Strategy blunder costs Hamilton victory as Rosberg notches up third Monaco win

Nico Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix for the third year in a row following a costly mistake from his Mercedes team.

Lewis Hamilton secured pole position on Saturday and looked set for a lights to flag victory around the streets of Monte Carlo before a pit-stop error put paid to that. He ended up in third place behind Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

When the lights went out signalling the start of the race, Hamilton and Rosberg maintained their positions of first and second, while Vettel remained third. Daniil Kvyat locked up as he moved ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and came close to making contact with Vettel, but all emerged out of the first corner unscathed. There was contact further down the field between Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg at Mirabeau, the former of which picked up a five second stop/go penalty as the Force India ended up in the barrier. Hulkenberg was able to pit for a new nose and continued in the race but ultimately was on the back-foot and finished outside the points. Felipe Massa was another driver needing to pit after the first lap and he sounded desolate as he came over the team radio and said “it’s over”. He – as was the case with Hulkenberg – continued after his pit-stop but failed to score any points.

Pastor Maldonado may be ruing the day he selected ’13’ as his permanent driver number after the Lotus driver suffered more bad luck. He retired from the race after just six laps due to a brake-by-wire issue, which the team had initially tried to manage by asking him to lift and coast. He was joined on the sidelines by Alonso, who had already endured a difficult weekend when his car suffered electrical issues during qualifying. His issues on Sunday appeared to be gearbox related as his car overheated.

Following 64 laps of what was very much a procession there was drama after a close battle between Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean. Grosjean led the pair and Verstappen closed the gap to him, trying to find a way to overtake. The Toro Rosso driver had already encountered a long pit-stop earlier in the race and it looked like he may be able to salvage a point. As the pair approached Ste Devote Verstappen made heavy contact with the rear of the Lotus and was sent as a passenger into the barriers. It was a big impact but thankfully Verstappen was OK, reporting he was “a bit stiff” as he completed his post-race media interviews. He suggested that Grosjean had braked early, causing him to make the mistake, but the stewards ruled that Verstappen was at fault and he carries a five place grid drop to Canada as well as two penalty points on his licence.

The Virtual Safety Car was initially used to cover the incident however the real safety car was soon deployed and Hamilton’s race started to unravel. He had built up a lead of nearly 20 seconds to his team-mate, but a miscalculation from the team saw him brought into the pits for a new set of tyres. They didn’t have quite as much time in hand as they imagined and Rosberg and Vettel continued on past the pits. Vettel was ahead as they crossed the safety car line meaning Hamilton had to settle for third, primed for an overtake once racing was resumed. Vettel suggested to his team it was like “swimming with weights on my feet” in relation to his soft compound tyres – while Hamilton had taken on fresh super-softs – as they would struggle to get heat back into them after the safety car period.

When racing was resumed, Hamilton failed to find a way past Vettel, allowing Rosberg to build up a gap and cross the line to take his third Monaco victory in a row. In the championship, he now lies just ten points behind his team-mate. Behind the top three, Kvyat finished a career best fourth after Red Bull employed team orders to try and get on the podium. Ricciardo had been released to try and get amongst the top three, and he got close to Hamilton in third but was unable to pass. As had been agreed, he allowed Kvyat back past him at the final corner. Kimi Raikkonen finished in sixth, not happy with a move he described as being “not very nice” from Ricciardo who pushed him wide. The move was investigated but no further action was warranted. Sergio Perez finished an impressive seventh for Force India while Jenson Button finally secured McLaren’s first points of the season – four for finishing eighth. Rounding out the top ten were Felipe Nasr for Sauber and Carlos Sainz, who started from the pit-lane having been disqualified from qualifying for missing the weighbridge.

The next race is the Canadian Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.

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