Hamilton beats Ricciardo in thrilling Monaco GP

© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton beat Daniel Ricciardo in a chaotic and thrilling Monaco Grand Prix to take his first victory of the season.

Ricciardo led the first half of the rain but clever strategy from Mercedes gained Hamilton track position and the defending champion held off the faster Red Bull despite immense pressure. Sergio Perez took a brilliant third place for Force India having looked like threatening a victory at one stage, eventually holding off Sebastian Vettel.

Fernando Alonso finished a distant fifth for McLaren ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who snatched sixth from Nico Rosberg on the run to the finish line. Rosberg struggled throughout the race and crossed the line nearly a lap behind his team-mate. Carlos Sainz, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten after a dramatic two hours which just allowed the race distance to be completed.

The race started behind the safety car due to heavy rain throughout the morning, allowing Ricciardo to retain his lead at the start. It was seven laps before the safety car came into the pits, by which time Daniil Kvyat was already a lap down due to reliability issues.

When the race began, Jolyon Palmer didn’t even make it to Ste Devote before suffering a heavy crash on the pit straight. The Renault veered to the left at high speed and hit the wall, damaging the left side of the car and leaving Palmer a passenger as he slid towards the barrier at the first corner. Fortunately he was unharmed, climbing out of the car unaided.

The Virtual Safety Car was used to clear the debris and the race restarted on lap 10, with Jenson Button, Felipe Nasr and Daniil Kvyat immediately pitting for intermediate tyres. Fastest laps were traded between those on inters and those on full wets, with Ricciardo pulling a massive gap over a struggling Rosberg who was holding up the pack behind.

Kimi Raikkonen's afternoon ended just one lap later as he ran wide at the Loews Hairpin and hit the wall, breaking his front wing. The wing then lodged under the front wheels of the Ferrari and Raikkonen dragged the car to the Nouvelle Chicane where he retired.

With numerous drivers pitting for intermediate tyres behind them, Rosberg was asked by Mercedes to let Hamilton through and duly obliged out of Ste Devote, with Hamilton gapping his team-mate by an astonishing four seconds on the same lap as he set off after Ricciardo.

The Red Bull had a comfortable advantage while team-mate Max Verstappen was starting to make progress through the field, passing four cars in two laps. Rosberg opted for intermediates on lap 20 but a lap later Perez and Carlos Sainz did the same, with Perez rejoining ahead of Vettel, Rosberg and Hulkenberg.

Ricciardo made his stop for intermediates on lap 23 which left Hamilton in the lead, and with the sun bursting through it soon became clear Hamilton was trying to stay out on full wets until slick tyres were required. That crossover came on lap 31, with Hamilton, Vettel and Rosberg all pitting. The two Mercedes opted for ultrasoft tyres while Vettel fitted softs, and when Ricciardo came in on the following lap he was delayed as Red Bull did not have his tyres ready.

Ricciardo put on used supersofts and rejoined just behind Hamilton, harassing the Mercedes for almost the entire remainder of the race which was still packed with action.

First, Verstappen - who had looked quick but wild all afternoon - crashed at Massenet to bring out the Virtual Safety Car. On the restart Hamilton struggled with tyre temperatures and Ricciardo got a run on him, with the Mercedes skipping the first part of the Nouvelle Chicane and shutting the door on exit. The move angered Ricciardo and was investigated by the stewards but no further action was taken.

At this point Perez and Vettel - running close together on soft tyres - became candidates for the win as the ultrasoft and supersoft were not expected to hold on. Both were being protected from Rosberg, too, as Alonso was ahead of the Mercedes and holding the championship leader up. However, while Perez threatened to close in on a number of occasions, another Virtual Safety Car caused by the Saubers colliding at Rascasse gave the leading duo more breathing space.

Despite a threat of rain in the closing laps, Hamilton started to edge away from Ricciardo and the final ten laps were the most serene of a chaotic race as Hamilton eventually won by 7.2s. Ricciardo was livid at the finish, taking to team radio to say: "Save it, there's nothing you guys can say that will make it any better..."

AS IT HAPPENED: Monaco Grand Prix

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Pos Driver Team Gap Stops
01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 78 laps - 1h59m29.133s 1
02 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +7.252 2
03 Sergio Perez Force India +13.825 2
04 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +15.846 2
05 Fernando Alonso McLaren +85.076 2
06 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +92.999 2
07 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +93.290 2
08 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +1 lap 2
09 Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap 2
10 Felipe Massa Williams +1 lap 2
11 Esteban Gutierrez Haas +1 lap 2
12 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 lap 3
13 Romain Grosjean Haas +2 laps 2
14 Pascal Wehrlein Manor +2 laps 1
15 Rio Haryanto Manor +4 laps 3
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber DNF 4
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber DNF 4
18 Max Verstappen Red Bull DNF 2
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault DNF 5
20 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso DNF 4
21 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari DNF 0
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault DNF 0