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Hamilton soaks up the pressure to win Monaco GP

NEWS STORY
26/05/2019

Though, after five successive 1-2s, most of us want to see the Mercedes steamroller derailed, few would begrudge them victory today.

In mourning following the loss of its non-executive chairman, despite the obvious pain it is feeling, the German team has continued, and what a superb job it has done.

A man of so many laudable qualities - see what we did there - one of Niki's true strengths was his no-nonsense approach to life and his bluntness.

If he is looking down on today's events, he, much like Kimi Raikkonen's approach to his 300th Grand Prix, won't be interested in the tributes or the tears, the Austrian will simply want to see 'business as usual' from his team, another emphatic 1-2.

A racer's racer however, Niki wouldn't want to see anything gifted to his team, no, he would want to see Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas under pressure from Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel whilst fighting their own in-team battle.

Not for Niki silences, caps and klaxons, but elbows-out racing from lights to flag.

Of course, the process began yesterday, when an absolutely blistering lap saw Hamilton break Bottas' heart, the Finn seemingly having done enough to take the most vital of poles.

However, despite the lack of words from Hamilton since the start of the weekend, when it really, really mattered the Briton let his driving do the talking. Niki will have liked that.

Quite what the Austrian will have thought about his old team as it managed yet another monumental balls-up isn't too difficult to imagine, though sitting on his cloud up there somewhere, red cap in place, sipping a cup of Ambrosia with James Hunt, there are sure to have been enough expletives to embarrass Romain Grosjean.

Not content with losing the titles, Ferrari appears to be on a kamikaze mission to wreck its credibility, the Maranello outfit stumbling from one crisis to another. Sadly, the team is clearly in freefall, and one fears that it is going to get worse before it gets better and in the process the careers of both Mattia Binotto and Charles Leclerc could be irreparably damaged.

Max Verstappen remains the one pesky fly in the Mercedes ointment, and at a time we get sentimental over the possibility of Mercedes 'doing it for Niki', what price an equally sentimental win for the Dutch youngster.

Twelve months ago we rejoiced in Ricciardo's redemption, the Australian scoring an emotional win a year after Red Bull robbed him of almost certain victory.

Thinking back to 2018, when Monaco was a real low-point for Max, what price his redemption this time around?

Starting from fifth today, courtesy of Pierre Gasly's grid penalty for impeding Romain Grosjean, is Kevin Magnussen, and with Ricciardo, Kvyat, Gasly, Sainz and Albon right behind, even if this was the long, long run to Turn 1 of Monza or Barcelona we would expect fun and games, but this being Monaco, and the infamous Ste Devote, we hope that common sense will prevail.

Starting from 15th, Leclerc will be keen to make a point, if only to his team, however, with the youngster needing good strategy in addition to a healthy dose of derring-do, one doesn't hold out much hope.

With the Cannes Film Festival taking place up the road, it seems only right that over the years we have witnessed race plots straight out of Hollywood; Ricciardo virtually the only driver to finish, a flood in the kitchens above the tunnel, Black Jack putting it into the straw bales in the final corner, Ayrton momentarily losing concentration and putting it into the wall at Portier than running off and hiding in his apartment for a week, Nigel suffering a phantom puncture... And don't get us started on Scott Stoddard!

Along with the impossible to believe Hollywood incidents we've witnessed over the years, in the town famous for its Casino it is appropriate that we have seen our fair share of luck, both good and bad. Whether fate will be kind to Williams this afternoon - or even Racing Point and Alfa Romeo - remains to be seen, but to be honest we wouldn't count on it.

As for the weather, a number of drivers, not least Leclerc, are placing their faith in the heavens opening up, and as we know from experience Monaco enjoys its own micro-climate which can see conditions change in an instant, and while, two hours before the start, it is bright and sunny, we can't take those blue skies for granted.

The more reliable weather agencies are predicting rain about an hour into the race, and in the wake of those five 1-2s, not to mention Mercedes obvious strength here (and everyone else) one can bet that it wasn't only certain drivers doing rain dances last night.

Assuming it remains dry, the theoretically fastest strategy is a one-stopper. There's also a very wide pit stop window, due to the low tyre wear and degradation. The quickest way is to start on the softs, then switch to the hards at any point between laps 10 and 22, according to each team's tactical needs. This wide window also means that teams could potentially take full advantage of a well-timed safety car period, which is always a strong possibility in Monaco.

A slightly slower strategy is to start on the softs and then switch to the mediums at any point between laps 18 and 25. Obviously this requires a bit more tyre management, as it involves going further on a softer compound.

Finally, there's a two-stopper, but this would only be relevant if degradation on the soft is higher than expected, maybe with higher temperatures. In which case, it would be two stints on the softs of 10 to 12 laps each, followed by a final stint on the hards.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. Among the first out is Hamilton who is sporting a Lauda tribute helmet, as is Vettel, who has been wearing his all weekend.

"Bit on the nose in the tunnel," reports Russell, "rear end is floating a bit."

Along with black armbands, the Mercedes crew are all wearing red caps.

Though still bright, there are clouds in the distance, Race Control claiming an 80% chance of rain.

The drivers gather at the front of the grid for the minute's silence, all sporting their red caps emblazoned with the name 'NIKI'. The national anthem follows.

As it is revealed the risk of rain is now 90&, the leading ten all start on softs, as are Grosjean, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. The rest are on mediums.

Hamilton is told that rain, if it comes, would require Inters.

The Briton leads the field away on the warm-up lap.

The grid forms.

They're away.

Hamilton makes a great start, while Bottas does well do hold off Verstappen who runs over the kerb on the inside at Ste Devote. King of the late brakers Ricciardo nails Magnussen at the first corner, while Giovinazzi, Leclerc and Kubica cut it.

A clean start and pretty much a clean opening lap, though Raikkonen and Stroll touch at the hairpin.

At the end fo lap 1, it's: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Gasly, Sainz, Kvyat and Albon. Leclerc is 14th but subsequently passes Norris at the hairpin for 13th.

Leclerc is all over Grosjean who is all over Hulkenberg, such is the nature of the circuit.

Having looked at that first corner incident, the stewards are to take no further action as Leclerc didn't gain a place by cutting the corner. He did get ahead of Grosjean, but slowed to hand the place back.

Out front Hamilton is setting a hard pace, after 4 laps he's 1.3s ahead of his teammate who has a 1.5s comfort gap to Verstappen.

Leclerc continues to harry Grosjean, the Ferrari driver taking a trial lunge at the Nouvelle Chicane.

In fifth, Ricciardo is already 15s down on fourth placed Vettel, who is 4.6s down on the leader.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monaco, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by C5, 28/05/2019 6:04

"Pitlane, not Portland..."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by C5, 28/05/2019 6:02

"I agree the race was pretty boring. No surprise. It's Monaco. Unless our rains, that's what you get. Been like that for at last 40 years. Am
And I'm fine with that. The sheer skill, guts and stupidity required to race an F1 car here is the attraction.

No, this race was ruined by the stewards. A paltry 5 second penalty for an unsafe release and a deliberate crash into a competitor in the Portland is a joke. How that could not be taxed to a driver through is beyond my comprehension. Booo. :-("

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3. Posted by TokyoAussie, 28/05/2019 3:28

"In 2018, Ricciardo lost about 160hp but still won because it's impossible to pass, but at least Ricciardo was going as fast as he could. This year, Kubica was lapping at or around Hamilton's pace in the 2nd stint. The win was ensured by going as slow as possible. Not sure what it says about modern F1 at Monaco when one driver goes as slow as possible to ensure a win."

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4. Posted by Kkiirmki, 27/05/2019 2:29

"If anything, bfairey, Verstappen got off rather lightly. Good thing too, as I was getting rather bored with all these Mercedes one twos. Max is part of the team; the penalty system has always penalised the driver during a race. "

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5. Posted by bfairey, 26/05/2019 20:17

"Mickey Mouse results (sorry mickey) Verstappen drove his guts out and gave Ham a bit of a fright, the stewards
gave him a 5 sec penalty for releasing himself for the pit stop, sorry the team must have released him so why not fine the team E50000.I thought when Whiting was gone there would be more sense in the penalties but not so.F1 will end up FE."

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6. Posted by zoom, 26/05/2019 18:26

"Congrats to Hamilton for a notable win. However, I'd rather stick pins in my eyeballs than watch another such boring race even though I had the foresight to record & ff over more than half of it. Time to retire Monaco it's time is over JMHO."

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7. Posted by Toffeecup0, 26/05/2019 18:12

"Nice one Lewis great tribute to Niki Lauda keep up the good work"

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