Nico Rosberg appeared to be on the back foot at the Monaco Grand Prix as soon as the Safety Car released the field after seven low-speed laps. On lap 16 the German driver let team mate Hamilton past on the run up the hill to Casino Square.
Five laps later, the Mercedes driver pitted for a set of intermediate tyres but was still left chasing performance as leaders Ricciardo and Hamilton disappeared into the distance. As he changed rubber again on lap 32 to take on the ultra-soft tyres, a lengthy stop enabled Vettel”s Ferrari to undercut the Mercedes.
“I’m definitely baffled by that lack of pace initially,” Rosberg admitted from the outset.
“There was just no confidence in the car on the intermediates. And after that, it didn’t go my way during the pitstops. We had an issue which delayed the stop, and then we got traffic, cars went by and that was it.”
Given his relative underperformance early, Rosberg was asked by Mercedes’ Paddy Low to give way to Hamilton in order to allow the defending world champion a shot at racing leader Ricciardo. The championship leader complied with the order but obviously took no joy in doing so.
“It was pretty simple, I was far off the pace and Lewis still had a chance to win the race. So it was quite straightforward from the team to give the other guy a chance to win.
“It’s always been like that. It was painful, but a simple decision at the time.”
To add insult to injury, Rosberg’s afternoon of racing ended with another disappointment when Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg out-dragged the Mercedes on the run-up to the checkered flag, which pushed Rosberg down another spot to seventh overall.
“He had soft tyres on and a lot more rubber left. I was on the ultra-softs and when it started drizzling the temperatures went back down. He just had more grip.”
Rosberg’s championship lead over Hamilton has now dwindled down to 24 points, or one race win, but the German was rather frustrated with his immediate performance rather than with the current points gap with his rival.