LEWIS Hamilton performed what he called a miracle in winning the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, crossing the finish line barely ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
But Verstappen didn’t make it to the podium.
The Dutch driver incurred a five-second penalty for colliding with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in the pit lane and ended up fourth.
So, taking second spot in a rather boring race was Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel, with Bottas third.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finished 9th in the Renault after having qualified 7th and early on he occupied 5th before being called in too early for a tyre change that dropped him to an irretrievable position.
It was a bad day too for local hero Charles Leclerc, who had to start from 16th after a shocking error by his pit during the qualifying session.
They kept him in the garage, thinking he was safe after a good lap in Q1 and woke up too late when rivals posted faster times that shuffled Ferrari’s poster boy way back in the pack.
He made great progress in the early laps with brave overtakes, but spun on lap 9 when his ambition exceeded his capabilities, touched the barriers and punctured a rear tyre.
That brought out the safety car, and several drivers took the opportunity to dive into the pits for fresh tyres.
Red Bull made an unsafe release of Max Verstappen who collided with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in pit lane, earning the Dutch driver a slap-on-the-wrist five second penalty that proved to have dire consequences.
Meanwhile, Leclerc retired his Ferrari.
On lap 50 Hamilton, who has been complaining of the state of his tyres for many laps while keeping Verstappen at bay, radioed: “I think I am in big trouble guys. The left front is dead.” But his team tell him he’s not to stop.
Four laps later a frustrated Hamilton radioed: “We are going to lose this race . . . I can’t manage any more on these tyres. I can’t keep the car behind, Bono, can’t you see that?”
But Bono kept schtum and after a few seconds Hamilton piped up with: “You need to hope for a miracle.”
The Mercedes chief strategist responded with some words of encouragement, telling Lewis that Verstappen wasn’t close enough to even have a look at overtaking him.
Two constants of the day were: the expected rain never came and Hamilton never stopped moaning.
Two laps from the finish Verstappen locked up his brakes and hit the rear of Hamilton’s Merc going into the nouvelle chicane, but both continued.
“That was definitely the hardest race I think I have had,” Hamilton said.
“I have not driven on empty tyres since Shanghai 2007 when McLaren left me out for a ridiculous time. I hope it wasn’t too boring.
“I was never going to come in (to the pits).
“Ultimately it was the wrong tyre. Nonetheless, this team has done an incredible job. What we have achieved in the first six races is remarkable.”
Bottas who finished third after having to make an extra pit stop due to the brush with Verstappen in pit lane, said it was disappointing finish for him.
“Bit of a Sunday drive in the end,” he said.
Renault F1 Team had another forgettable day on the narrow street circuit, where it’s very difficult to overtake.
“It was a very frustrating race, to be honest,” Ricciardo said.
“We had a great start, jumped Kevin [Magnussen] on the outside for fifth and had a strong Turn 1.
“Then we pitted under the safety car, which is where we missed out. We definitely could have done better and got a great result as we had all the cards in our hand.
“Although we missed some points, the car was very good even though we couldn’t always use the speed we had.”
Teammate Nico Hülkenberg finished 14th after a series of mishaps not of his making.
“Nothing went our way,” the German said.
“We made a decent start, kept it clean off the line and then suffered a puncture after Charles [Leclerc] sliced my tyre open.
“Luckily, I didn’t hit the wall, but the Safety Car meant everyone gained on me and from then, I was at the back of the train caused by the spinning Alfa Romeo and Williams and it was difficult to recover from there.
“The car had more performance and potential than the result showed.
“We need to make the most of the opportunities in Canada.”
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul agreed Ricciardo’s early pit stop was not a good move.
“It turned out to be the wrong decision,” he said.
‘”It gave McLaren the opportunity to execute a smart team strategy with Norris and Sainz.
“A small positive is that we return into the points, but the bigger positive is that the car has demonstrated its potential, not just on the short runs yesterday, but on the longer runs today.
“It’s clearly a missed opportunity that does not reward the hard work of the team and the drivers to improve the competitiveness of the package.”
Carols Sainz had a good drive to 6th place, to lead the ‘best of the rest’ category in the McLaren, and teammate Lando Norris finished just out of the points in 11th.
It was a great result for Toro Rosso as well, with Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon taking 7th and 8th.
Grosjean crossed the line 9th, but dropped a place after a five-second penalty was imposed for a technical error.
So Hamilton got the miracle he hoped for, Vettel ended the 1-2 streak of finishes for Mercedes and everyone hopes the next Grand Prix, in Montreal, on June 9, will be a bit more exciting.
C. Sainz Jr.
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