Lewis Hamilton capped off an emotional week for the Mercedes-AMG team at the Monaco Grand Prix still mourning the death of three-time World Champion and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.
The Englishman had desperately wanted to deliver victory and on the back of a superb pole position on Saturday the record books will show that his 77th Grand Prix win was a lights-to-flag affair. Far from it.
Hamilton had to fight all the way to fend off Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, holding off the Dutchman on a set of Medium tyres that were well past their best. For lap after lap, Hamilton defended with all his might as Verstappen tried repeatedly to find a way past the Mercedes.
Verstappen, however, faced the certainty of losing second place thanks to a five-second time penalty he incurred when his Red Bull Racing team released him from his pit stop into the path of Valtteri Bottas. The pair touched, with Bottas having to pit again with a slow puncture.
With third-placed Vettel keeping a watching brief in third and having to keep fourth-placed Bottas at bay, the top-four ran in close succession to the chequered flag. Unless Verstappen could get past Hamilton, he would be denied a podium finish.
On Lap 75, Verstappen launched down the inside of Hamilton into the Nouvelle Chicane. Hamilton saw him coming and closed the door, leading to the pair touching wheels but not suffering any damage.
That would be as close as Verstappen would get, with the top four finishers crossing the finish line covered by just 3.1 seconds. Verstappen didn’t have enough of a margin and so his penalty demoted him to fourth, leaving Hamilton and Vettel – both fittingly wearing Niki Lauda tribute helmets – and Bottas to visit the podium.
After the insomnia-curing Spanish Grand Prix a fortnight ago, this was Formula 1 at its best with a tense and exciting race from start to finish. The earlier-than-planned pit stops and Mercedes’ decision to switch Hamilton to the Medium tyres left him with a long race of tyre management to the finish – the Englishman had to go as slow as he dared to preserve tyre life while trying to keep Verstappen at arm’s length.
“That was definitely the hardest race I’ve had but nonetheless I was fighting with the spirit of Niki,” Hamilton reflected after the race, having extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings over teammate Bottas to 17 points. “I was trying to stay focused and make him proud.”
Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly finished a solid but relatively unspectacular fifth in a confidence-building afternoon. The Frenchman made a late second pit stop for fresh tyres to claim the bonus point on offer for the fastest lap of the race.
Largely unseen on the broadcast, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz had his own battle with the Toro Rosso duo of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon all race, holding the pair at bay to finish a fine sixth. Credit must go to engine partner Honda, which managed to get all four of the cars it powers into the points for the first time this season.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean finished ninth on the road, but a five-second penalty for a pit exit infringement dropped the Frenchman to tenth behind Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian – who started the race from sixth and moved to fifth at the start – was rightly disappointed with his two-point haul after Renault’s decision to pit both its cars during the Safety Car period, allowing those behind him who didn’t pit (namely Sainz, Kvyat, Albon and Grosjean) to all get ahead.
The race was a disaster for local hero Charles Leclerc, who faced an uphill battle after a tactical blunder left the Ferrari driver qualifying a poor 16th-fastest. The Monégasque had no choice but to take a ‘hero or zero’ approach, and unfortunately the latter was a predictable outcome.
Some neat overtaking moves on Lando Norris and Romain Grosjean helped him work his way forward, with his pass on the latter at La Rascasser all but forcing Grosjean to concede or crash.
Attempting a repeat of the Grosjean move against Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg backfired, however. Hülkenberg wasn’t quite as generous and Leclerc clipped the inside barriers with his right-rear tyre and half-spun, losing the two positions he had gained in the laps before. The contact had punctured the tyre, however, and the angry Leclerc returned to the pits too quickly and ripped his floor to shreds as his Pirelli tyre’s carcass flailed around the Ferrari’s bodywork. He would retire his ill-handling car after 16 laps.
|FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2019 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (78 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||78||1:43:28.437||25|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||78||+ 2.602||18|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||78||+ 3.162||15|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||78||+ 5.537||12|
|5.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||78||+ 9.946||11|
|6.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||78||+ 53.454||8|
|7.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||78||+ 54.574||6|
|8.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||78||+ 55.200||4|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||78||+ 1:00.894||2|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||78||+ 1:01.034||1|
|11.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||78||+ 1:06.801|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||77||1 lap behind|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||77||1 lap behind|
|14.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||77||1 lap behind|
|15.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||77||1 lap behind|
|16.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||77||1 lap behind|
|17.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||77||1 lap behind|
|18.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||77||1 lap behind|
|19.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||76||2 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||16||Damage|
Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
Pierre Gasly is awarded an additional 1 championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.
- Max Verstappen – who was provisionally classified P2 – was issued a 5-second time penalty for an unsafe pit stop release.
- Romain Grosjean – who was provisionally classified P9 – was issued a 5-second time penalty for crossing the white line at pit exit.
- Kevin Magnussen – who was provisionally classified P12 – was issued a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
- Antonio Giovinazzi – who was provisionally classified P19 – was issued a 10-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Robert Kubica.
Images via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport