Lewis Hamilton battles wearing tyres to claim Monaco Grand Prix
Mercedes driver wins for a third time in Monte Carlo to extend lead to 17 points
Race winner Lewis Hamilton celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton won the Monaco Grand Prix from pole position with a commanding if somewhat nerve-racking drive as he struggled to maintain his tyres to the chequered flag. Sebastian Vettel was in second place for Ferrari and Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in third. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was in fourth. His team-mate Pierre Gasly was in fifth and he took fastest lap.
In a race largely of little incidence at the front, as is so often is the case in Monte Carlo, Hamilton had led from pole and what jeopardy there was came when his team opted to put him on the medium tyres, as his rivals behind all took the harder rubber. Harried to the line by Verstappen, including a moment two laps form the end when the pair collided as the Dutchman tried to overtake up the inside at the Nouvelle Chicane. The incident is under investigation by the stewards.
Hamilton struggled with losing grip as the race progressed, but with passing so hard and by ensuing he drove a flawless and error free line throughout held onto the lead to take the flag.
This is Hamilton’s 77th career victory but only his third at the Monaco Grand Prix. It continues the formidable run of form the British driver has displayed this season with his fourth win. Having claimed pole with a superb lap, he converted it to victory to extend his lead over Bottas to 17 points in the world championship, while Vettel has fallen to a full 55 points back.
Before the race a minute’s silence was held to honour the three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who died on Monday and the drivers wore a red caps with “Niki” on the grid in tribute to the Austrian.
Hamilton had spoken emotionally about his relationship with Lauda, who as the non-executive chairman at Mercedes had been instrumental in bringing him to he team in 2013, and had said he wanted to take the win for his friend. He duly did so while wearing a helmet styled exactly as Lauda’s and dedicated the win to his friend.
Hamilton’s start was clean and quick and Bottas slightly sluggish off the line was almost passed by Verstappen but the Finn held his place through turn one. With Vettel in fourth the leaders held their grid stations on track.
Charles Leclerc, starting 15th after Ferrari’s qualifying blunder had made a place off the start and then on lap two went up the inside of Lando Norris’s McLaren at the Loews hairpin to take 13th. Swiftly hunting down Romain Grosjean he launched a beautiful move, late braking into Rascasse to make it stick up the inside on lap eight only to lose the place when too eager he tried the same move on Nico Hülkenberg. They clashed and he took a puncture, the tyre disintegrated and although he made it back to the pits, he had taken damage and was back in last place and ultimately retired on lap 18.
It prompted the most dramatic moments of the race. The debris his car shed caused a safety car to be deployed and the leaders all promptly pitted on lap 11. Hamilton emerged on the medium tyre still leading but Verstappen was released from his box into Bottas’s path, the pair touched and the Dutchman squeezed Bottas into the wall. Verstappen came out in front on track and with a puncture Bottas pitted again immediately, both were on the hard tyre.
The unsafe release by Red Bull was investigated by the stewards and Verstappen given a five-second penalty. He finished second on track but the penalty relegated him to fourth.
Racing resumed on lap 15, with Verstappen in second, Vettel in third and Bottas in fourth, Hamilton once again leading the restart with confidence. Hamilton slowed the pace drastically to manage the wear to his tyres. Verstappen harried him but did not have enough of a pace advantage to pass.
By the halfway point, spots of rain failed to materialise into anything more and still Hamilton maintained his grip in front at a positively pedestrian pace. He was concerned about his tyres graining but was reassured by the team. He was clearly increasingly worried as his radio messages revealed but despite clear wear to his left front managed it to the finish without losing the lead, a feat likely to have been impossible anywhere but on the narrow streets of Monaco. It was not the most inspiring of wins but certainly one where focus was paramount. – Guardian