Monaco Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton says his victory in Monte Carlo was one of his most strategic as he had to fend off Max Verstappen’s advances.
Hamilton drove the final 55 laps of Sunday’s race in Monte Carlo with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen breathing down his neck. This was due to the intervention of a Safety Car that allowed for a strategy change for some of the leading drivers, including Verstappen. While Hamilton came in under the Safety Car to take on a set of Medium tyres, Verstappen and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel both went for the Hard tyre – obviously anticipating superior tyre life over the remainder of the race.
As it turned out, that was the case as Hamilton was never able to pull away from the Hard tyre runners stalking him. Verstappen was constantly within a second of the Mercedes driver but only ever really got one proper chance to have a stab at overtaking Hamilton when he tried a dive at the chicane with two laps to go. The pair made light contact and were able to continue, with Verstappen still stuck in P2.
Crossing the line to finish just ahead of the ever present Red Bull, the race bore similarity to the 1992 defence of Ayrton Senna versus Nigel Mansell and Hamilton said the race had been draining as he spent it looking in his mirrors: “It was definitely… I think it was the hardest race I’ve had. Obviously I’ve had a lot of races in my entire career, even beyond F1. Yeah, I think just globally, just in the car, with the tyres, with the strategy, with the circumstances with Max behind, yeah it was the biggest challenge I think I’ve had. But I’m really, really grateful that I was able to pull it off.”
“But of course there were multiple things coming into my thought process. I’ve got 38 laps to go and I’ve got no tyres left and I’m thinking that ‘there is no way that with the feeling that I have and with the pace that I have to do at the moment that I’m going to make it’. It’s a horrible feeling to have that, as the though of having to doing another stop obviously means we’re not going to win the race. I’ve been there before. A few years ago I was leading this race by 20 seconds, the safety car came out, pitted, came out third, and your heart just sinks, so I was like: ‘I’m not coming in, whatever the case. I’m just going to drive around with no tyres until they blow up.’ With sheer will I just kept pushing. I really, really tried my best to stay focused and not crack under pressure, because Max was doing a great job behind on a much better tyre.”
“Obviously I could see him. He literally covered the whole of my mirrors. Obviously I was able to get out of the last corner and pull a bit of a gap. I was super slow through Turn 1 but Turn 3 my right-side tyres were OK and once you got downforce on they would work but then once I got to Turn 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, I had nothing. Moving the brake balance rearwards, engine braking, opening up diffs, trying to get this car turned. I could see him barrelling a lot of speed in. Obviously the harder tyre was a lot more resilient. I could see it opened up on his car and I was like, ‘OK, hopefully it’s going to run out of tyres at some stage, as I am, but it didn’t’. I kept thinking Turn 6 is probably where he’s going to try to dive up the inside, because I was just waiting to get the car turned. So I was just trying to cover that whole area, tip-toeing and positioning myself so I could get a good exit out of… it was really strategy-wise one of the most strategic drives that I think I have ever had to do in terms of finding that balance around the track to try and keep that gap. I’m sure we touched multiple times and I definitely touched the barrier a lot of time throughout the laps but luckily kept the car in one piece. “