will have to go to the end of the race now. I'm not betting any money on that message though.

Lap 49

Vettel has closed up behind Alonso in third place and we have a great shot when the top six cars are all visible as they take the Loews hairpin. Passing may be very difficult but at least we are all running so close.

Schumacher locks up in to the Nouvelle Chicane and has to cut it. Vergne is 1.7s behind him and running quickly at present

Lap 50

There was just 0.2s between the quickest and slowest laps from the top six on that last lap. Vergne doing well having gambled and pitted early. I should be a strategist.

Lap 51

Webber trying to stretch his legs at the front - he leads Rosberg by 1.3s and Alonso by 3s. Now six seconds cover the top six.

Button is still behind Kovalainen and has dropped 1.2s behind him

Lap 52

Di Resta in ninth is only five seconds ahead of Senna in 12th, so a good scrap for the points, too.

Hamilton seems to be coming back at Vettel slightly. Nobody is close enough to make a move anywhere though

Lap 53

Peter asks: "Is Webber managing his tyres or is Rosberg just quicker than him?"

Webber is managing his tyres, but Rosberg is staying in touch as he does the same

Lap 54

Alonso is just dropping away from the leading two, a bit like in the first stint

A bit of debris on the track at the Swimming Pool slows the field through there. It was part of the Marussia front wing but isn't on the racing line

Lap 55

Webber locks up heavily in to the Nouvelle Chicane. Still under yellows through the Swimming Pool. It might stay like that for a while

Lap 56

Alonso is now 4.9s behind Webber. Schumacher was showing good pace and has closed to within 25s of the lead.

I was wrong, track is now clear again

Lap 57

Perez is 16th but setting fastest laps - he's in the 1m17s while the leaders are two seconds slower

Lap 58

Twenty laps to go and Alonso has reacted. He's closed the gap to Webber to 4.1s and is 2.3s behind Rosberg. Vettel has also dropped 1.5s behind the Ferrari.

Kovalainen cuts the chicane defending from Button but is only warned and doesn't have to relinquish position

Lap 59

Tom asks: "With Mercedes engines in 5 of the 10 top spots, what are the chances of a win?"

Well, Rosberg looks strong, but it depends how well Vettel can look after his supersofts to challenge for victory later. Realistically though, track position is king and Webber is sitting pretty if nobody pits again.

Schumacher radios in to say he has a problem with the car and his pace has dropped off. A shame as he was catching Massa - if not all that quickly. On that last lap he lost 1.3s to Vergne behind him

Lap 60

Jeffrey asks: "Of the leading 10 who might be on a 1 stop strategy ?? Vettel and Schumacher?"

I think everyone will try it Jeffrey, with only 18 laps to go

Webber leads by 1.4s now, with Alonso 3.7s off the lead

Lap 61

Hamilton locks up in to turn one but continues. What we have to hope is that one of these top six do hit tyre trouble later in the race.

Schumacher still running two seconds off the pace with his problem. Vergne is right behind him now but can he pass?

Lap 62

Reports of more spots of rain but nothing heavy.

Vergne passes Schumacher up the inside on the approach to Ste Devote. Schumacher didn't defend as he has a problem and seemed down on top speed

Lap 63

Marcio asks: "What's the real chance of somebody passing somebody in Monaco?"

It's very low, but if we do get a big difference in tyre performance then it can open up opportunities.

Status quo at the front, but not in track conditions. A few spots of rain dropping at turn five.

Schumacher is now six seconds off the pace and about to have di Resta cruise past him. Hulkenberg makes it past as well and then Raikkonen up towards Massanet. Schumacher is just cruising

Lap 64

It's starting to rain. Rosberg closing in on Webber too

Lap 65

Rosberg now within 0.6s of Webber, who seems cautious of the rain.

Schumacher retires his car

Lap 66

The lap times now a second slower than they were a lap ago. The top five all within five seconds now too, will anyone make a mistake?

Kovalainen defends the inside line robustly from Button and holds position.

Schumacher's retirement puts Raikkonen in to tenth place and Kovalainen just two places off the points

Lap 67

Rosberg still within a second of Webber. Massa also catching the leader so first to sixth covered by 6.7s.

A brief yellow as Pic had stopped out on track in sector two but his car has already been cleared

Lap 68

Still the lap times in the 1m20s. Everyone being cautious. Webber now only 5.9s ahead of Massa in sixth, but nobody too close to each other.

Ricciardo pits and retires.

Lap 69

Inside the final ten laps and the lap times continue to go up - Webber in to the 1m21s. Looked quite wet at Massanet and we have a real train from Webber back to Hamilton

Lap 70

Webber is really slow now. A 1:24.771 was that last lap. It's all so close! Webber has backed them all up so much and you really feel it's going to come down to who makes a mistake. Rosberg all over Webber, Massa now starting to catch those ahead

Lap 71

A brief yellow flag as Perez spun at the first corner, so no overtaking. The top six really are nose to tail now and we're in the 1m26s lap times. Supreme driving skill. Vergne has pitted for intermediate tyres - that's a gamble but the pace is so slow. Di Resta is still two seconds a lap quicker in seventh place

Lap 72

More yellows in turn one due to some debris. Not sure who's caused it. Replays show Button spinning trying to pass Kovalainen at the swimming pool chicane and getting a puncture. Kovalainen and Perez then both slid straight on at turn one

Lap 73

It's clear now, and Webber seems to have pulled a slight gap. Still just three seconds cover the top six. Somebody just asked about the rain - it's appeared to have stopped but the track is still slightly greasy

Lap 74

Webber seems more confident again and is down in to the 1m22s. They were all so close but now starting to spread out a little bit again.

Vergne is very slow on intermediates because the rain didn't come down hard.

Lap 75

Alonso close behind Rosberg, but there's not been any obvious area where you think somebody looks strong enough to pass.

Button is out after that spin and puncture, if it wasn't clear

Lap 76

Three laps to go and still a threat of a final shower. Hamilton is told about it, but we're down in to the 1m20s again on a dry track

Lap 77

Two to go, the top six is covered by 4.4s. Perez is behind Massa (a lap down) but quicker than the Ferrari at present. I'm going to tempt fate and say I can't see anyone being able to make a pass here...

Lap 78

In to the final lap and Webber leads Rosberg by 0.6s. Rosberg trying to put the pressure on but can't do it. The top four are so close but there's no real opportunities.

MARK WEBBER WINS THE MONACO GRAND PRIX! Six different winners from the opening six races, and the top four were covered by just 1.3s.

Hamilton comes home fifth and Massa sixth - 6.1s back. It's a good weekend for Force India too as di Resta is seventh and Hulkenberg eighth. Raikkonen finishes ninth ahead of Senna in the final points' paying position.

The onboard camera on Webber's car shows some more rain on the car and it's gone very dark. You can understand why the teams were cautious.

Alonso hugs Webber and congratulates him on his victory, while Webber stands on his car and salutes his team. once he takes his helmet off he looks delighted, while Rosberg seems pretty pleased with second place. Prince Albert applauds as Webber climbs the steps up to the royal box.

Webber holds his trophy aloft with a big smile on his face. The result actually means that Alonso is now the outright leader of the championship, however, and he looks equally happy on the podium

The Australian national anthem rings out in Monaco as the flags are raised. It's a popular win on email too as Denise says:

"I am over the moon that Mark won. WELL DONE MARK in a very difficult race. Knew you could do it."

After a pose for photos it's Alonso who breaks rank first to run on to the track and spray his team in champagne. Webber is next to do so, and as he takes a well deserved swig it's time for our live coverage to come to an end. Thanks for following us, apologies we couldn't use all of your comments and questions but there were so many! Hopefully you got a feeling for the tension even if we were left without much overtaking.

I seem to say it every race at the moment but what a season we're having. Make sure you stay on ESPNF1.com for all the reaction and keep an eye on our Twitter feed @ESPNF1 for the talk in the paddock. Bye for now.