Lewis Hamilton produces stunning defensive drive to hold off Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel to win Monaco GP and extend championship lead
- Lewis Hamilton drove superbly despite concerns over his tyres to claim victory at the Monaco Grand Prix
- Hamilton started in pole and managed to fend off fierce competition from Max Verstappen on Sunday
- The five-time world champion was clearly emotional after his victory following the death of Niki Lauda
- Hamilton finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel in second and Valtteri Bottas in third to win in Monaco
- Verstappen finished the race in second but a five-second penalty meant he had to settle for fourth overall
Lewis Hamilton, wearing a red helmet for the first time in his life, won the Monaco Grand Prix as homage to Niki Lauda – after being saved by a ‘miracle’.
The five-time champion donned the retro-style protection to mark Lauda’s death on Monday, which provided the overlay to the 77th running of the world’s most famous motor race.
Hamilton was hounded, hounded, hounded practically all the way of the 78 laps by the terrier like Red Bull of Max Verstappen. The Brit held the Dutch pursuer off despite struggling for speed on softer tyres that caused multiple palpitations at Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton points to his Niki Lauda dedicated red helmet after winning the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon
Hamilton sprays champagne at the crowd after winning his third title in Monaco thanks to a brilliant defensive drive
Hamilton held off Max Verstappen with a defensive drive to take a stunning victory in Monte Carlo on the weekend
Ferrari technicians push Charles Leclerc’s car into garage as he had to retire from his home race for having a damaged floor
Nobody fretted harder than Hamilton, who was attacked by Verstappen with two laps remaining. The young thruster, powering out of the tunnel overcooked it, nudged Hamilton’s wheels but could not make the move stick.
Earlier, Hamilton had told the pit wall: ‘I think I’m in trouble guys – the left front is dead.’ Various later messages of increasing panic told of his problems.
‘We’re going to lose this race Bono (Peter Bonnington, race engineer). I can’t look after these tyres. I can’t keep the car behind.
‘I don’t know what you’re thinking, keeping these tyres on man. You need to hope for a miracle.’
James Vowles, the chief strategist, took the unusual step of coming on to the radio to tell Hamilton what Bonnington had tried to convince him of before, namely: ‘You can do it, Lewis. We trust in you.’ Some 15 hard, worrying, laps remained.
Track position is king here – a treasure beyond price – and the pole position Hamilton took on Saturday set him up perfectly for the emotional victory, even with the wrong tyres. He shuffled around uneasily but Verstappen could find no way through.
It was Hamilton’s third win on these streets, after 2008 and 2016, and it extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings to 17 points.
Seriously light rain fell. More was promised but it was not to be.
Although Verstappen was only fractions of a second behind him lap after lap, he was handicapped by a five-second penalty hanging over him for an unsafe release. Had he passed Hamilton he still would not have been awarded the win.
Sebastian Vettel was second for Ferrari once the punishment was meted out, Valtteri Bottas third in the other Mercedes and Verstappen fourth.
Verstappen was punished for the way he pulled out of the pits during an early safety car period. He pushed Bottas into the barriers as they went side by side, causing the Finn to puncture his front right tyre.
Bottas had to pit again, pushing him down to fourth at that stage, having been second.
Hamilton was also in at that point – going on to the yellow-stripe tyres while the rest were on the harder whites. That was a mistake. He as the leader did not need extra speed, just longevity.
But they got away with it. What else?
Charles Leclerc retired his Ferrari. Starting 15th, he got up to 12th with a brilliant pass on Haas’s Romain Grosjean, threading his red car through on the inside at Rascasse. He tried the same on Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault the following lap but tagged the barrier this time.
His tyre was punctured and flapped all the way back to the pits, depositing its debris on the track. It brought out the safety car. Leclerc, let down so badly by his team in qualifying when they thought he was safe and told him not to go out again, had a damaged floor and withdrew from his home race.
Rascasse resembled a car park briefly when Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi caught Robert Kubica, causing a six car jam, all tangled and waiting for each other to clear out of the way.