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Wesley Branton | May 26, 2019 @ 11:04 am
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This weekend, the playground for the rich was filled with the roar of Formula One engines as the drivers threw their cars around the narrow streets of Monaco for the FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2019. The threat of rain and a low grid start for Charles Leclerc had the potential to offer some excitement in the race.
The race weekend was overshadowed by the news of Niki Lauda’s passing earlier in the week. The 70-year-old was a former multi World Drivers’ Champion often remembered for his stunning return to F1 after his accident at the 1976 German Grand Prix. He also served as a Mercedes F1 chairman, hence the team’s tribute red halo throughout the weekend.
At the start of the race, Lewis Hamilton had a good start, as did Max Verstappen from third on the grid. Verstappen mounted a challenge on Valtteri Bottas side-by-side into the first corner, but he backed off.
Charles Leclerc set about making the best of his P15 grid position caused by the team’s qualifying blunder. The home hero stormed through the field early in the race, making a good overtake on Lando Norris in the hairpin.
He also made a good overtake on the inside of Romain Grosjean in the penultimate corner of the circuit, narrowly squeezing into the gap between the Haas and the barrier. He attempted the same maneuver on the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg the following lap, but the gap disappeared and Leclerc clipped the barrier with his rear tyre.
He came away with a right-rear puncture. He limped back to the pits, shredding the rubber and causing a significant amount of damage to the floor of the car. He pitted for new tyres, coming out behind the leaders of the race. But a safety car was deployed for the debris on the circuit, putting him back on the lead lap.
The safety car triggered the pit window. While Verstappen and Vettel fitted the hard compound tyres, Mercedes opted to put medium tyres on both of their drivers, possibly anticipating rain late in the race.
Verstappen and Bottas made contact in the pit lane, as Red Bull released their driver into the side of the Mercedes, causing visible damage. While still under the safety car, Bottas pitted again for a set of hard tyres, potentially due to a slow puncture. Verstappen was eventually receiving a five-second time penalty from the stewards.
As the race resumed, there was an incident at the rear of the field when Antonio Giovinazzi collided with Robert Kubica in the final corner. Kubica spun around, blocking the entire rear of the field. It took a long time for Kubica to put himself back in the right direction. Giovinazzi was handed a ten-second time penalty for the incident.
Leclerc was one of the drivers severely held up by the incident, having restarted the race at the rear of the field. Ferrari called him into the pits for a fresh set of soft tyres, presumably trying to see if they had any chance going for the fastest lap. However, the car was way off the pace and Leclerc retired the following lap.
Meanwhile, the top four drivers were able to create a sizable gap to the rest of the cars behind. Hamilton was the only driver of the top four running the medium tyres, meaning that the Brit desperately needed the clouds to pour down on the circuit if he wanted any hope of finishing in the lead. That said, the tyres of the pursuing Verstappen didn’t look particularly healthy either.
With about 30 laps remaining in the race, the front of the field caught up to a train of backmarkers. Hamilton and Verstappen navigated through cleanly. Vettel lost a lot of time to the leaders, as did Bottas who struggled to get by Lance Stroll.
As the leaders approached another batch of cars approximately ten laps later, a struggling Hamilton was told not to lap them. The theory on the Mercedes pit wall was that he could make it to the end of the race if he didn’t risk passing other cars and could keep Verstappen behind. But an irate Hamilton was adamant that it would be impossible for him to hold off Verstappen with the rapidly degrading tyres. Team radio clearly revealed some frustration with the team’s strategy to fit the medium tyres, as Hamilton clearly hoped that he was on the hard tyres like the rest of the leaders at this point in the race.
With 15 laps remaining in the race, Verstappen closed right up to the rear of Hamilton. With the race rapidly winding down and a five-second time penalty to work off, Verstappen desperately needed to overtake Hamilton. But, at a circuit where overtaking is extremely difficult, it would prove to be a difficult task. Vettel joined the battle briefly, but he dropped back again after just a couple of laps.
As Verstappen continued to push hard, he was putting the pressure on Hamilton. He had a look around the outside of the hairpin but wasn’t close enough to make any viable overtaking maneuver. He remained right on Hamilton’s tail.
On lap 76, Verstappen launched a dive on the inside of the chicane down the hill. He locked up into the corner, making contact with the rear tyre of Hamilton, forcing the leader to cut the chicane. That was Verstappen’s last chance to get by Verstappen and had to settle for P2 on the track, but was demoted to P4 after his time penalty.
With yet another victory this season, Hamilton extends his World Drivers’ Championship lead over his teammate. With a second-place finish, Vettel retakes third on the championship table, but he’s still many points behind either Mercedes driver.
Above results table does not include any post-race penalties