Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Monaco, 2019

Hamilton wins for Lauda as Verstappen hands second to Vettel

2019 Monaco Grand Prix review

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Under the circumstances, there was a pleasing symmetry between Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday and the final victory of Niki Lauda, who passed away six days before the race.

Start, Monaco, 2019
Hamilton led the field up the hill
At Zandvoort in 1985, Lauda made an early pit stop and had to eke out his tyres for 50 laps, withstanding pressure from Alain Prost as he did so. Lauda got to the chequered flag two-tenths of a second before his team mate.

Hamilton too made his second set of tyres last a long way in Monaco, and did so under immense pressure. But despite a dramatic lunge from Max Verstappen, which provoked contact between the pair, Hamilton reached the finishing line half a second ahead.

He could have paid no more fitting a farewell to the man who brought him to Mercedes and multiple world championship success six years ago, and whose helmet Hamilton carried to his 77th career win.

Leclerc’s race ends early

Having not been on pole position since the season-opening race in Australia, Hamilton made a timely return to the sharp end at a track where overtaking is a near-impossibility. He once again made a fractionally better start the team mate Valtteri Bottas alongside him, whose second place briefly looked under threat from Max Verstappen.

The Red Bull driver had the inside line approaching Sainte Devote but couldn’t risk running into Hamilton and had to back out of the move. So they climbed the hill in grid order: Hamilton ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly.

The sixth of the ‘big six’, Charles Leclerc, started an out-of-position 15th on the grid after an incomprehensible tactical blunder by Ferrari saw him drop out of qualifying in Q1. His race was a short but spectacular one which had a profound impact on the rest of the grand prix.

He started behind his Ferrari predecessor Kimi Raikkonen, who got away poorly and lost three places. The next time around Leclerc mugged Lando Norris at the Fairmont Hotel hairpin. he then got stuck into Romain Grosjean’s Haas, which had the same Ferrari power unit and was therefore a tougher proposition.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monaco, 2019
Leclerc had a short, eventful, race
Ahead of them Daniel Ricciardo had taken fifth place at the start but had poor pace and was backing the field up. Leclerc needed to make a move, and he did, lunging down the inside of Grosjean at Rascasse with scant millimetres between the Haas on his left and the barrier on his right. Grosjean yielded ground at the last moment, then muttered in complaint about Leclerc’s “kamikaze” move on the radio.

But Leclerc came unstuck when he tried a similar move on Nico Hulkenberg. He didn’t make it quite as far alongside the Renault, then caught the inside of the Rascasse barrier with his right-rear wheel. As Grosjean re-passed him, he instinctively pressed on, only to discover his right-rear tyre had punctured.

As he approached Tabac the tyre let go completely, tearing off much of the right-hand side of his floor. Leclerc bravely attempted to continue despite Ferrari’s concerns over the state of his floor. The Safety Car was summoned so marshals could clear the track of his debris, which allowed him to get back on the lead lap. But the car’s handling in high-speed corners was frightening, and efforts to tame it by dialling in understeer were in vain. Leclerc pulled into the pits and retirement, continuing his rotten streak of luck in front of his home crowd.

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Verstappen versus Bottas

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2019
Verstappen seized his chance
The Safety Car period brought about the circumstances under which Mercedes’ astonishing streak of one-two finishes came to an end. Though the eventual beneficiary, Vettel, did nothing to earn it.

Hamilton and Bottas were running nose-to-tail when the Safety Car came out. But as Mercedes needed to pit both under the Safety Car, Bottas was told to drop back from Hamilton so he wouldn’t have to wait behind him in the pits, losing time to his other rivals.

“Stay positive on delta,” Bottas was told. “We are stacking.” Mercedes told Bottas to build a “very safe delta” and counted him up from being half a second behind Hamilton to three seconds back. Even so, he was told: “More safe, please.” When Bottas arrived in the pits he had a clean entry: Hamilton had already gone.

The rules forbid driving from lapping “unnecessarily slowly” when the Safety Car is deployed. Verstappen, no doubt aware of this, complained: “Why is he driving so slow? Come on, he has to hurry.” Clearly the stewards found Bottas’s driving didn’t meet the definition of “unnecessarily slow”.

However Red Bull turned Verstappen around quickly enough to gain a place from Bottas. He emerged from his box fractionally ahead of the Mercedes, and would have legitimately held onto his position if he hadn’t then squeezed his rival into the pit wall. The contact left both drivers with damage, and the stewards issued a five-second penalty to Verstappen.

Bottas incurred a puncture in the contact, so Mercedes brought him back in. His only remaining suitable set of tyres was the hard compound. This cost him another place to Vettel, who stood to gain another spot from Verstappen if he finished within five seconds of him.

The Red Bull driver suffered another consequence of the collision. In his haste to leave the pits, Verstappen had failed to disengage his ‘start’ throttle map, which now couldn’t be deactivated. While the team made changes to his engine performance to mitigate the problem, it compromised his efforts to attack an unusually vulnerable Mercedes.

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Verstappen versus Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Monaco, 2019
Verstappen chased Hamilton – to no avail
Hamilton had a problem. Mercedes had put him on what team principal Toto Wolff later admitted were the “wrong” tyres. They assumed the medium tyre compound would comfortably make it to the end of the race but a series of radio messages from Hamilton revealed his deepening concern with the state of his tyres.

To begin with Verstappen was not well-placed to attack. He was busy switching engine modes and coping with a malfunctioning sensor, which meant other aspects of his performance were begin overlooked. “You are within DRS,” his race engineer reminded him at one point. “What?” asked Verstappen. “You are within DRS distance.”

Verstappen spent almost all of the rest of the race within DRS distance of Hamilton, but it did little good. Not only did he need to pas the Mercedes, but do so early enough to pull out a five-second lead to ensure the win.

“Come on, mate, we’ve got this, we’ve got this,” Verstappen’s engineer urged him as the gap between the two shrunk to less than half a second. But a couple of corners later the Red Bull went deep at the exit of the Swimming Pool and cut across the run-off area.

While Verstappen was clambering over the back of Hamilton’s rear wing at the Fairmont Hotel hairpin, as they accelerated out of Portier the Mercedes consistently put the power down better than Verstappen in his compromised RB15. Nonetheless on the 76th lap Verstappen worked himself up to a lunge at the chicane. It came from an impossible distance, the Red Bull’s front-right touching Hamilton’s right-rear, and was to no avail; the pair cut across the chicane and continued.

With that, Verstappen’s best chance was gone. And with Vettel and Bottas on his tail, his chance of finishing on the podium was over too. Hamilton took the chequered flag half a second ahead of him, but one the five-second time penalty was applied Verstappen was relegated to fourth. Arguably he deserved more, certainly Vettel had taken second place by default, and Bottas had taken a greater hit to his championship chances than was really merited.

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Sainz stars for sixth

Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Monaco, 2019
Sainz rebuffed the Toro Rosso pair
Gasly’s three-place penalty (due to Red Bull’s error in qualifying) meant he lost so much ground to the leaders that when the Safety Car came out that it wasn’t worth bringing him in for a pit stop. He had another lonely race and another pit stop for fresh rubber at the end to collect the bonus point for fastest lap.

Carlos Sainz Jnr put an excellent pass on the Toro Rosso drivers at the start to run behind Gasly. But while Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen made for the pits under the Safety Car he stayed out, and profited. Aided by his team mate backing up the field, Sainz kept the Toro Rossos at bay for sixth.

Grosjean finished ninth on the road but copped a five-second time penalty for crossing the pit exit line, which relegated him to 10th behind Ricciardo. Magnussen, who raved about his car after qualifying, was bemused to fall to 12th at the flag. That became 14th when he too received a five-second penalty for cutting the chicane while trying to keep Perez behind.

Norris finished ahead of him on the lead lap, with Perez promoted to 12th and Hulkenberg 13th. George Russell impressed with 15th, having been the quickest driver for three consecutive laps while Hamilton was holding the field up after the Safety Car.

Lance Stroll ended a poor weekend in 16th, while the Alfa Romeo pair had a dreadful day. Raikkonen came in 17th, Antonio Giovinazzi last of the runners behind Robert Kubica, the pair having tangled at Rascasse.

A one-two for Lauda instead of Mercedes

Mercedes’ streak of one-twos ended in Monaco but there was no real comfort for their rivals here. This was an emphatic performance by the W10s on the kind of track which hasn’t suited them in recent seasons.

Vettel may have been fortunate to take second but it ensured one final fitting symmetry on the podium. Like Hamilton, he also sported a Lauda tribute helmet for the race, meaning the two-time Monaco winner was doubly represented on the podium.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Hamilton wins for Lauda as Verstappen hands second to Vettel”

  1. This race reminded me why I love Monaco – the overtaking might not have been frequent but it was spectacular, slower cars were defending and I’ll never tire of watching cars flat out grazing barriers.

    1. @glynh I thoroughly agree. In the end, overtaking isn’t everything meaning that a race can be exciting even with a relatively little amount of passes.

    2. Nicely put. I also love the fact that you see drivers get out of their cars totally exhausted from the concentration they have to maintain for the entire race.

  2. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    27th May 2019, 18:38

    It was a good race to be sure. We had some nice tension in the front and Leclerc offered some drama in the start of the race.

    1. And you know, if you think about, that Hamilton would have gotten past Verstappen had the positions been reversed.

      1. really? in ya dreams …

      2. Early on, when his tires were new, Hamilton might have managed it. But the effort to pass Verstappen would have probably kept Hamilton from being able to one-stop with the mediums, and he’d have lost the position later on when he had to pit again.

        Also, trying to pass Verstappen in Monaco is a dangerous proposition. Passing Max when you have runoff areas is bad enough. Passing him in Monaco might result in both drivers retiring. ;)

  3. lol green flag…. lets wait for d naysayers….

  4. I was wondering, would Verstappen have had a 5 second penalty if he hadn’t hit Bottas in the Pit?

    1. Seems probaly not as you can drive next to each other, problem was he didn’t saw Bottas untill he hit him.

    2. Don’t think so, drivers are allowed to drive next to each other, we’ve seen that quite often…hitting him was a bridge to far though.

    3. Probably. The 5 seconds was for the unsafe release. The 2 penalty points were for the unnecessary contact.

  5. Normally at any circuit Bot had to give way to Ves. However the Monaco pitlane is too narrow, so Ves hit somebody he could not see. But Bottas could see Ves, so in my opinion Bot should be punished.

    1. So what’s the weather like on planet Completely Backwards Bizzaro world?

      1. Ha, ha. Bad weather due to climate change, they say we burn too much rubber. Of course RB made a too close call however they released in front of Bot. Bot did nothing to avoid a possible crash in the pitlane while Ves could not see him at that moment. In my opinion you cannot blaim a blind man if he is hit by somebody who can see. It is just karma for Bot for slowing down on the track before pitting. Punisment was unnecessary or should be given to both.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          29th May 2019, 19:21

          You can hardly say Bottas did nothing to avoid a possible crash. Take a look at this picture from above.

          Bottas was not right against the wall yet, but he then drove as close as he possibly could and then Verstappen made him contact the wall, which resulted in a suspected puncture on his right. It is very clear Bottas made some attempt of getting out the way. Verstappen got the penalty because he hit Bottas and also attempted to speed up and pull infront of Bottas. Verstappen should have been able to see Bottas. He has mirrors. It was’t even an instant hit. They were side by side for several seconds with Bottas moving to the right. verstappen had time to be aware given he didn’t instantly go as far to the right as he normally would without another car being there. That indicated he was arware of a car being along side. But he slowly kept moving further to the right. So him hitting Bottas was 100% his fault, being the reason for the penalty points.

  6. I wonder if RBR/Verstappen should have gone for a second stop and get rid of the 5s penalty.
    He would still be fourth and most likely get the FLAP bonus point.
    And if doing it early enough he could have chased down and maybe overtaken Bottas for a podium finish.

    An alternative strategy could have been: drive even slower and charge the final 5 laps to get a 5s advantage over Bottas (and maybe Vettel).

    1. His only change was to try to overtake Hamilton. Going for fastest lap would have meant fifth place as Gasly was within his pit window (although he might let him pass).

      Going slower would have given Hamilton a chance to back off and preserve his tyres. I doubt he would have let the gap become more than a couple of seconds.

    2. That’s a lot of time to make up, especially with a 5s penalty. On a clear track he could have caught up if he’d stopped early enough, but there were loads of backmarkers in the way.

      Maybe he could have stopped when Gasly did, and gone for flap, but I think he was more interested in trying to overtake Hamilton even if he’d be stripped of the win. Might have just scraped third that way.

  7. Adub Smallblock
    28th May 2019, 21:07

    I agree with Grat above. I believe that it was Red Bull, not Verstappen that “gave” Vettel 2nd place, by their unsafe release from his pit position. Max then made it worse by his contact but not sure he ever saw Botttas.

Comments are closed.