Hamilton wins incident filled Monaco Grand Prix

29/05/2016
NEWS STORY

It's not an expression you'll often here in Monte Carlo, but it's fair to say, all bets are off.

On Tuesday, UBIMET, the official meteorologist to the FIA, forecast that whilst Thursday and Saturday would be fine, Sunday would be damp.

UBIMET was correct.

Following overnight rain, the downpour has continued for most of the morning, and if nothing else all that rubber laid down over the last few days has been washed away.

Of course, a number of drivers will have been delighted to open their curtains this morning, among them Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Max Verstappen, as the rain not only turns the last couple of days on its head, it also the great leveller, meaning that anything can, and probably will, happen.

Over the years such conditions have provided more than their fair share of unanticipated results, with this track hosting a number of such races. Therefore, the best thing to do today, rather than speculating wildly over what might happen and who might come out on top, is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Indeed, as McLaren celebrates 50 years since its first Grand Prix, which was here at Monaco, let's not forget that the 1966 event played host not only to the F1 circus but Hollywood as John Frankenheimer was in town filming his epic movie Grand Prix.

Will today's race match the theatrics of Frankenheimer's race? Well, hopefully there is little chance of a car attempting to scale the wall on the exit from the tunnel, just as we are unlikely to see anyone heading out in to the harbour. But might we see an irate team boss jump the straw bales (barriers) to berate a careless driver, telling him "you're finished" right in front of the cameras.

We had something of a Hollywood finish in Spain a couple of weeks back, when Max Verstappen took a historic victory, but might the sport yet provide us with something even more special... a Manor on the podium where Jules Bianchi scored his only points, a first win for an American team since god knows when.

Indeed, could the appearance of a Force India on the podium force Vijay Mallya to come out of hiding.

Who knows?

As if his weekend hasn't been dramatic enough, there's a further late scare for Verstappen when his left-front wheel becomes fused on to its thread during a practice pit stop. When the traditional heavy-handed method (hammer time) fails, the team opts to change the entire hub.

The pitlane opens, and having eased off a little, the rain is now falling a lot harder. One by one the cars emerge, each shod with full wets, though the Haas duo opt for inters. Wisely, a lap later, both Gutierrez and Grosjean, who had a bit of a wobble on his installation lap, switch to full wets.

Despite the dramas, one of the first to emerge is Verstappen, his team having done a superb job in sorting out that errant front wheel.

Sadly - a move never even contemplated in the 1966 movie - it is thought that the race will start behind the safety car.

Indeed, ten minutes before the start it is confirmed that the race will start behind the safety car.

Air temperature is 17 degrees and the track temperature is 19 degrees.

Because the race is starting behind the safety car, for the first time at Monaco, there is no warm-up lap, we are straight in to the 'race'.

"I am stuck in constant speed," complains Kvyat. "What the ****," as he drops down through the field to nineteenth.

At the end of the second lap Kvyat pits, he rejoins in last position. However, it is soon cleat that the issue has not been resolved. "This happens to me all the time," he sighs.

For lap after lap the field follows the safety car, red lights flashing.

"The track is ready now," urges Magnussen as the field begins its sixth lap, "we can start racing. Come on!"

"The spray is much better now," confirms Hamilton, "let's get going."

There's some consolation for Kvyat, as he attempts to catch up with the back of the field he posts the fastest lap (1:54.071).

At the end of lap 6, the safety car pulls off, game on! Magnussen pits for inters.

Moments later the VSC is deployed when Palmer goes into the barriers at Ste Devote, the Briton having had a thoroughly miserable weekend. A massive wobble for Hamilton at the hairpin also.

Replay shows Palmer lost it on the pit straight, on the zebra crossing to be exact, clouting the barriers and then being a passenger all the way to Ste Devote.

Button, Nasr and Kvyat all follow Magnussen's example and pit for inters at the end of lap 8.

At the end of lap 9 the VSC is withdrawn. Hamilton is all over Rosberg who is clearly struggling. Ricciardo is already 4.227s up the road.

Raikkonen is in the barriers at Portier, with Grosjean also seeming to be involved. The Finn subsequently retires at T10, as Ericsson and Haryanto pit.

Replay shows Raikkonen hitting the barrier at the hairpin after locking up with Massa and Grosjean getting caught up in the mayhem after the Finn is unable to remove his car from the barriers.

The stewards are to investigate the Raikkonen incident after the race.

At the end of lap 13, Verstappen pits, as does Vettel, the first of the leaders to do so. The German rejoins in 11th.

Out front, as Hamilton remains frustrated behind his Mercedes teammate, Ricciardo posts a new fastest al p (36.677).

Alonso pits at the end of lap 14, as Sainz has a massive wobble in the Swimming Pool which he does well to control.

As Ricciardo posts another fastest lap (35.946), Hulkenberg and Bottas pit.

Hamilton is suddenly ahead of his Mercedes teammate, the Briton having passed Rosberg on the run up the hill from Ste Devote. By the look of it the German was ordered to move aside.

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

In clear air, Hamilton posts 35.194 as he attempts to close the 13.063s gap to Ricciardo.

Grosjean and Gutierrez both pit.

Vettel (7th) is the highest placed inter runner. Missing the apex at T10 he passes Massa but has to hand the position back. He is subsequently almost hit by Hulkenberg from behind.

Hamilton continues to takes bites out of Ricciardo's lead, the Briton posting another fastest lap (34.870).

A terrain of cars is lining up behind Massa who is still on the full wets in sixth. The five cars ahead of him are also on the blue-banded rubber.

In clear air, Hamilton is 2s a lap quicker than his teammate who is now 10.165s behind.

Verstappen is up to 13th, as Bottas gets past Wehrlein under somewhat questionable circumstances at T10.

At the end of lap 20, Rosberg pits for inters, the Mercedes driver rejoining in fifth ahead of Vettel. Massa pits also.

Drama at Rascasse where Kvyat and Magnussen have run out of track following a series of incidents. "What the ****," complains Magnussen. "I crashed," Kvyat tells his team.

In eleventh position, Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (32.649) as he closes on Button.

Perez and Sainz pit which puts Rosberg back in to third, 35s down on Hamilton who has yet to stop.

At the end of lap 23, Ricciardo pits, leaving Hamilton in the lead. Mercedes had looked as if it was about to pit the Briton, but that appeared to be a bluff.

Following the Kvyat incident, Magnussen has pitted for a new nose.

Elsewhere, Verstappen makes short work of Button to take tenth.

On lap 24, Sainz posts a new fastest lap (32.457) but this is soon beaten by his former teammate Verstappen (30.853). The Dutch youngster is setting a sizzling pace.

Currently 4.538s down on Hamilton, Ricciardo goes quickest with a 30.181. The question is, will Hamilton switch to inters or take a gamble and go for slicks?

After 26 laps, it's: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Perez, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Alonso, Gutierrez and Verstappen.

Conditions are such that DRS is now enabled.

As Verstappen harries Gutierrez, Button has closed in on the Dutch youngster.

Ericsson gives Bottas a nudge as the pair battle for fourteenth behind Wehrlein.

As the sun breaks through, there is clear dry line emerging.

Vettel closes in on Perez who is closing in on Rosberg.

In his bid to hold off Verstappen, Gutierrez posts a new fastest lap (30.385).

With a 26s gap to third-placed Rosberg, might Red Bull opt to gamble and put Ricciardo on slicks before Hamilton makes his move?

Ericsson is the first driver to make the switch, the Sauber driver pitting at the ends of lap 30 for ultras. Perez and Button switch to softs. Magnussen opts for supers.

At the end of lap 31, Hamilton finally pits, the Briton fitting a brand new set of ultras. Rosberg follows suit. Indeed, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Verstappen all stop... as does Ricciardo and Wehrlein.

A disaster for Ricciardo, his team wasn't ready for him. Consequently he exits the pitlane behind Hamilton.

If the Australian, now on supers, was frustrated by his team's strategy in Spain, God only knows how he'll react to today's disaster.

Another clash with the barriers for Magnussen, who this time gets it wrong at Mirabeau.

Ricciardo is all over Hamilton, the Red Bull driver clearly fired up. To add to the fun, Hamilton has a number of backmarkers ahead of him.

Game over for Verstappen who has crashed at Massenet, his second crash of the weekend. The VSC is deployed.

"Ah, I crashed," he tells his team. "Ah!"

Under VSC, after 35 laps, it's: Hamilton (ultras), Ricciardo (supers), Perez and Vettel (both softs), Alonso (supers), Rosberg (ultras), Hulkenberg (softs), Sainz and Button (supers) and Gutierrez (ultras).

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

The VSC period ends and from the outset Ricciardo is all over Hamilton.

The Australian is clearly frustrated, he waves his hand, angry that Hamilton is not playing ball and giving him space.

"Get your act together," Ricciardo is told, "you're quicker than him."

The stewards announce that they are to investigate the Hamilton/Ricciardo near miss.

As Ricciardo continues to harry Hamilton, Perez remains third, 11.5s behind with Vettel closing in.

The stewards announce they are to take no further action over the Hamilton/Ricciardo incident.

However, Wehrlein is handed a 10s penalty for failing to stay above the minimum time under the VSC. The German is also under investigation for "ignoring blue flags"

Lap 47 sees Perez post a new fastest lap (19.645) as the Force India driver maintains a 1.9s gap to Vettel.

Meanwhile, Hamilton maintains a tantalising 0.444s lead over Ricciardo.

Nasr is told to swap position with Ericsson but he is far from happy. "The order comes from the top," he is told, but he is still not happy.

Another fastest lap from Perez (19.219), as her not only holds off Vettel but closes to within 9.5s of Ricciardo.

The VSC is deployed again as Ericsson takes matters into his own hands and makes a move on his teammate at Rascasse. The two clash in what was a stupid move by the Swede but an equally stupid refusal to obey orders by the Brazilian.

The VSC is withdrawn and immediately Ricciardo is all over Hamilton.

"I have smoke coming from the car," warns Nasr, as he dives into the pits.

Ricciardo makes a move at T10 but is unable to nail the Mercedes.

On and on they go, but as anyone who remembers Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, you can get as close as you like here but passing a rival who doesn't want to be passed it no easy matter here.

The cameras pick out Gutierrez who had a problem at Rascasse and ground to a halt. However, he is able to continue.

Rosberg makes a move on Alonso which requires the use of the run off at T10, he passes the Spaniard but has to hand the place back.

Button is told that there is a rain shower on the radar.

A new fastest lap for Vettel (18.005) who continues to shadow Perez.

Raikkonen has been summoned by the stewards for the incident much earlier this afternoon, no doubt the Finn in trouble for continuing after damaging his car and risking shedding bits of it on the track.

Not for the first time this afternoon, the VSC is deployed when a piece of plastic sheeting blown on to the track. Moments later the VSC is withdrawn.

Vettel has clearly given up any hope of a podium finish, the German now 12.661s down on Perez, whilst, equally incredibly, Rosberg appears to have given up on challenging Alonso.

"It is starting to rain," warns Sainz with just two laps remaining. "Get ready."

As if tied by a piece of string, Hamilton and Ricciardo continue, the pair closing on the three-way fight between Hulkenberg, Rosberg and Alonso for fifth.

The Briton takes the flag, his first in since Austin, when he secured the title.

Ricciardo takes second, and as the rain begins to fall in earnest, Perez takes the final podium position, ahead of Vettel, Alonso and Hulkenberg who has passed championship leader Rosberg on the final lap.

Sainz is eighth, ahead of Button, Massa, Bottas, Gutierrez, Grosjean, Wehrlein and Haryanto.

Hamilton's joy is understandable, as is Ricciardo's frustration. If the Australian was angered by what happened at Barcelona he has every right to be incandescent after what happened today.

And then there's Perez, what a great race, what clever strategy, what a result.

Going back to the Hollywood theme that we started on, who, in their wildest dreams, could have conceived such a script.

We had Hamilton taking victory on a track that means so much to him, just twenty-four hours after all appeared lost.

We had Ricciardo seemingly destined for greatness being left deflated following a total cock-up by his team.

We had the might of Ferrari laid low by Force India, and McLaren, on what is a very special weekend for the team, getting both cars home, and one in front of the championship leader.

We had the second Force India passing the championship leader on the final lap, indeed, said championship leader looking a shadow of himself today.

We had Barcelona's' golden boy making another needless mistake, we had teammates taking one another out, we had Renault spending more time in the barriers than on the black stuff and we had Kvyat making Helmut Marko's decision look totally understandable.

Whilst Ricciardo's inability to get anywhere near Hamilton showed up the negatives of this circuit, the sheer drama and uncertainty throughout the rest of the field, made it clear why we are still racing here.

In recent weeks the Cannes Film Festival has taken place just along the coast, as we said earlier, Hollywood couldn't have done this any better.

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 29/05/2016
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