MONTE CARLO, Monaco – Recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Lars Baron/Getty Images Europe photo —
The wait for Lewis Hamilton’s first Formula One victory of the season is finally over.
After a myriad of circumstances took him out of contention of the first five races of the season, including a shock crash on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago with his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, Hamilton rallied back with a sensational drive to dominate Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monaco.
The three-time and defending World Champion’s defining moment of the race came at lap 33, when he took the lead back from polesitter Daniel Ricciardo after the latter had a slow pit stop, never yielding it again as he conserved his ultra-soft tires perfectly over the final 46 circuits en route to victory.
“I’m telling you, that was the longest run … after I stopped for those tires,” the Brit said from the podium after his second Monaco victory and first since 2008. “It was crazy how long it was. … I think the last lap was about the time they were going to fall off but they stayed up and we were able to get it done.”
“Daniel drove phenomenally the entire weekend, and quite honestly, he’s one of the best drivers I’ve raced against. He did a fantastic job all day keeping the pressure on me, particularly on those restarts, and I’m looking forward to many more battles with him. I know second is no solace for him today after starting on pole, but he should be proud of the race we had today.”
If you look at the numerology, the result might have seemed predestined. Hamilton won from third on the grid Sunday, just as he did in 2008, and the victory was the 44th of his F1 career – matching his career car number.
“Thank God that today went the way I’d hoped. Honestly, I’m lost for words at this one. I prayed for a day like this and it came true. We had a car that could go the distance and things finally worked out in our favor … just an incredible day all around.”
The start of the race came just after a large rainstorm hit the principality, meaning the first seven laps of the 78-lap event were run at pace speed behind the safety car. During the early slowdown, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat made multiple pit stops to try and rectify an electrical problem with his steering wheel.
Kvyat would lose a lap in the early exchange, before the race finally went full green on the eighth circuit. However, an immediate virtual safety car would come out as Renault’s Jolyon Palmer had a massive accident down the main straight, ripping the nose off the yellow car and ending his day far too soon.
The field would return to racing after just over a lap at reduced pace, with Ricciardo driving out to a massive advantage as the two Mercedes cars of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton duked it out for second. Behind them, a collision between Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean – caused when the Ferrari overshot the hairpin at turn six – ripped the front wing partially off of Raikkonen’s entry and ruined his day on lap 11.
Cars began to pit for the intermediate tire choice on lap 13, led by Red Bull young gun and Spanish Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen, while Ricciardo enjoyed a nine second lead out front. As Sebastian Vettel coming in led even more cars to make their stops, Ricciardo, Rosberg and Hamilton continued to scoot away out front – a 13 second gap the margin by lap 16.
Rosberg was ordered to allow Hamilton past at that point, brake temperature issues impeding the championship-leading Mercedes early on. From there, Hamilton would begin to run down Ricciardo, cutting the gap to 11 seconds by the time the Red Bull driver pitted for intermediates at the end of lap 23.