MONACO, (Reuters) – Germany’s Nico Rosberg won the showcase Monaco Grand Prix for the second year in a row yesterday to snatch back the Formula One world championship lead from Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg’s second victory of the year, from a controversial pole position that had ratcheted up the tension between the two title rivals, took his points tally after six of 19 races to 122 with Hamilton on 118.
Hamilton, who complained 13 laps from the end that he had something in his eye and could not see properly, was second as dominant Mercedes chalked up a sixth win in a row and fifth successive one-two finish.
“It’s a special win, definitely,” Rosberg told reporters of a fifth career victory that ended his team mate’s run of four in a row and came on the streets he has known since boyhood.
“Lewis has had the momentum with the results and everything and I really needed to try to break that momentum…I managed to do that this weekend.”
Australian Daniel Ricciardo took third after chasing Hamilton nose-to-tail to the finish while quadruple world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel, in his 100th race for Red Bull, retired after eight laps with a turbo problem.
After coping with two safety car interludes, Rosberg took the chequered flag 9.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton after the two had spent the first half of the race barely a second apart.
Hamilton, who had simmered on Saturday when he suggested Rosberg might have deliberately brought out yellow warning flags in qualifying to slow the Briton and deny him pole, had a comparatively low-key afternoon.
The wheel-banging drama and Ayrton Senna-Alain Prost style rivalry that some had expected, or hoped for, never materialised even if Hamilton was certainly not about to extend a dinner invitation to his team mate afterwards.
He had talked enigmatically about taking a leaf out of Senna’s book, translated by some as referring to the late McLaren driver’s notorious first corner collisions with Prost, but he kept his calm.
“I drove with all my heart and gave it all I could, fairly…I feel like I drove fairly all weekend,” Hamilton said. “So I leave today quite happy and I can go into the next race with even more energy and determination.”
His hopes had faded long before the end anyway when he told his team over the radio about his vision problem.
“It was just something that came through the visor – it was nothing important,” he told movie actor Benedict Cumberbatch in a post-race podium interview.
“It was a good day for us – it’s very important for the team to get another one-two. I had great pace and I felt I was strong but it’s incredibly difficult to overtake.”
In a 78 lap race of attrition, with only 14 finishers out of the starting 22 on a dry but overcast afternoon, Rosberg lapped all but the three cars behind him.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso took fourth place with Nico Hulkenberg fifth for Force India and Jenson Button back in the points in sixth with McLaren after the team had gone three races in a row without.
Felipe Massa was seventh for Williams, ahead of two Frenchmen – Romain Grosjean in a Lotus and an astonishing ninth for Marussia’s Nice-born Jules Bianchi despite him serving two stop/go penalties and starting last on the grid.
Bianchi’s points, the first for his struggling Russian-licensed team since they entered the sport in 2010 as Virgin Racing, brought the champagne out – in limited quantities, given the team’s finances – as much as any podium celebration.
“All credit and recognition should go to Marussia today for scoring their first points in Formula One,” said Christian Horner, boss of champions Red Bull.
“It’s a big thing. They are the first new team to have done that and the guys at the other end of the grid work just as hard and sometimes harder because they have less resource than the ones at the front end.”
McLaren’s Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen took the final point in 10th.
Behind them, there was carnage with a spate of engine failures and collisions that twice brought the safety car speeding out of the pit lane to lead the field through the metal-fenced streets of the principality.
Crash-happy Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado was not involved in any of them, after stalling his Lotus on the formation lap, but Mexican Sergio Perez crashed at Mirabeau after being tagged by Button on the opening lap.
That incident brought out the safety car for two laps while the Force India was craned away.
The car was deployed again, triggering a run of pitstops, on lap 26 when Sauber’s Adrian Sutil crashed at the tunnel exit – his sixth race without a point – and speared into the barriers.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who set the fastest lap but finished 12th, had to pit twice in short order after a run-in with Marussia’s Max Chilton led to a puncture. He also collided with Magnussen.
Toro Rosso’s Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat and Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne both retired with power unit problems, Williams’s Valtteri Bottas stopped at Mirabeau with a smoking car and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez spun into barriers at Rascasse.