Hamilton sees certain win snatched away by team error, Rosberg seizes opportunity for victory in Monte Carlo; Vettel an opportunistic 2nd
In one of the most bizarre endings to a Grand Prix that you will ever see, Lewis Hamilton was denied certain victory on the streets of Monaco when his Mercedes team inexplicably decided to pit for fresh tires under a Virtual Safety Car late in the race. That was brought about by 17-year-old Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen’s rash attempt to pass Romain Grosjean with 15 laps to go and the Dutch teenager’s subsequent spectacular shunt into the safety barrier at Sainte Devote. But the F1 stewards quickly switched to an actual Safety Car due to the extent of the damage and the time needed for repairs. That left Hamilton stuck in the pits as his second place teammate Nico Rosberg steamed around on track to obliterate his once-formidable 21-second lead. By the time Hamilton rejoined the race he was behind not only Rosberg but also the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Despite his fresh super soft tires, passing in Monaco is about as easy as leaving the Casino with all of your money and Hamilton could never find a way by Vettel much less Rosberg. In one moment of major miscalculation, Hamilton not only saw the opportunity for his first-ever Monaco win vanish but also his Championship lead dwindle to a mere 10 points. After the race the normally volatile Englishman was admirably restrained in his public statements regarding the costly miscue but it was clear from his stunned face that he was gutted.
Rosberg for his part realized he had lucked into the win and while he seemed happy for the victory you could tell by his sheepish demeanor that it was not quite the way he wanted his very impressive third consecutive Monaco GP victory and second race win in a row to go down. Vettel, on the other hand, was overjoyed at his rival team’s blunder and was more than happy for Ferrari’s gift wrapped P2. As down as Hamilton was, Vettel was practically giddy.
Lost in all that chaos was team Red Bull’s best performance of the year. On the legendary street circuit where straight line speed is never the deciding factor, their down-on-power Renault engines wound up being very competitive, with an impressive career-best P4 for young Russian Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo driving a spirited and aggressive race to finish P5. Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonnen complained about slower cars impeding him all race long and had to settle for P6, while Force India’s Sergio Perez was more than happy to take 7th place for his best finish of the 2015 season and much-needed points for the team. Jenson Button scored McLaren’s first points of the year with a savvy veteran drive for P8 after teammate Fernando Alonso was forced to retire on Lap 42 with gearbox troubles. Again, the relatively week Honda engines of McLaren saw their disadvantage neutralized on the slow and twisty Monaco circuit but it was still a big boost for the desperate McLaren team. The final points were taken by a storming drive from Sauber’s rookie Felipe Nasr to come home P9 after starting from 14th on the grid and Toro Rosso’s other rookie Carlos Sainz who grabbed 10th with grit and persistence after starting from the pits due to a Qualifying day weighbridge infraction.
Williams had a disastrous weekend and finished out of the points, with Valtteri Bottas at P14 and Felipe Massa P15. The slow, twisty circuit at Monaco definitively proved that what ails Williams this year is not power, which they have in abundance, but downforce, which they sorely lack in relation to their rivals at Ferrari and Red Bull. If they don’t get that rectified it could be a very long second half of the season for last year’s comeback kids.
Top 10 finishers for the Monaco Grand Prix:
Complete race results available via Formula1.com.
The next F1 race is in two weeks at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. We’ll see how Lewis Hamilton rebounds from Sunday’s stunning disappointment in Monte Carlo. My money is on the combative Englishman to come out swinging in Canada in an effort regain his once-unstoppable momentum. Hope to see you then when we find out what dramatic turns the championship saga takes next!