“I’ve lost the race, haven’t I?”. Lewis Hamilton was always going to win the Monaco Grand Prix, until he wasn’t.
After signing a new contract with Mercedes, Lewis led both sessions on Thursday. On Saturday, he took pole position, and on Sunday, Lewis charged away from the field and into a seven second lead that never looked under threat. Then came the first round of pitstops, after which the gap to teammate Nico Rosberg grew to twenty seconds, with fourteen laps of the race to spare.
A flawless race looked to finally add a second Monaco win for Lewis, but then Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean came together at Sainte Devote. Out came Formula One’s first virtual safety car, just before the real safety car did. A misjudgement by Mercedes team followed, forever to be remembered, and the call to box came fifty meters before Lewis arrived at pit entry. Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, stayed out.
As the real safety car led the field past the pit exit, it was Rosberg who followed first, ahead of Vettel, ahead of Hamilton.
It was a perfect display of Formula One’s famous ‘if’;
– If only Lewis’ lead had actually been big enough, Mercedes’ trick should have worked.
– If only the race wasn’t at the narrow streets of Monaco, Lewis would have converted the fresh rubber into the lead.
– If only Hamilton got out of the pits just one second earlier, he would have been right behind Rosberg, instead of Vettel, and Rosberg could have been asked to hand the position back.
– And if Verstappen hadn’t ran into the back of Grosjean, Hamilton would have just cruised to the finish.
But none of that mattered, and neither was any of that Hamilton’s fault. Despite superior tyres, Hamilton couldn’t find a way past Vettel, while Rosberg disappeared in the distance to take the trophy which Lewis deserved to win.
Afterwards, Lewis looked dim, as he had all the rights to say things more suited to Rubens Barrichello’s vocabulary (‘the team made me lose the race’), but luckily, he didn’t. “You win and lose together”, and that’s exactly what happened. “I will come back to win the next one”, he added.
Cheer up Lewis, you’re still leading the championship, and you’re our Top Dog of the Monaco Grand Prix!