Monaco — Sebastian Vettel stood out last season for his furious rants more than his slick driving. Six races into the new campaign, the Ferrari driver is no longer Formula One’s Mr. Angry, moving 25 points clear of Lewis Hamilton and in serious contention for a fifth title.
The title race took a further swing Ferrari’s way after Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, with Vettel winning ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton finished seventh and behind his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who was fourth.
Ferrari did not even win a race last year, but the Italian manufacturer has turned the tables on Mercedes. Faster and — so far — more reliable, with a calm and confident Vettel behind the wheel, the Prancing Horse is galloping away.
Vettel’s third win this season was the 45th of his career and Ferrari’s first here since Michael Schumacher in 2001. That was during Ferrari’s dominant era. Early suggestions are that Ferrari could be on the verge of a new one.
“It’s very, very special to win here,” Vettel said. “With the season we’ve had, the Ferrari fans and the Ferrari flags are increasing.”
There are few better places to celebrate than glitzy Monaco, and Vettel seemed keen to make the most of it.
“We’re going to have a very fun night,” he said.
It was a much different story last year, when Vettel was swearing and cursing on team radio, aiming expletives and broadsides at other drivers and even F1 officials.
“We had a lot of hard times last year, but this year it seems to be (the other way around),” Vettel said.
“We must make sure we keep the momentum up in the next couple of races.”
Vettel has been all smiles and compliments this year, emotionally praising his team in Italian after Sunday’s win.
Daniel Ricciardo, Vettel’s teammate during a dismal season at Red Bull in 2014, finished third to make it an even worse day for Mercedes.
“We’ve just been missing pace,” Bottas said. “Ferrari were very strong this weekend and for whatever reason, their car seems easier to operate.”
Vettel let out a whoop of delight after crossing the finish line with bright sunshine gleaming off the famed red of Ferrari. As the German national anthem played, he stood atop the podium with his eyes closed.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth, ahead of Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr.
Raikkonen started from pole position for the first time in nine years, with Vettel joining him on the front row.
After Raikkonen and Bottas had come in for a tire change a few laps earlier, Vettel changed halfway through the 78-lap race. When he came back out, he was in front of Raikkonen while Ricciardo had jumped ahead of Bottas.
It seemed to be a case of the Ferrari team giving preferential treatment to Vettel with Raikkonen’s stop looking like it came far too early.
“I got the bad end of the story today,” Raikkonen said. “It’s still second place but it doesn’t count a lot in my books at least.”
“We get along well and I can understand Kimi’s not totally happy today,” he said.
Whatever the strategy was, Ferrari will not mind after securing maximum points.
“Something we’ve been waiting for a long time has finally come to pass, a race which will be part of our history,” Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne said.
“Not only a victory, but a one-two finish at a Grand Prix with a tradition as glorious as Monaco, where Ferrari last won with another one-two, delivered on that occasion by Schumacher and (Rubens) Barrichello. Today it was a really exciting race.”
Not for everyone.
German driver Pascal Wehrlein crashed near the tunnel after being shoved by British driver Jenson Button.
With the drivers trundling behind the safety car, tire temperatures dropped dramatically and some could not cope. Marcus Ericsson crashed his Sauber and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne followed suit moments later.
Then, after the safety car came out again, Russian Daniil Kvyat also lost control of his car in a frantic finish.
Up ahead, Vettel was already thinking about his party.