Lewis Hamilton took his first victory of the season in an incident-packed Monaco Grand Prix in which Daniel Ricciardo saw a possible first career win slip away in a bungled pit stop. The Australian eventually finished second ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez.
The race began in extremely wet conditions, behind the safety car, but after seven laps the track was deemed dry enough for racing to start and Ricciardo, who began from pole, held his lead as Mercedes’ second-placed Nico Rosberg held off team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg seemed to be experiences difficulties, however, and the championship leader was soon backing Hamilton up as Ricciardo carved out a solid gap at the front of the pack.
In the meantime Renault’s Jolyon Palmer exited the race. When the SC left the track Palmer lost control on the run up to Ste Devote and he went hard into the barriers on the left of the track before skittering to a halt in the barriers of the escape road at Turn 1.
Moments later Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was also tangling with the barriers. The Finn lost control on the entry to the Loew’s hairpin. His front wing became detached and lodged under his car as he attempted to get back to the pits and he stopped in escape road at the Nouvelle Chicane where he retired from the race.
At the front Ricciardo’s lead was increasing and he was soon 7.8s ahead of Rosberg.
Elsewhere, Max Verstappen, in the second Red Bull, was on a charge. The Dutch teenager had crashed out in qualifying and started from the pit lane, but by lap 10 he was up to 12th place.
The track, however, was drying and soon many in the field began to make the move to intermediate tyres. Verstappen pitted for the green-banded tyres on lap 12, while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel stopped for the green-banded tyres on lap 13. The leaders though, avoided the move, sticking to the extreme wets as the lap times for the tyres remained similar.
It was at this point that Mercedes decided to free Hamilton from Rosberg’s shackles and the championship leader moved across to let Hamilton through on lap 15. Five laps later Rosberg headed to the pits for intermediate tyres.
Hamilton quickly began to hunt down Ricciardo and the gap between the two, which was some 13 seconds, began to fall.
In the meantime there were more incidents. Daniil Kvyat made an ill-judged attempt to pass Kevin Magnussen on the inside at Rascasse and they collided. Kvyat was immediately out of the race but Magnussen limped on until lap 32 when he too retired.
Ricciardo eventually pitted for new tyres and he moved to intermediates on lap 23. The choice put Hamilton in the lead but while it might have been expected he would stop for inters, the defending champion stayed out, seeking to keep his full wets going until a window opened for the use of slicks.
It was a risk and over the next eight laps Ricciardo quickly reeled in the gap to Hamilton, erasing the gap left by his stop for inters.
Mercedes sensed the danger and on lap 31 they pitted Hamilton. He took on slick tyres and Ricciardo resumed the lead.
The track was rapidly improving, however, and it was clear the Red Bull man would have also need to stop for slicks.
With time in hand, he pitted on lap 32 but the call was a late one and when he arrived at his pit box for supersoft tyres the crew weren’t ready. He was delayed for what seemed an age and when he eventually made it away from the pit lane exit, Hamilton was already through and in the lead.
Further back, Verstappen was again scything through the pack and by lap 33 he up to ninth behind Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. But just as in qualifying Verstappen’s confidence got the better of him and on lap 35 the Dutchman misjudged his braking point and hit the wall. His wasn’t the final retirement, for some 30 laps from home Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson collided with team-mate Felipe Nasr at Rascasse.
By that time, Hamilton was in control of the race. Ricciardo made numerous attacks and at one stage almost made it past as Hamilton erred on the entry to the Nouvelle Chicane but the champion close the door severely which led to much hand-waving from a clearly frustrated Ricciardo and an appeal to the stewards who investigated but cleared Hamilton of any wrongdoing. It was to be Ricciardo last assault.
The running behind Hamilton took its toll on his tyres and though he pressed har4d he eventually lost touch with the leader and finished seven seconds behind Hamilton, who took his second Monaco win.
Behind them Perez was enjoying a superb run. After starting seventh he rose to fifth by lap 15 and then, when he took on soft tyres on lap 30, he vaulted to third.
Vettel was on a similarly strategy and he took opted for soft tyres in the window for slicks. The choice looked a good one and at one stage he was the fastest man on the track as he closed in on Perez, but he could find now way past the canny Mexican and he settled for fourth.
Fifth place went to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, while Rosberg’s unhappy race was capped on the final lap when he was passed for sixth place on the line by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Eighth place was taken by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz who finished ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button and Williams’ Felipe Massa.
2016 Monaco Grand Prix – Race
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 78 laps – 1h59m29.133s
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +7.252
3 Sergio Perez Force India +13.825
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +15.846
5 Fernando Alonso McLaren +85.076
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +92.999
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +93.290
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +1 lap
9 Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap
10 Felipe Massa Williams +1 lap
11 Esteban Gutierrez Haas +1 lap
12 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 lap
13 Romain Grosjean Haas +2 laps
14 Pascal Wehrlein Manor +2 laps
15 Rio Haryanto Manor +4 laps
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber DNF
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber DNF
18 Max Verstappen Red Bull DNF
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault DNF
20 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso DNF
21 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari DNF
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault DNF