Monaco GP: Hamilton Holds Onto Top Spot in “Hardest Race Ever”

Grand Prix

May 30th, 2019

Monaco GP: Hamilton Holds Onto Top Spot in “Hardest Race Ever”


In what seemed like the toughest race for Formula 1’s five-time champion, Lewis Hamilton once again managed to stay ahead of the competition at the Monaco GP. The race, which happened over the weekend, had Hamilton sporting a helmet in a color that was different from usual. 

He had revealed earlier on race day that he’d be racing in red as a tribute to his friend and colleague, Niki Lauda, who passed away the week before. Lauda was the non-executive chairman of Mercedes before he died. This had been a very emotional week for the team. There could not have been a more fitting tribute to Lauda than Hamilton’s dogged determination to win. 

Hamilton struggles with his tyres but manages to keep the lead from start to finish

The Monaco GP win, which was Hamilton’s fourth this year, did not come easy as he struggled with his tyres for most of the race. The Safety Car had to be called on at Lap 11 just to allow marshals to clear up debris that came from the shredded tyre of Charles Leclerc. Even with these obstacles, Hamilton managed to keep the lead from start to finish and landed his third Monaco win. 

Leclerc had been trying to make up ground after Ferrari's seeming strategic error to qualify earlier on Saturday. He, however, passed the Monegasque and left Romain Grosjean's Haas in 12th place with what many are still referring to as a gutsy move at Rascasse on the previous lap. He then attempted the same move on Hulkenberg but was not allowed as much room by the German.

They eventually rounded at the corner together but Leclerc's rear wheel did not make it through as he caught the inside barrier, pitching him into a spin and ultimately puncturing his tyre. Leclerc got back in the game not long after, drifting only two places behind. He suffered a punctured tyre while trying to spin past Nico Hulkenberg's Renault for 11th place on lap eight. This spin left his tyre shredded.

Hamilton, who had to make his tyres last for 67 laps, had Verstappen worrying for most of the race. However, it soon became obvious that the contest was between Verstappen and Bottas, who were both behind Hamilton. 

Hardest race I’ve ever had, Hamilton says

When commenting on the race, Hamilton stated, “That was probably the hardest race I’ve ever had”. This statement rings true considering that the Brit was also involved in a late collision with the Red Bull driver. 

It did seem impossible at first, but Hamilton succeeded to push his deteriorating tyres to the limit to his fourth win in 2019.

Mercedes extends their winning streak but not their 1-2 finish

Another surprising turn of events occurred when Verstappen, who initially came in second after Hamilton, ended up in the fourth position due to a five-second penalty, placing the Ferrari driver, Sebastian Vettel, and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas at second and third positions, respectively. Verstappen’s penalty was as a result of an unsafe release that occurred in the pits when Leaders pitted on Lap 12 as a safety car was working on clearing the debris from the Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc. 

For Mercedes, the Monaco GP extends their winning streak but ends their streak of one-two finishes as Bottas ran out of luck this time around. 

As it stands, Lewis Hamilton now holds a 17-point winning gap over his teammate in the race for the championship. In his victory jump into the swimming pool, Hamilton dived in, full back style.

It would take a miracle to win the race, says the would-be champ

The main reason why the Monaco GP seemed more difficult for Hamilton was that his car was fitted with medium tyres while Verstappen and Vettel had hards—an option that Bottas also had to switch to when he went into the pit the second time. The issue of having medium tyres is that Hamilton then had to do 66 laps with the tyres, which are normally expected to last for only 50 laps.

The reason for Mercedes’ decision to place mediums on Hamilton’s car is not yet entirely clear. One thing is certain, though, the tyres sure gave Hamilton a hard time winning that race as it meant he had to pay very close attention to his pace. Committing the slightest mistake with those cars was not an option in order for him to win at the Monaco GP.

Earlier in the race, Hamilton has repeatedly expressed his uncertainty of his ability to hold off Verstappen. He even went to say that it would take a miracle to win the race. 

You can make it if you trust it

It took James Vowles, the chief strategist of Mercedes, to reassure Hamilton and get him going. Over the radio, Vowles apparently said,” You can make it if you trust it”.

Of course, Hamilton’s performance easily makes him the driver of the day. Acknowledging the race as the hardest he’s had, he also gave credit to Lauda, whom he said he felt had been driving with him throughout the race. Hamilton further said that he wanted to emulate his friend and colleague and that his goal was to become as respected as Lauda was. 

At Monaco something always happens

The other drivers also had things to say. Vettel who came in second following the double penalty on Verstappen expressed how tough the race was, but added that “at Monaco something always happens.” He added that he struggled with his tyres, which were not performing at their best.

The second Mercedes’s driver, Valtteri Bottas who also had a bad day commented how disappointed he was considering that the speed was there. The small margins in the previous day made the final day so much tougher to win. When Verstappen got him to the pit lane, it left him no room to advance. This led Bottas to his third-place finish, which ended the streak of one-two finishes for Mercedes. 

More inspiring were words from the champion himself who said that this was the hardest race he’s ever fought and that he appreciates a tough race. He adds, “As an athlete, you should always want the toughest battles.”