The Race that Was: Monaco 2016
Monaco is a race where anything can happen. The perfect line is often just millimetres from the walls that can end your race, and the short nature of the track means there’s always a battle for space.
Throw some rain into the mix, and that challenge gets ten times harder.
Qualifying takes on an added importance in Monaco too, with overtaking opportunities limited in the race thanks to the relentless corners and narrow roads.
Even setting a time can be tricky. With 22 cars on the grid, the opportunities to complete alap without being hindered by traffic are extremely limited.
That was just what Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg managed to do in 2016 though. Warm, dry conditions greeted the drivers for qualifying, and they made the most of the good weather.
Nico qualified in P5, while Checo set a time good enough for P8, promoted to P7 as a result of a grid penalty for Kimi Raikkonen.
It was a very different picture when the teams headed to the track on Sunday. Heavy rain had fallen and the circuit resembled a skating rink.
Full Wet tyres were the order of the day, and the first seven laps were completed behind the safety car.
A number of drivers through the field fell foul to the slippery surface, but the Force India cars held it together and stayed on the pace as the track started to dry out.
With a dry line appearing, most drivers made the switch to Intermediate tyres around lap 15, but Checo elected to stay out until lap 21. As the earlier pitters squabbled, he continued to set good lap times unhindered by traffic.
It wasn’t long until track conditions evolved enough to make the dry tyres a realistic option, and on lap 30 the team made the switch.
It proved to be the ideal time, and once the other stops had been made through the field, Checo was up to third place, now with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel as the next car back.
Having survived the slippery track and after making the pit strategy work, holding onto third position was the next challenge.
With clear track ahead of him, Vettel kept closing the gap to Checo, and by lap 50 was within two seconds of the Mexican. He was wise to the threat though and managed to keep the gap stable.
Through fast, clean and consistent driving, it was a position he would hold onto until the end, taking an emphatic podium position – the third of his season.
Further back, Nico Hulkenberg was hunting down Nico Rosberg and the rain returned in the final few laps.
The downpour wasn’t enough to warrant a tyre change, but combined with the older tyres, grip was getting harder and harder to find.
For the Hulk this presented an opportunity. He kept up his pace and applied the pressure on Rosberg until the very final lap.
Exiting the final corner, Rosberg tried to put the power down a little too early, but Hulkenberg got the perfect exit.
It set up a drag race to the line and it was Hulkenberg who came out on top, pipping his compatriot to P6 by just two-tenths of a second.
The points gained by Checo and Nico boosted the team to fifth in the Constructors’ Championship and to top the weekend off in style, Checo’s performance saw him crowned Driver of the Day by the fans – a memorable day for Team Silverstone.