Rosberg handed Monaco win as Mercedes mess up pitstop strategy

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Monaco, Monte Carlo Circuitmc

Nico Rosberg has won the Monaco Grand Prix, having been handed the lead of the race 7 laps from the end after Mercedes decided it was safe to pit the supremely reigning Hamilton one extra time. Sebastian Vettel finished second with a disillusioned Hamilton third, having led 70 of 78 laps.

As the lights went out, Hamilton kept his advantage, going into turn 1 ahead of Rosberg and Vettel. The Red Bulls were threatening but didn't manage to get past the Ferrari. Kvyat turned in in 4th place, ahead of Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Perez, Maldonado, Verstappen and Button.

Sainz meanwhile had to start from the pitlane

At turn 5, Hulkenberg ends up in the barriers after trying to get through the corner side by side with Alonso. The Spaniard had the inside of the turn and a short bumping of the wheels sent Hulkenberg into the outside barrier, breaking off his front wing. Alonso was later handed a 5s penalty for causing that accident.

Felipe Massa also ended up pitting at the end of the first lap even though it wasn't obvious what happened during his first lap.

By lap 4 it was obvious that Maldonado was struggling, backing up Verstappen, Button and Alonso behind him. At the start of lap 5, Verstappen forcefully but cleanly made his way past the Lotus through Ste. Devote. Little more than a minute later, Maldonado pitted and retired from the race with an apparent technical problem.

15 laps into the race, positions remain unchanged at the front, with Hamilton leading Rosberg by 2.6 seconds. Vettel is at 1.6 in third, with Kvyat slightly more than 5 seconds behind the Ferrari. Ricciardo is 5th, another 3 seconds further back. Raikkonenis a close 6th. As of 7th, the gaps are larger, with Perez 4 seconds down on Raikkonen, followed by Verstappen, Button and Alonso, all around 5s separated from each other.

Few laps later, the first pitstops are happening with everybody between P11 to P16 changing tyres. Stevens and Merhi are the only ones out of the points scoring positions to not have pitted at lap 20.

On lap 28, Kvyat pits to take on new soft tyres, followed by Verstappen one lap later, similarly changing to brand new softs. The latter did however suffer a very slow stop, ending up in 13th place, 3 seconds down on Bottas.

On lap 37, Vettel pits, but as Rosberg pits one lap later, that attempt to get the Ferrari into second place failed. It still appeared like Rosberg had some pace in hand as he was lapping faster than his team mate, running approximately 7s ahead.

Once that was out of the way, Hamilton pitted as well, comfortably retaining the lead. Raikkonen on the other hand did manage to gain a place through the stops as he moved up into 5th, getting past Ricciardo. The Finn had been shadowing the Red Bull for half a race.

Lap 43 marks the end of the race for Fernando Alonso. Both front wheels briefly locked in the braking zone into Ste. Devote, sending the Spaniard off track. He kept if cleanly out of the barriers, but soon stepped out of his car, indicating a possible mechanical failure on his McLaren Honda. Still, Button is running 8th for them, continuing their hopes for their first points of the season.

Verstappen then draws the attention to him after skilfully following Vettel to get past Bottas. He soon said on the radio he planned to do the same, given that his newer super softs allowed him to keep up with the Ferrari driver. 4 laps later, he attempted to pass Grosjean in the same manner, but with Grosjean warned by his team, he soon closed the door under breaking for Loew's corner.

Verstappen was then stuck behind Grosjean for 2 more laps, before attempting to pass Grosjean through turn 1. In a somewhat opportunistic move, the Dutchman ran into the rear wheel of Grosjean, violently ending up in the barriers. The younster stepped out quickly with no harm done to himself apparently, but the safety car was soon brought out to recover the car.

The situation triggered Mercedes to pit Hamilton to change to supersofts. Due to the reduced maximum pace set by the safety car procedure however, Hamilton was slower to get to the pits and surprisingly ended up on track behind Rosberg and Vettel, two drivers over which he had nearly 20 seconds in hand before the stop.

Next up was a series of messy safety car laps with lapped cars being allowed to overtake, sometimes surprising the safety car driver.

With 7 laps left in the race, the safety car released all cars again, with Rosberg soon sprinting away from Vettel. Hamilton was frequently seen centimers away from Vettel but the complexity is exactly this circuit. 3 laps later, Ricciardo also pops up behind them after Kvyat willingly let his team mate pass for 4th and after the Australian forced his way past Raikkonen.

That left things unchanged in the final laps, with Rosberg and Vettel celebrating before Hamilton arrived at the podium at the speed of around 20km/h, having halted alongside the track for a while. To make his statement, the Brit also ran over the sign that indicates his stopping position in parc ferme.

Meanwhile, Button marked McLaren's first points of the season, ending the Monaco GP in 8th.

Results

Pos.DriverCountryTeamTimePts
1Nico RosbergGERMercedes AMG1:49:18.42025
2Sebastian VettelGERFerrari4.48618
3Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG6.05315
4Daniil KvyatRUSRed Bull Racing11.96512
5Daniel RicciardoAUSRed Bull Racing13.60810
6Kimi RäikkönenFINFerrari14.3458
7Sergio PerezMEXForce India15.0136
8Jenson ButtonGBRMcLaren16.0634
9Felipe NasrBRASauber23.6262
10Carlos SainzESPToro Rosso25.0561
11Nico HulkenbergGERForce India26.2320
12Romain GrosjeanFRALotus F128.4150
13Marcus EricssonSWESauber31.1590
14Valtteri BottasFINWilliams45.7890
15Felipe MassaBRAWilliams1 lap0
16Roberto MerhiESPMarussia2 laps0
17Will StevensGBRMarussia2 laps0
RTMax VerstappenNEDToro RossoDNF0
RTFernando AlonsoESPMcLarenDNF0
RTPastor MaldonadoVENLotus F1DNF0