• The Final Stint - Monaco Grand Prix

Hamilton shows first mental cracks

Laurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders
May 26, 2014
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It finally happened. The "moment" Alain Prost talked about on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix which could turn Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton's simmering rivalry into a war. Rosberg's trip down Mirabeau will divide fans and pundits alike all season and may well define the championship. While the Mercedes war out in front provided another compelling chapter to this season, Monaco once again delivered a memorable spectacle across the field. ESPN rounds up some of the main talking points from the Monte Carlo.

Advantage Nico

It was always a matter of when and not if. Success simply cannot be shared by racing drivers as by the very nature of motor racing someone always has to finish second. Some are better at dealing with it than others, but when questions of fairness circle within the helmet at 180mph they start to blur the vision. Only Nico Rosberg knows exactly why he ran wide at Mirabeau, but that barely matters if Lewis Hamilton convinced himself it was an underhand ploy.

The tight confines of the venue, which make overtaking so difficult and pole position so crucial, acted as a pressure cooker and Hamilton struggled to cope.

Over the weekend Hamilton became consumed by the theory, handing the mental battle to Rosberg even though he was quicker on the track. The tight confines of the venue, which make overtaking so difficult and pole position so crucial, acted as a pressure cooker and Hamilton struggled to cope. Even in his Sunday media briefing he told journalists that he wished he could show them the data from Rosberg's lap on Saturday, despite the stewards' decision 24 hours earlier that cleared Rosberg of any offence. Hamilton knew he was quicker but was unable to prove it and that is what will frustrate him most. Rosberg, meanwhile, not only has a points advantage as he returns to the top of the championship but a psychological one too. LE

Where now?

One of the most interesting aspects of the Mercedes spat was the revelation that tensions between Rosberg and Hamilton had been simmering away since the Bahrain Grand Prix. It emerged that Rosberg had used an engine map setting to gain an advantage over Hamilton during their epic battle in Sakhir only for Hamilton to find out after the race. As payback Hamilton then did the same in Spain to hold off Rosberg by just 0.6s for victory, meaning there was more than just a bit of previous leading up to Saturday's qualifying session.

Mercedes insists the advantage was small and the engine maps were used for just seconds at a time, but in races when the two were so closely matched it was still a slight edge. Team boss Toto Wolff has vowed to put an end to such practices, but the tit-for-tat sniping between the two is on the brink of escalating into a full-scale war. The obvious conclusion is an on-track clash, and with more than two thirds of the season remaining it seems almost inevitable that something will happen. Mercedes bosses in Stuttgart will be keen to stamp out the flames before the fire spreads at the risk of tarnishing its championship-winning Silver Arrows with suggestions of foul play. For the rest of us, however, it provides a fascinating story line to what would otherwise be a painfully predictable year. LE

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A breathtaking spectacle

Everyone knows Formula One drivers are immensely talented and Monaco's street circuit is incredibly tight. But watching the cars trackside completely redefines that perception. To spectate from the inside of the barriers at Tabac requires not just trust in the drivers but an unhealthy disregard for everything you thought you knew about physics. Stood behind waist-height Armco and a chainlink fence during first practice, the drivers' cold front tyres take aim at you, and not the apex, as they turn in.

At first it looks like a horrible misjudgement, an accident waiting to happen at your very feet, but before the mind has truly processed that thought the car's front end scrubs an inch or two wide and flashes within centimetres of the barrier. There's getting close and then there's Monaco. LE

Formula One's got talent

As the ultimate drivers' track it was fitting that Monaco demonstrated just how much talent really lies lower down the field in F1. The most striking performances on Thursday and Saturday were arguably from Daniil Kvyat, who had never driven at Monaco before and yet got himself into Q3 and qualified ninth. His spin into Nouvelle during practice demonstrated he is far from the finished article but has potential in abundance and at just 20 he surely has big things ahead of him.

There were several men who came to Monaco needing a strong result. After gaining four penalty points in four races Jules Bianchi delivered in spades for Marussia, barging through Kamui Kobayashi early on and then holding his nerve to keep Romain Grosjean at bay at mid-distance. Kevin Magnussen out-qualified Jenson Button - who admitted his team-mate "was just quicker" on Saturday - and had kept himself in a strong position during the race until falling victim to a late Kimi Raikkonen lunge, delivering his strongest drive since earning a podium on his debut in Australia.

Despite his consistency this season Nico Hulkenberg's thunder has been stolen slightly by the fact it was Sergio Perez who ended Force India's long wait for a podium in Bahrain. After losing to his team-mate in Spain the German needed a fight back and he delivered, with his outrageous pass on Kevin Magnussen through Portier one we will see in Monaco Grand Prix highlights packages for years to come. Hulkenberg then held off a charging Jenson Button on supersofts that were almost completely destroyed, another sign the German is surely just a podium finish or two away from being seriously considered for a top drive. NS

A popular ninth

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Thanks to Jules Bianchi and Marussia we know at least one team celebrated success at Monte Carlo in complete harmony. Everyone loves an underdog story and Bianchi's eighth - which became ninth after a penalty - has to be one of the feel-good results of a season which has seen the decision to abandon the cost cap high on the agenda. It is hard to overstate just how valuable those two points could turn out to be financially for the team, but also how damaging they could be for Marussia's rival Caterham, who look to be a long way off making the sort of gains Marussia has in recent months.

Credit has to go to Bianchi for a great drive and it proves Marussia's recent fighting talk of catching Sauber was not at all far-fetched. The result must be giving Sauber a rather substantial headache after suffering another double DNF, but most importantly provides the sort of genuinely competitive fight the lower portion of the grid deserves. NS

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