Lewis Hamilton’s four-race long winning streak came to a frustrating end on Sunday in Monaco, as the 2008 champion was beaten on the day by his Mercedes team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.
It was a race weekend in which Hamilton and Rosberg were rarely out of the headlines, as the bubbling undercurrent of the pair’s relationship publicly boiled over on Saturday afternoon, with Hamilton left scorned after what he felt was a deliberate attempt by his team-mate to spoil his final qualifying lap, Rosberg having parked his car in the slip road at Mirabeau after a lock-up in the dying moments of qualifying, bringing out the yellow flags.
Unable to pass Rosberg off the start come race day, Hamilton was left to shadow his team-mate throughout the opening phase of the grand prix, the pair separated by no more than a second when Adrian Sutil’s crash at the Nouvelle Chicane brought out the second safety car of the afternoon.
The pair were in at the end of the next lap, Mercedes having to stack their drivers owing to their close position on track, but Hamilton was quick to express his dissatisfaction finding himself still tucked up behind Rosberg, asking the team why they had not brought him straight in once it was clear that the safety car was going to be deployed.
Hamilton was heard to remark: “I also knew you guys wouldn’t pit me,” via team radio.
Mercedes, as is common up and down the pit lane, gave the favoured pit strategy to their lead driver, in this case Rosberg, but Hamilton was clearly frustrated, commenting after the race: “When I was at McLaren we had two strategists and the strategy would be, for my strategist, to get the best result for me.
“Unfortunately we have one strategist, who is amazing, but his role in the team is that he has to look out for number one and the second guy comes second.
“I know from the get-go I have less of an opportunity to win the race and why I need a miracle at a track like this.”
The 2008 champion, as he had done in the opening phase, continued to shadow his team-mate, only to suddenly haemorrhage time late on, owing to a bizarre visibility problem, which as he later explained was caused by a piece of dirt that entered under his visor, forcing him to drive with just one eye at stages over the final laps, barely holding onto second at the chequered flag as he was reeled in by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
“Whilst [Ricciardo] was closing the gap it was a big concern because I was driving with one eye basically, so I knew he would get me unless it cleaned up,” he explained.
On the other side of the garage though it was all smiles, as Nico Rosberg won his first race since the season opener in Australia back in March, beating Hamilton to the chequered flag on-track for the first time in 2014, the Briton having retired early in Melbourne.
The 25 points scored by the German for his win – his second on the streets of Monte Carlo, where he grew up as a boy – see him move clear of Hamilton for the lead of the drivers’ championship, the gap now four points between the Mercedes duo, with a little under a third of the season completed.
Rosberg was particularly pleased with the manner of his victory – which sees him end Lewis Hamilton’s run of four victories – leading from lights-to-flag with a controlled drive. The German never looked troubled, despite having had his Mercedes stable-mate on his tail for the majority of the grand prix.
“This is a very, very special day,” he said. “Lewis drove really well and pushed me massively hard. But I kept my cool and was able to win.
“It’s fantastic. I’m very happy for the whole team. It’s an amazing car they have built and given us this year.
“It is a special win definitely because Lewis had the momentum, the results and everything and I needed to try to break that momentum and I managed to do that this weekend.”
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic