It’s going to take a while for the dust to settle from this one. Victory was snatched from Lewis Hamilton’s grasp today, after a blunder by Mercedes put him from first to third.
The drama took place toward the end of the race, as Max Verstappen crashed into the back of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus as they approached turn 1, putting his Toro Rosso into the barriers as a result. Verstappen was unhurt, despite the high speed of the accident, and Grosjean’s car was undamaged, able to continue.
What the accident did do was to bring out a safety car, and Mercedes inexplicably pitted Hamilton from the lead, gambling that he would get out still in front. It was a mistake, that saw Hamilton not only come out behind teammate Nico Rosberg (who was gifted his third successive Monaco victory), but also behind Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari as well. It took several laps for the safety car to turn in, and by the time it did, Hamilton had eight laps to try and pass Vettel, but the narrow streets of Monaco are not friendly to overtaking, and Hamilton could not find a way past.
It was otherwise a perfect race from Hamilton. He had qualified on pole, started well, pulled away comfortably and was some 20 seconds clear of Rosberg when he pitted.
The race was not a memorable one for McLaren’s Fernando Alonso – first he got a five-second stop-go penalty for a first-lap incident where he bumped Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India into the barriers, then he was forced to retire due to mechanical failure (a fate that yet again befell Pastor Maldonaldo’s Lotus as well).
Daniil Kvyat was fourth, his best result of the year so far, ahead of Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo (whom Kvyat let by in the closing stages of the race to challenge Hamilton, but Red Bull then ordered Ricciardo to give the place back to Kvyat when it became clear he wasn’t getting by). The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen didn’t fare too well, ending up behind both Red Bulls (including being the victim of an unceremonious bump by Ricciardo late on).
It was a terrible weekend for Williams. Valtteri Bottas was knocked out of qualifying in Q1, and Felipe Massa didn’t fare much better. The previously pacey cars ended up 14th and 15th, a bad day at the office for them.
Force India did get a car into the points – Sergio Perez was 7th, but McLaren perhaps had the best cause to celebrate – Jensen Button scored their first points of the season with 8th. Felipe Nasr took points for Sauber too, in 9th, and Carlos Sainz completed the points. All in all, seven different teams scored points.
The biggest talking point from today will inevitably be Mercedes’ decision to pit Hamilton during the safety car. He was set to extend his championship lead to 27 points – instead it has been cut to 10. He will no doubt want to put the race behind him – but a near-certain victory was lost today, in cruel circumstances.