Nico Rosberg took his third win in a row in Monaco today, after a pitstop gaffe from Mercedes cost Lewis Hamilton the win and crucially a one-two for the team. Rosberg was 4.4 seconds ahead of Sebastien Vettel across the line, with Hamlilton a further six seconds behind at the chequered flag.
The race started off well for Hamilton, with him comfortably able to build up a gap to Rosberg and co. to the tune of ten seconds. Part of this was down to the traffic in the first stint which was holding back both Rosberg and Vettel, something which hurt Ferrari when it was eventually time to pit.
The team could’ve had the option to pit Vettel and have him come out in clean air, which as we saw on the GP2 race is something that could be done to jump rivals in the pits.
However with Vettel losing time in traffic by around a second, it wasn’t enough for them to cover the other cars further back. And by the time he managed to get his tyres up to temperature he was unable to put in the out lap that could beat Rosberg at the pit exit, who pitted a lap later in his Mercedes.
There was a similar battle going on further back between Raikkonen and the two Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Riccardo. Ferrari managed to make that strategy work this time, getting ahead of Riccardo along with Kvyat who overtook him on the opening lap into Sainte Devote.
At was at this point that the race at the top was starting to look settled, Hamilton was comfortably 21 seconds ahead of Rosberg who was managing the gap to Vettel. In the midfield Toro Rosso spotted an opportunity with Max Vestappen.
After being in the points for most of the race, Vestappen lost a lot of ground on the second of his two pitstops after a problem with the wheel nut on his right rear tyre cost him 30 seconds in the pits. That meant he was down to P12, on the Super Softs, and looking to get back into the points.
After managing to get past Valterri Bottas – who was having a race to forget in his Williams – by using Vettel as bait coming out of the hairpin, he set about doing the same thing to Grosjean in P10. Lotus were wise to it though, getting the message to Grosjean that he would have to have a measured defence if he wanted to keep the position.
As they approached the hairpin, the Frenchman let Vettel by at just the right moment so he could block Vestappen and put him on the outside line going through the slowest corner in F1. That compromised his exit, and allowed the Lotus driver to pull off a pretty impressive defensive move. Vestappen still had the pace though, and after a handful of tries around the circuit he went for a lunge into Sainte Devote, only to misjudge the pace difference between himself and Grosjean and collide with the back of the Lotus, taking off his front left, and sending him straight to the scene of the accident.
The Safety Car came out, destroying Hamilton’s lead, but even more gutting for him Mercedes decided to pit the two-time world champion after he complained about the tyres going off. It was at this point the race was lost. Mercedes simply misjudged the time it took for Hamilton to get into his box and out of the pitlane again into the lead, with Hamilton getting out behind both Vettel and Rosberg with meters to spare at the Safety Car line.
After having given up crucial track position, the race restarted with Hamilton all over the back of Vettel’s gearbox. But much like Mansell on Senna in 92′ Hamilton was unable to get past the Prancing Horse, crossing the line in a rather bittersweet third having dominated over half of the race.
Further back Riccardo managed to get back past Raikkonen having bullied his way through Mirabeau, and into P4 when the team realised he was faster than Kvyat on his set of tyres and could potentially take Hamilton’s podium off him.
Force India and McLaren also managed their first points of the season, with Sergio Perez and Jenson Button finishing P7 and P8 at the line. This was in stark contrast to their teammates races; Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso. The pair made contact on the opening lap heading into Mirabeau, which ended up with a broken front wing on the Force India and a five-second time penalty for Alonso, who would later retire with heat-related issues in his McLaren Honda.
Elsewhere Two-stopper Felipe Nasr meanwhile managed ninth place ahead of Carlos Sainz who managed to get the final points-paying position in tenth after being demoted to starting from the pitlane. Toro Rosso put him on a one-stop strategy, with him managing to make his set of Soft tyres last for 66 laps at the chequered flag.
An abysmal race for Williams after Massa made contact with Maldonado on the opening lap meant that they finished in P15 and P16. Maldonado was actually the first retirement from the race, after his brake-by-wire system failed 8 laps into the race.