After a frustrating start to the season a weight was lifted from the shoulders of reigning Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton after he took his first race victory at the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix.
The showpiece event, arguably the highlight of the Formula One calendar, took place in changing weather conditions around the street circuit of Monte Carlo with Hamilton coming through from third on the grid to take his first win of 2016 after a little bit of help from a surprise source.
Hamilton was allowed to pass his team-mate and nemesis Nico Rosberg, who leads the World Championship, after team orders were passed down from the Mercedes pit crew for the German to let Lewis pass.
The pair have made no secret of their dislike for each other in the past but Hamilton was quick to thank the “gentleman” Rosberg for following instructions from his team, moving over and allowing the Brit to come through after race-leader Daniel Ricciardo started to open up an ever-increasing gap.
After a series of downpours leading up to the race the early laps were led by a safety car before Ricciardo made a break from the pack and opened up a 14-second lead as Rosberg struggled in the damp conditions.
Hamilton, having been allowed through by Rosberg, went on the hunt for the Australian and took the race lead when Ricciardo pitted after 23 laps as track conditions began to improve. Rather than following the Red Bull into the pit, Hamilton stayed out on track until lap 31 and never relinquished the lead despite the Red Bull driver putting the pressure on throughout.
That was the case until there was a breakdown in communication between Ricciardo and his Red Bull pit crew who failed to prepare his super-soft tyres, costing him nine seconds and – ultimately – a shot at the race victory prompting an astonishing outburst from the frustrated driver.
“I’ve been screwed two weeks in a row” he said in his press conference. “I thought I was quickest in all conditions but second doesn’t really show it”.
A gentleman’s agreement
The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, for various reasons, just hasn’t been up to speed so far in 2016. While Rosberg has won races and leads the Championship even after a poor showing in Monaco, Hamilton has faced numerous challenges and confessed to feeling “let down” in recent races.
However, this weekend was much more like the driver we know and the one who took the 2015 title. He produced an almost faultless display in difficult weather conditions, taking advantage of the Red Bull team error and the favourable gentleman’s agreement with his team mate.
Such was Hamilton’s obvious gratitude for his team mate’s decision to obey the team orders, he waited in his motorhome during the German’s press conference before approaching him and wrapping a consoling and thankful arm around his shoulder.
“I thanked him for being such a gentleman” Hamilton told Sky Sports reporters. “We have an agreement that when you are not able to push for the win and it hinders the chances of the team, you allow the other driver through.”
While Hamilton was understandably delighted to take his first race win of the 2016 season, Rosberg was much less happy with his performance at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix. The German finished seventh and confessed to a “complete lack of confidence” in his car.
The issues for Rosberg, combined with the wet conditions, opened up a space on the podium for a potential surprise and – as is so often the case – it didn’t disappoint. Damp weather can make it difficult for even the best drivers and cars, allowing the so-called “lesser teams” to challenge for the podium.
This time around it was the Force India of Sergio Perez that came home in third position. The Mexican driver produced the perfect wet weather display, overtaking the likes of Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel and frequently lapping faster than the two men in front of him.
The 2016 Monaco Grand Prix result:
Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull (+7.3 seconds)
Sergio Perez – Force India (+13.8 seconds)
Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari (+15.8 seconds)
Fernando Alonso – McLaren (+85.1 seconds)
Nico Hulkenberg – Force India (+93 seconds)
Nico Rosberg – Mercedes (+93.3 seconds)
Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso (+1 lap)
The 2016 World Championship standings:
Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 106 points
Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 82 points
Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 66 points
Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 61 points
Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 60 points
Max Verstappen – Red Bull – 38 points
Felipe Massa – Williams – 37 points
Valtteri Bottas – Williams – 29 points
For further updates on the 2016 Formula One World Championship and updates from our hillclimbing expert Charlie Martin – plus car reviews, motoring news and advice on the best car parts for you – come back to the Euro Car Parts blog soon.