Monaco Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton wins first race of the season

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his Monaco Grand Prix victory on the podium

Story highlights

Lewis Hamilton wins first race of 2016

Cuts gap on overall leader Nico Rosberg

Daniel Ricciardo furious after ending second

Red Bull team apologizes for pit mixup

CNN —  

Lewis Hamilton became only the 15th driver in history to win multiple Monaco Grands Prix, producing a masterclass of driving on the Côte d’Azur to claim his maiden victory in 2016.

Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg endured a torrid afternoon. After starting the race in second, it looked as though the German would at least finish sixth but was pipped at the line by compatriot Nico Hülkenberg.

It means Hamilton has now cut Rosberg’s lead to 26 points at the top of the driver standings.

“A big thank you to my team,” Hamilton told reporters after the race. “I’m lost for words. I prayed for a day like this, it came through and I feel truly blessed.”

Read: The ‘gentleman’ racer who ruled the Monaco Grand Prix

“I haven’t even thought about it just yet,” Hamilton added when asked about cutting Rosberg’s lead.

“We’re in the battle and there’s a long long way to go. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it gets better.”

If the start of the race was slightly anticlimactic, with a safety car escorting the cars around the track due to heavy rain, then what ensued was anything but.

No less than 30 seconds after the safety car had been withdrawn, British racer Jolyon Palmer hit the wall after his back tires were put out of line by a zebra crossing.

Teenage sensation Max Verstappen, winner of the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, was starting the race at the back of the grid after a “miscalculation” – in his own words – during qualifying saw him crash out.

On a track with scant overtaking opportunities, the 18-year-old impressively moved up to 10th, before another error saw the young Dutchman end up in the barriers on lap 35 to end his race.

While Hamilton and Rosberg’s rivalry has been on everybody’s lips since the start of the season, this race developed into a fascinating battle between the Brit and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Hamilton was snapping at the heels of his Mercedes teammate from lap eight, before eventually passing him on lap 16 to set up his enthralling duel with Ricciardo.

Both drivers were the last of the leading pack to change their wet tires for intermediates and while Red Bull pulled its driver into the pits to change, Mercedes left Hamilton out on the track to try and build a lead.

The deciding moment of the race came on lap 32. Confusion between Red Bull’s garage and team upstairs meant they failed to have the tires ready on time and left Ricciardo sitting in the pit.

There were doubts as to whether or not Hamilton’s tires would last for the remainder of the race, but he held firm under serious Ricciardo pressure and eventually pulled away to finish more than five seconds clear.

Ricciardo, understandably, cut a disconsolate figure after the race.

“Two weekends in a row I’ve been screwed,” the Australian seethed. “It sucks. It hurts.

“How do I feel? Without swearing it’s difficult. Like I’ve been run over by an 18-wheel truck for the second weekend in a row.”

In Barcelona, Ricciardo was unhappy to have his race strategy switched by Red Bull – giving Verstappen the chance to win on his debut for the senior team.

“I think I took Barcelona as well as I could, but for me to be positive this time – I can’t. I actually hate being like this, being miserable – I got a podium in Monaco, I should be happy and grateful.”

Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko said he felt “really sorry” for Riccicardo.

“All we can do is apologize to him. We will investigate and find out (what happened), but it was a human mistake,” Marko told reporters.

“We presented it to Mercedes. Unfortunately, a lot of misunderstanding and not the right communication.”

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03:13 - Source: CNN
Lewis' love of racing