In what could be the race of this Formula One season, Lewis Hamilton produced a masterly display of tenacious racing to win the Monaco Grand Prix. This is his third win at Monaco and 77th overall. He has consolidated his position in the top of the table. Ferrari finally has something to cheer for in the season too, with Sebastian Vettel ending up at the second place after an incident-filled race.
The win must be special for Hamilton as he wore a custom-designed helmet identical to the one the great Nikki Lauda, who passed away last week, used to wear. It must be noted that Lauda played a crucial role in bringing Hamilton to Mercedes.
Poor Strategy Nearly Cost Hamilton
Hamilton started from the pole with teammate Valtteri Bottas just behind. The Brit was progressing reasonably well when a string of incidents happened. Max Verstappen, who started third in the grid, had a minor collision with Bottas. Soon afterwards, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, for whom this was the home race, hit the side walls, forcing the entry of safety car.
There was a real threat of rain, with the forecast being 90%. In the first pit stop after the entry of safety car, Mercedes’ strategists decided to change Hamilton’s tyres from hard to medium. Medium tyres would be ideally suited in rain.
As it turned out, it did not rain. Hamilton had to operate with fast-degenerating tyres towards the end of the race. Verstappen, who had already overtaken Bottas, was approaching menacingly close.
Verstappen Pushes Hard
The Dutch prodigy has earned a reputation as a fearless, though sometimes reckless, driver. He had a harder set of tyres. He tried everything he knew to get past Hamilton. At times, even Hamilton felt his chances are limited. He repeatedly asked over the team radio for a tyre change. But Mercedes’ strategists asked him to continue with the same tyres.
In spite of his frustrated calls over the team radio, Hamilton was a picture of poise and tenacity on the race course. It was as though he knew what Verstappen was going to do next. It was kind of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. In the end, Hamilton proved the ultimate immovable object in a racecourse.
Hamilton turned emotional after the race:
“That was probably the hardest race I’ve had, but nonetheless I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki. Niki’s been such an influential person in our team, helping to get us where we are.”
Verstappen Adjudged Fourth
Verstappen lost the race, but he won hearts. But he could not even hold on to his second position, as he received a five-second penalty for his earlier collision with Bottas. That meant he finished fifth, below Vettel and Bottas.
Verstappen was happy with his performance though. He said:
“I gave it my all today to try and get by Lewis. I knew of course that he was on softer tyres and he was taking it very easy once we had the stops, I started to push him… Of course I would have liked to have been on the podium but if we look at the pace and performance, we were strong.”