Lewis Hamilton won the Monaco Grand Prix for Mercedes on Sunday, nursing his car’s worn tyres to the finish in a nail-biting victory worthy of the team’s late great Niki Lauda.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was runner-up, ending Mercedes’s run of five successive one-two finishes, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas third.
Max Verstappen crossed the finish line second for Red Bull but dropped to fourth due to a five-second penalty imposed for an earlier unsafe release and collision with Bottas in the pitlane.
“That was definitely the hardest race I’ve had but nonetheless I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki,” said Hamilton, who dived into the trackside swimming pool after the podium formalities.
“I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off. I was trying to stay focused and make him proud,” he added of the Austrian, the triple world champion and Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman, who died on Monday aged 70. His funeral will be on Wednesday.
The five-times world champion, now leading Bottas by 17 points, and Verstappen finished under investigation after they banged wheels into the chicane following the tunnel exit two laps from the end.
The Briton, whose medium tyres were so worn by that point that he questioned the team’s strategy, was forced to cut the corner. But there were no consequences and hence he bagged his 77th F1 career victory.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking by keeping these tyres on man. You need to hope for a miracle,” he had said earlier, keeping Verstappen — on longer-lasting harder tyres — behind him for lap after lap.
The miracle, with Hamilton wearing a red helmet with Lauda’s name and colours while the car carried a variety of tributes, duly happened as if by the late champion’s celestial command.
“That was an incredible drive. There was no one else who could have done that,” Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles told him over the radio after he crossed the line.