Hamilton survives thrills and spills

 

Motor Sport: Lewis Hamilton realised a boyhood dream by claiming victory in an incident-packed Monaco Grand Prix to regain control of a furious fight for the Formula One world title.

After an early run into the barriers on a wet circuit as the rain fell, Hamilton managed to hold his nerve, becoming only the fifth Briton to take the chequered flag.

In claiming his sixth triumph in 23 starts, he now joins Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard on being crowned king of the Principality.

After crossing the line, and talking to his pit crew via his in-car radio, a jubilant Hamilton said: "I apologise for hitting the barrier, but we made up for it. Now let's go party!"

Once the rain started to fall around 20 minutes before the start, it was always going to be an incident-fuelled race, and so it wonderfully proved.

The conditions meant the race ran for the full two hours, with 76 of the 78 laps completed.

And for once, rather than watching a dull procession around the tight, twisty streets of Monte Carlo, the public who pay through the nose for tickets for Formula One's blue riband event were given real value for money.

The first incident, though, was unexpected and occurred prior to the race unfolding as Heikki Kovalainen failed to pull away from the grid for the warm-up lap.

After Hamilton had made a superb start to pass Kimi Raikkonen on the run down to Sainte Devote, Jenson Button became the first on-track casualty.

The Briton, normally so superb in the wet, attempted to pass the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld coming out of the swimming pool complex on lap one, only to lose his nose cone.

It was the start to a catalyst of events as the rain steadily fell for the first 20 minutes, and expected mayhem ensued. Nico Rosberg and Timo Glock soon required new nose cones for their Williams and Toyota cars respectively, all within the first three laps.

Then Hamilton clipped a barrier on the entry to Tabac, puncturing his right-rear tyre and forcing him into an unexpected pit stop.

Then double world champion Fernando Alonso slid into a barrier in his Renault, and like Hamilton he too damaged his right-rear tyre.

Within seconds, David Coulthard lost the back end of his Red Bull on entry to Casino Square, clouting a barrier and forcing him out of the race.

Then came confirmation of a foolish mistake from Ferrari as they had not fully fitted Raikkonen's tyres at the three-minute signal prior to the start of the race. That resulted in a 10-second penalty for the Finn, an error in what was a disastrous race for the reigning world champion.

Then the race and a drying track started to come to Hamilton, and as Kubica and Massa were eventually forced to make the first of their routine stops.

That allowed Hamilton to gain the lead on lap 33, one he did not relinquish until the chequered flag as various other incidents unfolded behind him.