Hamilton wins Monaco GP despite late contactposted in F126 | 05 | 2019

    LEWIS HAMILTON GRITTED it out to win a tension-packed, but ultimately processional Monaco Grand Prix. The win — his third in the Principality and 77th of his Formula One career — was an emotional victory at the end of the week in which Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport chairman Niki Lauda died. (Related: Niki Lauda 1949-2019)

    Hamilton, who started from pole position — the 85th of his F1 career, 59th with Mercedes and second at Monaco —  after a brilliant final run in qualifying on Saturday, led all 78 laps of the race.

    But the five-times world champ was forced to resist more than 60 laps of pressure from the Red Bull of Max Verstappen after Mercedes opted to fit medium compound Pirellis to Hamilton’s car when he made his first and only stop on lap 18.

    Behind him, Verstappen, Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel all opted to fit the harder, more endurable compound.


    But before the pitstop — which also saw Verstappen make contact with the Mercedes of Bottas after the Red Bull was unsafely released into the path of the Finn, who had been lying second in the race — there was drama at the first corner of the opening lap.

    Hamilton led away from the lights, but as the cars speared towards the right-hander at Ste Devote, Verstappen appeared to have the edge on the inside of Bottas as they entered the corner. The Finn though outmuscled the Dutchman who settled into a comfortable third place, with Vettel fourth.


    The leading four quickly established a gap ahead of the fifth-placed Renault of Daniel Ricciardo; the Aussie quickly causing a tailback as his pace was two-seconds a lap off the four leaders.

    The crucial incident of the race was triggered when Charles Leclerc, who started 15th following Ferrari's qualifying blunder, hit the inside wall at Rascasse and half-spun after trying to pass Nico Hulkenberg for 11th. The contact punctured his rear right tyre and, as he sped back to the pits, Leclerc scattered a large amount of debris as the rubber fell apart. Immediately, the safety car was deployed.


    Under the caution, Mercedes decided to pit both cars, with Bottas dropping back behind Hamilton to create enough of a gap to avoid losing time. Buy while the world championship leader pitted and exited smoothly, Bottas’ race was wrecked following the contact with Verstappen.

    The incident damaged Bottas' wheel rim, causing a slow puncture. Forced to immediately pit again, thanks to the safety car still being deployed, Bottas only dropped behind Vettel to fourth. Stewards eventually handed Verstappen a five-second penalty for the unsafe release.


    As soon as the race went live, the Dutchman — now elevated to second behind Hamilton — hounded the Mercedes driver. However, he could never get close enough to really start attacking the world champion until the final 10 laps.

    And it wasn’t until lap 76 of the 78 that the Red Bull driver lunged down the inside of Hamilton into the chicane; instinctively Hamilton eased across to take the racing line, making wheel-to-wheel contact with the Red Bull. Hamilton took to the escape road, but both continued without damage.


    Hamilton’s win — his fourth of the season’s opening six grands prix — saw him extend his advantage over second-placed Bottas to 17 points as F1 heads to Montreal in a fortnight.

    “Today was one of the hardest races of my career,” Hamilton admitted. “It was so intense. With 20 laps left I thought there was no way I was going to make it to the end. I thought I was going to crash, I was battling so much with the car.

    “There was absolutely nothing left in the tyres and it was so tough to keep the car on the track. I thought to myself, ‘what would Niki do’. I was trying my hardest, giving everything I had. I just tried to stay focused and make no mistakes.


    “I know he was watching me today, but with Niki by my side we managed to do it. I wore his helmet colours today and I didn’t want to let him down. He was close to my heart, I really wanted to deliver for him this weekend and I was determined not to crack under the pressure. Today belongs to Niki.”


    And Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted afterwards the team had gone down the wrong route by fitting medium compound tyres to Hamilton’s car.

    “That result means a lot. It was a World Champions’ drive for a World Champion that isn’t among us anymore. It couldn’t have been a more dramatic race, so I am relieved it is over,” Wolff said. Lewis did an incredible job out there, it was a really hard-fought race with Max.


    “We know the tyre choice, in hindsight, was wrong with Lewis and we should’ve taken the Hard tyre at his stop. But, these things happen and at the time we thought the Medium was the right call. It was the driver who made the difference and managed the race.

    “Valtteri had a tougher time, losing ground with the pit stops and the clash with Verstappen in the pit lane, but he did a great job and will be determined to fight back. This one was a really hard-fought victory and now we have a couple of days that are going to be difficult with Niki’s funeral in Vienna before we set sail for Canada.”


    While Verstappen’s five-second penalty saw him relegated to fourth behind Vettel and Bottas, his Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly finished in fifth, his best result since his move to the senior team. The young Frenchman also picked up the fastest lap after stopping late-on to take fresh soft tyres.

    Behind him, Carlos Saiz collected his best-ever F1 fish when he brought his McLaren home in sixth; the Spaniard benefitting from opting not to pit under the early safety car. It was a strategy replicated by Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon. The Toro Rosso duo came home in seventh and eighth respectively.


    The top 10 was completed by the Renault of Ricciardo, who paid the price for pitting early under the safety car, and the Haas of Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman opted for the same strategy as Sainz/Kvyat/Albon.

    F1 — 2019 Monaco Grand Prix (Result):

        1.    Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 78 laps

        2.    Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari + 2.602s

        3.    Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport + 3.162s

        4.    Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 5.537s

        5.    Pierre Gasly FRA Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 9.946s

        6.    Carlos Sainz ESP McLaren F1 Team + 53.454s

        7.    Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 54.574s

        8.    Alexander Albon THA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 55.200s

        9.    Daniel Ricciardo AUS Renault F1 Team + 60.894s

        10.    Romain Grosjean FRA Rich Energy Haas F1 Team + 61.034s

        11.    Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team + 66.801s

        12.    Sergio Perez MEX SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 1 lap

        13.    Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault F1 Team + 1 lap

        14.    Kevin Magnussen DEN Rich Energy Haas F1 Team + 1 lap

        15.    George Russell GBR ROKiT Williams Racing + 1 lap

        16.    Lance Stroll CAN SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 1 lap

        17.    Kimi Raikkonen ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 1 lap

        18.    Robert Kubica POL ROKiT Williams Racing + 1 lap

        19.    Antonio Giovinazzi ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 2 laps


    Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari

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    Jim McGill

    All photographs copyright of Mercedes F1

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