Monaco, May 28, 2006
The start: Kimi and Juan Pablo had qualified fourth and sixth. After the stewards of the meeting had demoted Michael Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella, they started the race from side-by-side on the second row ¬ third and fourth ¬ which was also the position they held at the completion of the opening lap. At the beginning of the second lap Kimi overtook Mark Webber’s Williams-Cosworth going up the hill after Ste Devote to take second position.
The race: Kimi shadowed race leader Alonso by the close margin of around half a second. Meanwhile, behind Webber, Juan Pablo was holding fourth position. This leading quartet was recording very closely matched lap times in the early stages, during which the gap to the pursuing pack grew constantly. Juan Pablo came in for his first scheduled pit stop on lap 21 (9.9sec) and remained in fourth position when he rejoined the race. Kimi came in one lap later (10.3sec) and briefly dropped to third place when he went back into the race.
After the stops of Alonso and Webber on lap 25 the original order at the head of the field was resumed. On lap 34 the four leaders were covered by 1.8sec. After Webber’s retirement at the beginning of lap 49 the safety car was deployed and Alonso, Kimi (6.3sec) and Juan Pablo (7.4sec) made their second round of stops at the end of this lap.
On lap 51 Kimi retired with a heat shield fire coming of the hairpin. Two laps later the safety car was withdrawn and Juan Pablo was now in second position. He held that place to the end of the 78-lap race to finish 14.5sec behind race winner Alonso.
Juan Pablo Montoya: “I’m pleased with today’s result as it’s a reward for everybody at McLaren and Mercedes who have been working hard for the past couple of weeks to improve our competitiveness. As is often the case in Monaco I really struggled with traffic and lost too much time to Fernando to be able to mount a challenge when I had a clear track ahead of me. The car was good and I think we could have won today if things had gone our way. However Monaco is such an unpredictable race where you have to be in the right place at the right time. We now want to work hard to continue our progress. There is still some way to go, but I’m really looking forward to the British Grand Prix.”
Kimi Räikkönen: “Things just didn’t go my way today. Our strategy would probably have meant that I would have been able to take the lead after the second series of pitstops, but we really lost out when the Safety Car came out. Then there was a small fire caused by a heat shield which damaged a wiring loom and that was the end of the race for me. It’s always disappointing to retire both for me and the team but it’s particularly hard when you all know that you are in with a good chance to win. However we have made progress and the car was really competitive today, and we aim to do well at Silverstone.”
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: “A good result for Juan Pablo whose challenge for the lead was hampered by the traffic between him and Fernando following his last stop which took place during the Safety Car period. After the first round of pitstops it was clear to us that Kimi had seven laps more fuel than Fernando. Kimi was just saving his tyres and engine but then the deployment of the Safety Car following Webber’s on-track retirement caused us to lose this advantage. During Kimi’s stop the exhaust temperature rose significantly and failed to cool sufficiently following his return to the track behind the Safety Car. The excessive heat burnt a wiring loom which finished his race. At least we were very competitive and our target is to maintain the momentum into Silverstone.”
Norbert Haug, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
“We showed good speed during the whole weekend and the right strategy to be in with the best chance of winning. I am sorry for Kimi who had to retire due to a heat shield fire. Well done to Juan Pablo who drove a solid race to finish second. This weekend has seen us taking a step forward and we want to continue this trend. We are now looking forward to the next race at Silverstone.”