Lewis Hamilton narrowly took victory over Daniel Ricciardo at the Grand Prix de Monaco in a thrilling race run in wet and dry conditions.
The win puts Hamilton 24 points behind Rosberg, who finished seventh, with 15 races remaining in the season.
Hamilton made the bold move to stay on the wet tires for a long opening stint on a drying track so he could make just one pit stop. He then benefited from a terrible pit stop for Daniel Ricciardo and defended well for the remaining 45 laps.
Rain Makes For Exciting Opening
The race began behind the safety car with heavy rain falling on Monte Carlo for much of the day.
The safety car stayed on the track for seven laps, forcing eager drivers such as Hamilton and Magnussen onto their team radio pleading for the race proper to get underway.
When it did, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer accelerated through the straight and lost traction on the zebra pedestrian crossing markings before colliding into the barrier.
The race began in earnest after the debris was cleared and Ricciardo immediately established a strong lead over Rosberg.
Within seven laps, Ricciardo was in front by 13.1 seconds and Rosberg headed to team orders to let Hamilton through.
“It was pretty simple – I wasn’t going to be able to fight for the win. They gave me a warning to up my pace and I couldn’t so it was logical and fully understandable,” said Rosberg afterwards.
The clear track let Hamilton hit the throttle and but he couldn’t make any serious impact on the deficit to Ricciardo.
But all of that changed, as did the course of race, on lap 23 when the Australian changed his wet tyres for intermediates. Hamilton instead stayed on track longer and made just the one pit stop to put on ultra soft tires on lap 31.
Red Bull looked to match Hamilton’s strategy and they called Ricciardo into the pits a lap later. In what can only be described as a disastrous stop, the pit wall made a last minute decision to use super-softs rather than softs and the pit crew weren’t ready for Ricciardo’s arrival.
Ricciardo sat waiting in the pit for about 10 seconds and when we he re-entered the circuit Hamilton had just edged in front of him.
A tight battled ensued and despite better pace and traction Ricciardo could not get a clear overtaking move on Hamilton on the notoriously difficult track.
A small window of opportunity opened on the 37th lap when Hamilton overshot the chicane and was off the driving line. Ricciardo looked to pass on the inside but Hamilton aggressively covered the move.
Ricciardo’s Pain Is Hamilton’s Gain
After Red Bull’s poor pit stop call in Spain, Ricciardo found the error in Monaco tough to comprehend.
“I think I took Barcelona as well as I could; but for me to be positive this time, I can’t.”
“But I have no idea what to say – and nothing good to say. We saw the rain this morning and I saw it as another chance to prove myself. I was quick and I pulled away. They called me in, it wasn’t a late call.”
“From the outside, we put on a show but it shouldn’t have been as exciting as it was – two weekends in a row I have been screwed.”
For Hamilton, his first win in seven months, the outcome could not have been better.
“I’ve had a lot of races, but personally this feels like the best ever – this feels like the one, in my heart, that I earned,” Hamilton said.
“And I earned it today. It didn’t feel like a stroke of luck. I really ground out every inch of track, every ounce of grip, every bit of skill that I had in order to stay ahead of Daniel.”
“My 44th win, in Monaco, when I haven’t won in ages…it feels like the greatest blessing.”
Exciting Battles Through The Field
In a spectacularly tight race, the rain and different tire strategies combined to create some great contests through the field.
Perhaps going a little unnoticed behind the front-runners, Force India’s Sergio Perez took a gamble to put soft tires on his car earlier than most and he delivered fast lap times to finish third.
The Ferrari’s were again disappointing and their prospects of seriously challenging Mercedes are now fading. Vettel could only manage fourth place, while Raikkanen hit the wall at the Grand Hotel corner and dragged the front wing under his car before being forced to retire.
Fernando Alonso in the McLaren turned in a great effort to secure a valuable fifth place finish. His team-mate, Jenson Button, ended in ninth.
And in a potentially career defining race, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat failed to finish and received two penalty points and a three-place grid penalty in Canada for again causing a collision – this time with Renault’s Kevin Magnussen. He now has seven points on his license with 12 points triggering an immediate one race ban.