Hamilton’s miracle in Monaco ode to Lauda



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Mercedes’ five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton endured the “bitter fruits’ of a clear mistake by his team’s strategy to nurse his car to victory at Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix achieving what he himself had at some point during the race, thought impossible.

It is a win that Hamilton will savour for a long time to come given the death early last week of Formula One legend and Mercedes’ non-executive chairman, Niki Lauda, who played an instrumental role in bringing the Brit to the team six years ago.

Hamilton had to dig deep to secure his third victory at Monaco. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, despite racing at home, literally, was on the opposite end of the happiness spectrum.

The race start saw Hamilton, who had snatched pole from his teammate, Valtteri Bottas at the death by less than a tenth of a second on Saturday, ease his way ahead into Turn One.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen’s lightning start from third was nullified at the first turn by being on the inside lane which meant that even though he was almost side by side with Bottas, he had to yield at the exit to avoid a collision seconds into the race.

Overtaking on the Monaco track is near impossible and at times needs the co-operation of your rival if both of you are to stay in the race.

Leclerc had, against all odds, been eliminated in Q1 (the first qualifying run) on Saturday following a horrendous misjudgement by his team which gave him a break when he should have been out on track to set a faster time than what had been deemed safe.

How ironic it is then that it’s actually his more illustrious teammate, Sebastian Vettel, who hauled himself out of the drop zone and in the process, eliminated the Monegasque who grew up right next to the track.

Leclerc had to be aggressive if he was to make a meaningful debut at home in the top league. He passed the McLaren of Lando Norris on the second lap and not long afterwards, got the better of the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

Monaco, however, even to a resident, is not kind to overtaking and so it was that in his attempt to pass the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, he came out worse for wear, picking up a puncture that marked the beginning of the end of his race.

Leclerc limped back to the pits but by then, the amount of debris strewn all over the track as a result drew in the Safety Car.

Mercedes took advantage to put mediums on Hamilton’s car while Verstappen and Vettel’s team went for the hard compound.

At the pit exit, Red Bull had hoped to supplant one position held by Mercedes, and in the process, hastily released Verstappen who collided with Bottas as they jostled for position.

The Finn had to pit again on account of a suspected puncture and took on the hard compound the second time around. It meant that Hamilton had mediums with 67 laps to go despite Pirelli saying they maxed out after 50.

The rhythm of the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix was thus set. For the better part of the race, Verstappen was within DRS range of Hamilton, but given the twists and turns of the 3.3 kilometre Circuit de Monaco coupled with the power of the Mercedes, his best attempts at overtaking Hamilton were in vain.

Hamilton kept complaining to his team about the worn out tyres, even believing that only a “miracle” would see him through. The rare but commanding voice of chief strategist, James Vowles, came through the radio in a bid to inject hope into the seemingly hopeless situation.

Hamilton, however, badly wanted to win and at the end, earned his rich reward of a third win at Monaco and a 77th career victory which has taken him 17 points clear of his teammate on the world championship standings.

Off to Canada then where Leclerc will hope to have buried the mega misfortunes encountered at his home race. Championship leader Hamilton will be relishing this weekend on a track that has been very kind to him. He has six poles and an equal number of wins on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

It is also the track where he equalled the number of pole positions (65) set by his childhood hero, the late Brazilian ARyton Senna, in 2017 after a thrilling qualifying session.

Senna’s family subsequently presented him with an actual helmet won by the F1 legend that had been sent by the Brazilian’s family.


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