In the Monaco F1 GP, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain finally found the top podium finish for the first time this season. In an amazing turn of events, Force India driver Sergio Perez shared the podium with the celebrated Briton along with second-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull. It was Hamilton’s second victory at Monaco after he won here eight years ago. Since the 2016 race leader Nico Rosberg finished seventh, Hamilton’s win at Monaco has enabled him to cut the gap by 24 points in the championship leaderboard. But the Monaco Grand Prix was full of thrills for a variety of reasons and Hamilton’s close battle with Ricciardo will go down in F1 history as folklore. Two factors benefitted Hamilton at Monaco; one Ricciardo had a slow pit stop and two; Hamilton postponed the change of his own tyres as the surface was drying. That allowed the Brit several precious seconds, because at one time, Ricciardo had taken a 13 second unassailable lead. However, while Hamilton and Ricciardo fought for the top spot, Force India driver also benefitted by an unusual mistake by former world champion Sebastian Vettel and progressed from seventh on the grid to third-place.
Since the prestigious Monaco GP began in rain, which abated later in the race, track surface underwent transformation in terms of the tyre-grip and temperature. In such circumstances, type of rubber played a huge role. If Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finally won the battle with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo of Australia, it was on account of a strategic delay that Hamilton forced on himself in changing to ultra-slick un-treaded tyres towards the end. Of all the contestants, Hamilton was the only driver to do so and that decision took him ahead of everyone else. In the qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton had taken the third position on the grid behind pole-winner Ricciardo followed by Rosberg but the Briton came out on tops on race day. Another factor that strangely helped Hamilton was a grave error by Red Bull team, who couldn’t provide required tyres for Ricciardo on his pit-stop.
The race began with the safety car coming out straightaway, because of rain-soaked Monaco circuit. Naturally, all drivers started on full-wet tyres with the possible change to intermediate-wet later in the race. But rain stopped and Hamilton dropped the idea of the intermediate in consultation with his team. The green flag didn’t come off until the seventh lap and the real action began only from lap 8. Ricciardo shot ahead of everyone and built a big lead. But the dramatic start had Renault driver Jolyon Palmer crashing immediately and the virtual safety car had to be deployed. While Ricciardo led, Rosberg was right behind and Hamilton hung on the third place in keeping with the top three grid positions. By lap 16, Hamilton passed Rosberg but Ricciardo was still more than 10 seconds ahead. It became known that Rosberg was instructed by his team to let Hamilton pass. By lap 22, except Ricciardo and Hamilton, most other top drivers had changed to intermediate-wet tyres. Ricciardo finally went to pits on lap 24 but Hamilton declined the pit-stop call and continued on full wets in the lead because of Ricciardo’s stop for tyre-change. But the Red Bull driver gained on Hamilton with every passing lap. By lap 28, Ricciardo came half-a-second behind Hamilton with Rosberg at third place, Sergio Perez on fourth and Sebastian Vettel on fifth.
The big Monaco drama started on lap 32, when Hamilton finally pitted. Ricciardo also went to the pits but his tyres were not ready! The delay allowed Hamilton to forge far ahead of others. Ricciardo was an unhappy man. For no fault of his own, he was relegated to a disadvantageous position. The Australian kept trying hard but with his frayed temper interfered with his moves on the track. On lap 37, Ricciardo’s attempt to get past Hamilton brought his front wing in level with Mercedes’ rear tyres. Hamilton briefly veered off the track but still kept himself ahead. In the meanwhile, Perez passed Vettel, when the former champion ran wide and came tantalizingly close to the barriers. By lap 60, Hamilton had gone 27 laps on ultra-soft tyres and had more than 1 second’s lead on Ricciardo. Perez was third, Vettel fourth, Alonso fifth and Rosberg sixth.
The race became very exciting with Hamilton and Ricciardo frantically vying for the top spot even in final stages. Tyre manufacturers Pirelli were surprised about Hamilton’s ultra-slick un-treaded tyres lasting so long as the Brit entered the final lap. He won the race at the end of 78 laps and recorded his second victory at Monaco after winning in 2008. But more importantly, Hamilton broke the jinx of his winless streak in the 2016 season. Ricciardo was unhappy at second, Perez was third, Vettel fourth, Alonso fifth, Rosberg dropped to seventh behind another Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso’ Carlos Sainz Jr was eighth, Jenson Button of McLaren finished ninth and Williams’ Felipe Massa was tenth.
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