Monaco Grand Prix: Hamilton back on top
Lewis Hamilton celebrated his first win of the Formula One season at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday after Mercedes told team mate Nico Rosberg to move aside and Red Bull wrecked Daniel Ricciardo’s chances.
While fortune finally favoured the triple world champion after a run of bad luck, championship leader Rosberg finished seventh — 93.2 seconds behind — and saw his lead cut to 24 points after six of 21 races.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was runner-up, a botched second pitstop destroying his chances after he started on pole position for the first time, with Mexican Sergio Perez third for Force India.
“I prayed for a day like this so I feel truly blessed,” said Hamilton, who had cut a disconsolate figure after a fuel pressure problem in qualifying left him third on the starting grid.
He made the right call on the tyres, however, with a late change to slicks and got more mileage out of the ultrasofts than expected. He also made his car as wide as possible with Ricciardo crawling all over the back of him.
Hamilton was congratulated by Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber as he stepped out of the car in the pit lane before the podium celebration.
The reigning world championship had not been on the top step of the podium since he wrapped up his title at the United States Grand Prix in October last year – 214 days earlier!
His jubilation contrasted to Ricciardo’s sense of shock, the Australian feeling robbed of a likely victory by his own team whom he said had called him in for a pitstop and then did not have the tyres ready.
“Two weeks in a row I’ve been screwed,” said the driver, who had also led in Spain two weeks ago until a strategy error handed the win to 18-year-old Dutch team mate Max Verstappen. “It sucks. I was called into the box. They should have been ready.”
“Nothing you can say can make it any better,” Ricciardo had told the team over the radio after the chequered flag. “Just save it.”
Ricciardo had built up a tidy lead at the start before Mercedes told Rosberg, then in second place, to let Hamilton through because the German was suffering from high brake temperatures.
The race had started with seven laps behind the safety car in wet conditions, dried out and then ended with more rain threatening and cloudy skies.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished fourth, while Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen retired with his front wing wedged under the car after clouting the barriers on the 12th of the 78 laps.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was fifth, on the 50th anniversary of his team’s race debut in Monaco in 1966, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg snatching sixth from Rosberg at the very end.
The race began in extremely wet conditions, behind the safety car, but after seven laps the track was deemed dry enough for racing to start and Ricciardo, who began from pole, held his lead as Mercedes’ second-placed Rosberg held off Hamilton.
Rosberg seemed to be experiences difficulties, however, and the championship leader was soon backing Hamilton up as Ricciardo carved out a solid gap at the front of the pack.
In the meantime Renault’s Jolyon Palmer exited the race. When the SC left the track Palmer lost control on the run up to Ste Devote and he went hard into the barriers on the left of the track before skittering to a halt in the barriers of the escape road at Turn 1.
Moments later Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was also tangling with the barriers. The Finn lost control on the entry to the Loew’s hairpin.
His front wing became detached and lodged under his car as he attempted to get back to the pits and he stopped in escape road at the Nouvelle Chicane where he retired from the race.
At the front Ricciardo’s lead was increasing and he was soon 7.8s ahead of Rosberg.
Elsewhere, Max Verstappen, in the second Red Bull, was on a charge. The Dutch teenager had crashed out in qualifying and started from the pit lane, but by lap 10 he was up to 12th place.
The track, however, was drying and soon many in the field began to make the move to intermediate tyres. Verstappen pitted for the green-banded tyres on lap 12, while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel stopped for the green-banded tyres on lap 13.
The leaders though, avoided the move, sticking to the extreme wets as the lap times for the tyres remained similar.
It was at this point that Mercedes decided to free Hamilton from Rosberg’s shackles and the championship leader moved across to let Hamilton through on lap 15. Five laps later Rosberg headed to the pits for intermediate tyres.
Hamilton quickly began to hunt down Ricciardo and the gap between the two, which was some 13 seconds, began to fall.
In the meantime there were more incidents. Daniil Kvyat made an ill-judged attempt to pass Kevin Magnussen on the inside at Rascasse and they collided. Kvyat was immediately out of the race but Magnussen limped on until lap 32 when he too retired.
Ricciardo eventually pitted for new tyres and he moved to intermediates on lap 23. The choice put Hamilton in the lead but while it might have been expected he would stop for inters, the defending champion stayed out, seeking to keep his full wets going until a window opened for the use of slicks.
It was a risk and over the next eight laps Ricciardo quickly reeled in the gap to Hamilton, erasing the gap left by his stop for inters.
Mercedes sensed the danger and on lap 31 they pitted Hamilton. He took on slick tyres and Ricciardo resumed the lead.
The track was rapidly improving, however, and it was clear the Red Bull man would have also need to stop for slicks.
With time in hand, he pitted on lap 32 but the call was a late one and when he arrived at his pit box for supersoft tyres the crew weren’t ready. He was delayed for what seemed an age and when he eventually made it away from the pit lane exit, Hamilton was already through and in the lead.
Further back, Verstappen was again scything through the pack and by lap 33 he up to ninth behind Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. But just as in qualifying Verstappen’s confidence got the better of him and on lap 35 the Dutchman misjudged his braking point and hit the wall. His wasn’t the final retirement, for some 30 laps from home Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson collided with team-mate Felipe Nasr at Rascasse.
By that time, Hamilton was in control of the race. Ricciardo made numerous attacks and at one stage almost made it past as Hamilton erred on the entry to the Nouvelle Chicane but the champion close the door severely which led to much hand-waving from a clearly frustrated Ricciardo and an appeal to the stewards who investigated but cleared Hamilton of any wrongdoing. It was to be Ricciardo last assault.
The running behind Hamilton took its toll on his tyres and though he pressed har4d he eventually lost touch with the leader and finished seven seconds behind Hamilton, who took his second Monaco win.
Behind them Perez was enjoying a superb run. After starting seventh he rose to fifth by lap 15 and then, when he took on soft tyres on lap 30, he vaulted to third.
Vettel was on a similarly strategy and he took opted for soft tyres in the window for slicks. The choice looked a good one and at one stage he was the fastest man on the track as he closed in on Perez, but he could find now way past the canny Mexican and he settled for fourth.
Fifth place went to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, while Rosberg’s unhappy race was capped on the final lap when he was passed for sixth place on the line by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Eighth place was taken by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz who finished ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button and Williams’ Felipe Massa.
Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo – Race Result
|2||DANIEL RICCIARDO||AUS||RED BULL RACING||+7.252s|
|3||SERGIO PEREZ||MEX||FORCE INDIA||+13.825s|
|6||NICO HULKENBERG||GER||FORCE INDIA||+92.999s|
|8||CARLOS SAINZ||ESP||TORO ROSSO||+1 lap|
|9||JENSON BUTTON||GBR||MCLAREN||+1 lap|
|10||FELIPE MASSA||BRA||WILLIAMS||+1 lap|
|11||VALTTERI BOTTAS||FIN||WILLIAMS||+1 lap|
|12||ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ||MEX||HAAS||+1 lap|
|13||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||FRA||HAAS||+2 laps|
|14||PASCAL WEHRLEIN||GER||MANOR||+2 laps|
|15||RIO HARYANTO||INA||MANOR||+4 laps|
|NC||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NED||RED BULL RACING||DNF|
|NC||DANIIL KVYAT||RUS||TORO ROSSO||DNF|