Around the streets of Monte-Carlo, Lewis Hamilton reigned supreme for the first time in 2016 in a rain hit, stop-start Monaco Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and the blisteringly quick Sergio Perez.
Under a dubious Safety Car start, pole sitter Ricciardo held his lead and extended it after Bernd Maylander pulled in on lap 7, creating a 13 second gap to the struggling Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and the trailing Hamilton. As the rain cleared up, Rosberg’s brake problems persisted and the German was forced into waiving his team mate through. As the track dried, Ricciardo opted for Intermediates and Hamilton stayed out; it proved to be crucial.
Although taken at a relative snail’s pace, there were problems in the field early on. Daniil Kvyat, enduring a torrid time of late suffered with power troubles, his Ferrari PU stuck at a constant speed, demoting him from eighth to last, behind the two pit-lane starters – Max Verstappen and Felipe Nasr.
As soon as the Mercedes AMG was recalled into the pits, many drivers including Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button all pitted for the Intermediate tyre, happy with the track’s condition. Although, Raikkonen’s race was cut short after a meeting with the barriers at the Loews hairpin.
Jolyon Palmer was another driver who suffered in the greasy conditions. Over the white paint of the zebra crossing, the Brit lost traction under throttle application and careered into the barriers and was rendered a passenger on the run down to St. Devote. It wasn’t the only time a Renault would have an altercation; Magnussen colliding with the troubled Kvyat and then the armco at Mirabeau before calling it a day on lap 35.
As the race reached a quarter of its distance, Ricciardo bailed and pulled in for the green walled Inters, as Hamilton went on, assuming the lead. It was a position he kept until the time for dry tyres was reached, on lap 31. He chose the new Ultra-Soft compound, a journey into the unknown in race conditions. Ricciardo stayed out, as Rosberg and Verstappen – having a barnstorming race followed the World Champion into the box.
Lap 32, Ricciardo peeled off after La Rascasse to receive a set of Super Softs. Or so he thought, his crew not notified of the tyre choice, leading to an 11 second stop. It was tight, but Hamilton swept round St.Devote just ahead of the Australian and never looked back.
Meanwhile, Rosberg couldn’t help but look back; falling to sixth, unable to find a way past the storming Fernando Alonso on McLaren’s 50th birthday and unable to pull away from the chasing Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz.
Ricciardo was all over Hamilton like a rash, the Brit having trouble bringing his Ultra Softs into life. The Red Bull number 1 tried his luck out of the tunnel, Hamilton running wide and using a questionable tactic to stay ahead, squeezing him close to the armco. Riccardo threw up a hand in frustration as he sped towards Tabac.
Verstappen’s interesting weekend ended on lap 35, locking a wheel at Massenet and clattering the barriers for a third time in the weekend whilst running in 9th. Cue another VSC.
Sauber’s wretched weekend ended in a depressing nature. In the battle for 15th, Marcus Ericsson pleaded for a way past Nasr but his plea fell on deaf ears, so he took matters into his own hands – taking inspiration from the late Jules Bianchi in 2014 and Sergio Canamasas in the GP2 support race yesterday – and diving down the inside of La Rascasse, but unlike the aforementioned, clattered into Nasr ending both of their races. When it rains it pours.
As the race drew to a close, Hamilton had managed to pull away from Ricciardo, doing an incredible 47 laps on the Ultra-Soft, just two laps less than Ricciardo managed on the harder, Super Soft tyre.
It was win number 44 in Monaco for the number 44, as he claimed his first win since Austin 2015 all the way back in October. He claimed it was one of the best victories in his esteemed career, and the victory he’d “earned the most” over the course of 78 laps. Ricciardo wore his unusual ‘face of thunder look’, telling the team there was “nothing [they] could say to make this better”. Unsurprisingly, he was keen to put this weekend behind him.
More action after the race winner had crossed the line, Rosberg’s dismal race was completed by Hulkenberg snatching 6th away from him on the line, meaning that Hamilton takes another point out of the German’s Championship lead.
Credit to Perez as well, enduring a quiet race but taking an incredible third, fending off a frustrated Vettel.
Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Follow me on Twitter @therealjeagles for updates on when I post