By Jonathon Momsen
A strategic error from Lewis Hamilton has gifted the Monaco Grand Prix to his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.
The win is Rosberg’s third straight win in Monaco, a feat managed by only three other drivers: Graham Hill, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Hamilton led for the majority of the race but a late safety car saw the championship leader diving for the pits and a fresh set of super-soft Pirellis.
Planning to keep the lead and defend on the superior rubber, Hamilton was too slow and exited the pits in third behind Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.
Rosberg opened up a comfortable margin over Vettel and easily claimed what looked like an unlikely victory with 20 laps to go.
Despite scrambling behind the obviously slower Ferrari, Hamilton was not able to pass on the tight street circuit meaning he was soon under pressure from Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.
Ricciardo eventually had to hand fourth place back to Red Bull Racing team mate Daniil Kvyat as he was given the position under team orders but didn’t gain any more positions out of the favour.
With both Red Bulls in the top five, Monaco has been the most successful weekend for the Renault powered machines that have been scraping into the points for the first five rounds of 2015.
The safety car that caused this frantic run to the finish was triggered by an incident involving Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean on the 64th lap.
Verstappen was closing quickly on Grosjean with the help of the DRS on the way into Saint Devote but clipped the Lotus’ right rear tyre as Grosjean hit the brakes.
The collision collapsed Verstappen’s front suspension and sent him hurtling into the wall while Grosjean was able to continue the race.
Verstappen was uninjured and will receive a five place grid penalty in Canada for causing a collision despite the incident dividing the F1 world with some believing both drivers were equally at fault for what was a racing incident.
However, most of the scrutiny is being placed on what occurred in pit lane following the incident.
Mercedes’ decision to pit Hamilton from the lead proved the decisive moment of the race.
If he were to exit pit lane in front of Rosberg and Vettel he was a certainty to win the race on newer tyres but if he were to exit in third, the streets of Monaco are such that passing is “impossible” as the current world champion soon found out.
For some, the risk didn’t match the reward as Hamilton could have easily won from the front on his old soft compound tyres.
Mercedes Chairman and Formula One legend Niki Lauda was disappointed following the race as a Mercedes 1-2 went begging.
“It was not necessary is my view on it,” he told Sky Sports following the race.
“There was too much confusion and in the end it was the wrong decision no question about it.
“To bring him in was completely wrong.”
Back in the pack it was a disastrous day for Williams who had established themselves as next best behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
Massa finished a lap down while Bottas was the last car on the lead lap finishing in 14th.
2015’s hard luck story Pastor Maldonado failed to finish again, this time with brake issues causing him to park his demon riddled Lotus.
Raikkonen, Perez, Button, Nasr and Sainz rounded out the top ten.
Sainz charged through the field and was able to take the last point on offer in Monaco despite starting from pit lane after being penalised for missing the weighbridge after qualifying on Saturday.
The championship now moves to another stage with Rosberg well and truly within reach of Hamilton’s lead.
In two week’s time the championship heads to Canada, the circuit where Daniel Ricciardo recorded his first race win.
While a strong showing in Monaco is a positive sign for RBR, it will take an amazing performance to outrun the championship’s clear front three in Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel.
Image: Thomas Ormston (Flickr)