Lewis wins for his 'buddy' Lauda

Lewis Hamilton is generous in spraying his winner's champagne after the Monaco Grand Prix. The Briton was struggling with his tyres, having fitted softer medium ones than his rivals. PHOTO: REUTERS
Lewis Hamilton is generous in spraying his winner's champagne after the Monaco Grand Prix. The Briton was struggling with his tyres, having fitted softer medium ones than his rivals. PHOTO: REUTERS

Emotional Mercedes star enjoys a great drive and holds off rivals despite worn-out tyres

MONACO • Lewis Hamilton yesterday won the Monaco Grand Prix from pole position with a commanding if somewhat nerve-racking drive as he struggled to maintain his tyres to the chequered flag.

Sebastian Vettel was in second place for Ferrari while Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was third, ending Mercedes' bid for a record-extending sixth successive 1-2 finish this season even as the team secured their sixth straight win.

In a race largely of little incidence at the front, as is so often the case in Monte Carlo, Hamilton had led from pole and what jeopardy there was came when his team opted to put him on the medium tyres, as his rivals behind all took the harder rubber.

He was harried to the line, though, by Max Verstappen, who came in second on the track but took fourth, incurring a five-second penalty following an unsafe release by Red Bull after the leaders all promptly pitted on lap 11.

There was also a moment two laps from the end when the pair collided as the Dutchman tried to overtake up the inside at the Nouvelle Chicane, which Hamilton felt was "a bit of a late dive".

The incident is under investigation by the stewards.

Hamilton struggled with losing grip as the race progressed but, with passing so hard and by ensuing he drove a flawless and error-free line throughout, the Briton held onto the lead to take the flag.

This is Hamilton's 77th career victory but only his third at the Monaco Grand Prix and, though not the most inspiring of wins, it was certainly one where focus was paramount.

TRIAL ON THE TRACKS

I have not driven on such empty tyres since Shanghai in 2007. I hope it wasn't really boring. I was never going to come in. I learnt the hard way here before. I was driving on nothing.

LEWIS HAMILTON, winner at Monaco, on coping with tyres that afforded him less grip on the track.

  • MONACO GRAND PRIX RESULTS

    1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 43min 28.437sec

    2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +2.602sec

    3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +3.162sec

    4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +5.537sec

    5 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull +9.946sec

    6 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren +53.454sec

    7 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso +54.574sec

    8 Alexander Albon (Tha) Toro Rosso +55.200sec

    9 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault +1min 0.894sec

    10 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas +1:01.034

    OVERALL STANDINGS - DRIVERS

    1 Hamilton 137pts 2 Bottas 120

    3 Vettel 82 4 Verstappen 78

    5 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 57.

    CONSTRUCTORS

    1 Mercedes 257 2 Ferrari 139

    3 Red Bull 110 4 McLaren 30

    5 Racing Point 17

While he was clearly concerned about his tyres graining as his radio messages revealed and, despite clear wear to his left front, he managed his car to the finish without losing the lead, a feat likely to have been impossible anywhere but on the narrow streets of Monaco.

It continues the formidable run of form the five-time world champion has displayed this term with his fourth race win of the year.

Having claimed pole with a superb lap, he converted it to victory to extend his lead over Bottas to 17 points in the standings, while Vettel, last year's runner-up, has fallen to a full 55 points back.

Before the race, a minute's silence was held to honour three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who died last Monday, and the drivers wore a red caps with "Niki" on the grid in tribute to the Austrian racing great.

Hamilton had spoken emotionally about his relationship with Lauda, who as the non-executive chairman at Mercedes, had been instrumental in bringing him to he team in 2013, claiming he wanted to take the win for his "buddy".

He duly did so while wearing a helmet styled exactly as Lauda's and dedicated the win to his friend, admitting afterwards "we truly miss him".

The 34-year-old added: "I was fighting with the spirit of Niki. I know he'll be looking down taking his hat off. I was trying to make him proud.

"I have not driven on such empty tyres since Shanghai in 2007. I hope it wasn't really boring. I was never going to come in. I learnt the hard way here before. I was driving on nothing. This team has done an incredible job.

"What we have achieved in the first six races is remarkable."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'Lewis wins for his 'buddy' Lauda'. Print Edition | Subscribe