MONTE CARLO, Monaco — After getting past teammate Kimi Raikkonen during the lone pit stop sequence of Sunday’s 75th annual Monaco Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel ended a 16-year drought for Ferrari on the streets of Monte Carlo with a stirring victory.
The German drove a clean, precise race to give the Scuderia their first win in the Principality since Michael Schumacher’s 2001 triumph, leading the final 44 laps en route to his third win in six races this season.
“This feels unbelievable,” said Vettel of his 45th career Formula 1 victory. “It was a very intense race. I was hoping at the start to have a better launch, but Kimi had a good start and I had nowhere to go.”
“There was a phase in the first stint that was really tricky, where it was very uncomfortable because the tires started to slide … but the second set of tires I pushed with everything that I had knowing that I had a chance to win. I was able to use that window to get the lead and came out ahead. From there, it was much easier to control the race.”
Raikkonen started from the pole and pulled out the perfect launch, getting to Ste. Devote ahead of Vettel. It was a clean opening lap, with no incidents, that saw Raikkonen sit 1.024 seconds ahead of Vettel and Valtteri Bottas slide into an early third.
Nico Hulkenberg had the unenviable title of being the first car out of the race, his Renault’s engine failing at Portier on lap 17 in a single-file early stint.
After a veritable parade around Monte Carlo, despite a fast-closing Valtteri Bottas in third, the first real strategy play came at lap 33, when Red Bull pulled Max Verstappen to pit lane for service and a set of supersoft tires.
Hoping to undercut the remainder of the frontrunners, Red Bull’s move was unsuccessful, with Bottas coming in moments later and beating Verstappen back to the track.
Raikkonen pitted in on lap 34, handing the lead to Vettel, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo getting around Raikkonen during the stop. Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race on lap 36, and then lowered it on lap 37.
Vettel had a lead of 19.2 seconds over Raikkonen on lap 37, and after moving the fastest lap into the 1:15 range on the same lap, the next thing the German had to do was pit.
Ricciardo pitted on lap 38, with Raikkonen getting by, but the Australian came out ahead of Bottas and Verstappen. Vettel was called into the pits on lap 39, the halfway point, and after a quick stop, Vettel got out ahead of Raikkonen by one-and-a-half car lengths — all but deciding the race.
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