Nico Rosberg took full advantage of one of Formula One’s greatest tactical errors to land an unexpected victory and become only the fourth man to claim a hat-trick of consecutive wins in the Monaco Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old German finished ahead of compatriot Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari with long-time leader and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton third.
Rosberg, who reduced the gap between himself and Hamilton in the world championship standings to 10 points after six races, trailed his team-mate for 63 laps until an accident prompted a Safety Car intervention that, in turn, led the team to call the Briton in for an unexpected and unnecessary pit-stop.
Obeying his team, Hamilton, who led by 21 seconds before he pitted, came out in third place and, after the race was re-started with eight laps remaining, found it impossible to pass Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, let alone Rosberg, to claim his fourth victory of the year.
“I’ve lost the race, haven’t I?” asked Hamilton on seeing his reversal of fortunes after exiting the pit lane.
“What’s happened, guys?” Hamilton’s team were swift to apologise for the misjudgement, but their actions had deprived him, and the spectators, of a fair sporting outcome after he had dominated the 62nd running of this classic 78 laps contest.
Rosberg’s triumph enabled him to join Briton Graham Hill, Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna in completing a Monaco hat-trick.
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) May 24, 2015
“I am very happy,” said Rosberg, who was also winning two consecutive Grands Prix for the first time. “But I know it was just a lot of luck. Lewis drove brilliantly and would have deserved the win, for sure, but that’s the way it is in racing. I know I got lucky. I will just enjoy the moment…”
Hamilton, who has won just once at Monaco, was remarkably relaxed about the mishap — outwardly at least.
“It was not the easiest of races,” said Hamilton. “But the team has been amazing all year and we win and lose together.” Asked about his mind set, he added: “Come back and win the next one.”
Mercedes director Niki Lauda said the team had apologised for the mistake. “Yes, it was clear… I don’t know why it happened. Too much confusion. It was the wrong decision,” he said.
Team boss Toto Wolff said: “For the team, I apologise. It was a mistake.” Until the Safety Car, after Dutch teenager Max Verstappen in his Toro Rosso had crashed at Ste Devote, it had been Hamilton’s race, but he ended up settling for a disappointed third ahead of the two Red Bulls of Russian Daniil Kvyat and Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth for Ferrari ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India and Briton Jenson Button who claimed the struggling McLaren Honda team’s first points of the year in eighth place.
Brazilian Felipe Nasr came home ninth for Sauber and remarkably, after starting from the pit lane, Spaniard Carlos Sainz finished 10th to score a point in the second Toro Rosso car.
Keep up with all the F1 action from the Monaco Grand Prix through Sport360.
– Heikki Kovalainen: Pole position crucial for Monaco supremacy
Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position on Saturday but team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari rivals Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will be seeking any opportunity to finish ahead of the British Formula One champion.
A number of drivers are unhappy at the lack of penalties being handed out for blocking in Monaco.
Traffic is often an issue during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, with Q1 seeing all 20 cars on track in a short window chasing lap times.
On more than one occasion there was a train of cars slowly approaching Rascasse and the final Anthony Noghes corner as drivers looked for clear air to carry out a lap.
One incident saw Fernando Alonso exit Rascasse on a flying lap to find Romain Grosjean coasting before starting his own timed lap, with the Lotus holding up the McLaren through the final corner.
Having referenced a number of other times he was blocked, when asked by F1i if he was surprised by the lack of penalties being handed out, Alonso replied: “I think so, yes.
Maybe an electrical problem stop us today for a sixth/seventh place. A lot to improve, but we start to be competitive… #LetsDoThis
— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) May 23, 2015
“The traffic we had this weekend was quite bad. It seems a little bit strange there are not more investigations going on and in free practice it was just ridiculous.
“In FP3 there was just no rules out there, people were going out of the pit lane on a very slow out lap, you were on a fastest lap and they tried to close the door in every single braking point.”
Jenson Button concurred with Alonso’s thoughts, feeling the number of out laps required to warm up the tyres is a contributing factor.
“Totally agree [with Alonso],” Button said. “It feels the worst it has been but we’re going to do it unless there’s a penalty. That’s the problem.”
Button also said the matter would be brought up with FIA race director Charlie Whiting at the next drivers’ briefing.