Mark Webber claimed the victory at a processional Monaco GP ahead of Nico Rosberg, crowning him the sixth different winner of this season.
It was yet another race dominated by tyre management where rain threatened to give an ordinary race an extraordinary twist. Sadly it only started bucketing down after the cars had crossed the line.
Mark Webber came home in front of Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso with Sebastian Vettel taking advatnage of a first corner accident, caused by Romain Grosjean, to jump from P9 to P6 on the opening lap, and using tyre strategy to claim P4 by the flag. Lewis Hamilton finished fifth followed him by a reinvigorated Felipe Massa.
It was pale sunshine on the grid at Monaco with some rain forecast for later in the afternoon and with an ambient temperature of 22C and the track at 36C.
Six Rows of Grid
1. Mark Webber, 2.Nico Rosberg, 3.Lewis Hamilton, 4.Romain Grosjean, 5.Fernando Alonso, 6.Michael Schumacher 7.Felipe Massa, 8.Kimi Raikkonen, 9.Sebastian Vettel, 10.Nico Hulkenberg 11.Kamui Kobayashi, 12.Jenson Button
As the lights went out Mark Webber got a brilliant getaway and was easily into Ste Devote in front of Nico Rosberg with Hamilton slow away but still holding onto third place. Behind, it got messy.
Romain Grosjean was slow away and tried to get past Fernando Alonso hooking his front tyre inside the rear tyre of the Ferrari as he squeezed across to the inside. Realising that this wasn't going to work, he then moved to the outside again and found Michael Schumacher's Mercedes there - bounced into it and spun around facing the rest of the field, his tyre deranged and his front wing smashed.
Miraculously almost all the rest of the field managed to miss him as they streamed either side going through St.Devote. Vettel, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo managed to use the escape road - Vettel took a place off Raikkonen thanks to it. (The stewards took a look at it but it was either that or have an accident).
Kamui Kobayashi tried to take avoiding action, clipped the back of the Lotus leaping the Sauber into the air and clunking Jenson Button in the process. His race would only last five laps. Button had looked to make up some places at the start but instead now found himself stuck behind the Caterham of Kovalainen thanks to the bump from Kobayashi.
Right at the back of the grid Pastor Maldonado, relegated by a 10-place penalty from FP3 and a 5-place gearbox change penalty increased his frustration by misjudging his braking and thumping straight into the back of Pedro de la Rosa's HRT at Ste Devote removing the Spaniard's rear wing.
Positions at the end of Lap One
1.Webber, 2.Rosberg, 3.Hamilton 4.Alonso, 5.Massa, 6.Vettel, 7.Raikkonen, 8.Schumacher, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.Senna, 11.DiResta, 12.Ricciardo
A Safety Car was deployed to pick up the debris of the Maldonado impact with de la Rosa, and it closed the field up until the end of Lap3 when it dived into the pits
The Lap one order would remain the same for many laps to come but in the early stages Felipa Massa was tight on the gearbox of Fernando Alonso and looked quicker than his team-mate.
By Lap 13 the biggest gap was that between Lewis Hamilton in P3 and Alonso in P4 - three seconds. That gap would go out to as much as 4.2 seconds by Lap 17. It became clear that Alonso was biding his time because Fernando suddenly put the hammer down and started recovering 0.6 seconds a lap. It came down from 4.2 to 3.6 to 2.9 and by Lap 21 it was only 1.1 to Hamilton.
By Lap 21 the biggest gap on track was between Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel. Vettel had started the race on soft tyres and was clearly going to go longer than the five cars in front of him. The top five were all in touch, with only nine seconds between P1 Webber and P5 Massa on Lap 24.
Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus started to fall off the back of Vettel on Lap 21 and by Lap 22 it was clear that his tyres were going off quite quickly. Not off the cliff, but over a second a lap slower than the cars in front and behind.
As early as Lap 12 race engineers were predicting rain by about Lap 27 and so Kimi was hanging on to make sure he didn't pit for tyres and suddenly find it start raining. On Lap 25 Mercedes engineers were predicting that there might be "possible light rain in four minutes." Raikkonen stayed out.
On Lap 26 Michael Schumacher, who'd caught Raikkonen, had a look at overtaking in the run down to the Turn 14 chicane - he locked his brakes once he realised it was not going to come off. Behind him there was a train of Hulkenberg, Senna, DiResta and Ricciardo.
On Lap 28 Nico Rosberg was the first front runner to stop for tyres and he managed to exit the pits into the big gap that Raikkonen had created.
Rosberg's stop kicked off a round of pit-stops and on Lap 29 Webber, Hamilton Raikkonen and Hulkenberg came in for tyres too. This was the signal for Fernando Alonso to sprint and use up the remaining life in his Pirelli options. He'd closed to just fractions behind Hamilton before Hamilton's stop and managed to jump him in the pit-stops.
Alonso's later stop also meant that Felipe Massa had to circulate one lap longer and he was unable to get the jump on Hamilton and temporarily fell behind the yet-to-stop Michael Schumacher.
Positions at the end of Lap 32
1.Vettel (not stopped) 2.Webber, 3.Rosberg, 4.Alonso, 5.Hamilton 6.Schumacher (not stopped) 7.Massa, 8.DiResta (not stopped) 9.Ricciardo (not stopped), 10.Button (not stopped).
Out in front now, Sebastian Vettel was making his harder tyres last and despite the fact that Mark Webber had newer prime tyres, Vettel was able to push harder (knowing he had to come in shortly|) and started to build the gap out from 13.0 seconds on Lap 33 to 16.2 seconds on Lap 37. By Lap 43 it was 17.4 seconds.
There had been small drops of rain falling round the circuit from Lap 37, but nothing too much to disturb the lap times. This would gradually increase in intensity through the afternoon.
On Lap 45, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso started to run quicker than Vettel and so he came in for his pit-stop a lap later. He exited just behind Alonso and just in front of Hamilton to take P4. In fact had Lewis been 20 metres further down the road he would have relegated Sebastian to P5. The cars exited St.Devote almost side by side with Vettel emerging from the pitlane exit and just in front of Hamilton going up the hill to Rivage.
Positions at the end of Lap 51
1.Webber, 2.Rosberg, 3.Alonso, 4.Vettel, 5.Hamilton 6.Massa, 7.Schumacher, 8.Vergne, 9.DiResta, 9.Ricciardo 10.Hulkenberg, 11.Raikkonen, 12.Senna.
The cars at the front were still very tight together as Mark Webber managed his tyre wear. On Lap 55 the gap from Webber to Felipe Massa in P6 was 7.2 seconds. Unbelievably as the race went on it would get closer still.
On Lap 60 Michael Schumacher reported something wrong with his Mercedes W03, something that would turn out to be a fuel flow issue. He was being chased by Jean-Eric Vergne who had stopped as early as Lap 17 for new tyres. On Lap 62 Vergne was through to P7 and two laps later the Force Indias were past Schumacher as well - who then retired to the pits and a DNF.
DiResta had started on the yellow-walled prime tyre and had overtaken team-mate Hulkenberg in the pit-stops. Nico starting on the red-walled option tyre but had got stuck for a long time in the Raikkonen train. Raikkonen's only stop had put him back in the pack (P14 on Lap 32) and he didn't seem to have much motivation to fight after that. Both Force Indias took advantage of Jean-Eric Vergne's late race tyre stop. With his lap times falling off Vergne had to pit again and Toro Rosso took the gamble that the rain would get harder and sent him out on Inters. It eased off, though and he was left stranded in P12.
By Lap 64 of 78 harder drops of rain started to fall and being first on the road meant Mark Webber had to be very careful, the gap to Rosberg behind narrowed to 0.9, the closest it had been in the race.
Jenson Button had been following Heikki Kovalainen for most of the race and although he'd been running as high as P8, his pit-stop put him right back behind Kovalainen again. He had a hairy moment trying to overtake him going down to the tunnel chicane where he almost got squeezed into the barrier by the Finn, and later would spin his car at the exit of the Swimming Pool trying a manoeuvre that looked unlikely to come off. It was then the turn of Perez to have a bash alongside Kovalainen into Ste Devote - which didn't come off and loosened the nose of the Caterham, which pitted from P12 for a new nose and rejoined in P13.
At the front it was tightening again with just 5.7 seconds between first and sixth on Lap 67 and a mere 4.2 seconds on Lap 74. The cars were running nose to tail - at their slowest putting in 1:26 laps - then as the light rain faded, 1:24s, then 1:22s and back to 1:20s. All the time Mark Webber kept his focus while all drivers kept a close eye on their mirrors. Any mistake or false move by one of the top three cars could lose them three or four places and so they kept in line to the flag.
Once over the finish line and with the ceremonies complete the skies opened, which would really have given us a spectacular finish to the race. As it was it was nerve-wrackingly processional. Red Bull won their third Monaco GP in a row with the drivers' title closer than ever.
Webber, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Massa - had been the position for the last 32 laps of the race. Paul Di Resta took home 7th with Hulkenberg 8th, Raikkonen 9th and Bruno Senna in 10th.
Sergio Perez had an action packed race of missing chicanes, bumping Caterhams, impeding Raikkonen on his pit-stop and getting a drive-through for his troubles, yet still coming home in P11. The race wasn't quite so exciting.
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h46:06.557
2. Rosberg Mercedes + 0.643
3. Alonso Ferrari + 0.947
4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 1.343
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 4.101
6. Massa Ferrari + 6.195
7. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 41.500
8. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 42.500
9. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 44.000
10. Senna Williams-Renault + 44.500
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
12. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
13. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
14. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
15. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
Did Not Finish
Button McLaren-Mercedes 71
Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 66
Pic Marussia-Cosworth 65
Schumacher Mercedes 64
Petrov Caterham-Renault 16
Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 6
De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1
Maldonado Williams-Renault 1
Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1
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