Following yesterday’s disastrous pit-lane issue, which led Hamilton to drop from pole position to a third place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton is said to be extremely displeased with the engineering and pit crew at Mercedes. It was their error and pit-lane delay that cost Hamilton what could have been his first victory at Monaco in 7 years.
Hamilton held his first position lead right up until lap 66, when a late safety car was deployed as a result of the Max Verstappen crashing following an attempt to overtake Lotus’ Romain Grosjean. With his car firmly cemented into place at the barriers, marshals worked hard to draw Verstappen, who was safe except for minor bruising, out of the wreck.
Immediately after this, the top 3 – Hamilton, teammate Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel all pitted. Mercedes engineers misestimated the gap between Hamilton and Vettel, and following his pitting, both Rosberg and Vettel moved ahead of him whilst he was still in the pit lane. They had managed to gain the lead before he rejoined the race. Hamilton realised this immediately afterwards, as he was heard on the radio saying “we’ve lost this, haven’t we?”
He was correct.
Overtaking is notoriously impossible at Monaco; it is one of the things the track is well-known for. It may as well belong to Gandalf the Grey.
Hamilton was not, however, either subtle or mature in dealing with the fallout of the Mercedes engineers’ errors: after crossing the finish line, Hamilton slowed down at the Portier corner and then knocked down the ‘third place’ board with his car. While it would admittedly have been a big victory for Hamilton, he was unable to hide his utter disappointment at the situation, crying at the podium. He also seemed visibly disappointed whilst congratulating teammate Nico Rosberg on his victory, although Rosberg acknowledged in a statement that it had been Hamilton who deserved the win.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was incredibly apologetic to Hamilton even in his speech to the press following the race. He acknowledged engineer and crew error in denying Hamilton’s win. “We thought we had a gap which we didn’t have, when the safety car came out and Lewis was behind the safety car. The calculation was simply wrong. I went to see him in the scrum. We win and we lose together, and that one goes on the team. And we apologised. And that’s the only thing we can do.”
Radio accounts indicate Hamilton thought Rosberg, who was in second place at the time, was in the pits already and changing his tyres. He told them his tyres were dropping temperature and he was looking for a change, and although engineers had advised Hamilton to stay out of the pit, they eventually capitulated to his demands, which eventually lost him the win as both Rosberg and Vettel rejoined the race before him. Unable to overtake in the presence of the safety car, Hamilton was stuck to 3rd position, which he eventually ended in.
In a later interview, however, Hamilton graciously congratulated Rosberg and Vettel, saying “I can’t really express the way I’m feeling at the moment so I won’t attempt to. To be honest it happened so fast I don’t remember. You rely on your team. That wasn’t the easiest of races but the team have been amazing all year long and we win and we lose together, so congratulations to Nico and to Seb.”
Rosberg is now the fourth man after Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Graham Hill and Ayrton Senna to complete a hat-trick at Monte Carlo, and only the 7th driver in the history of the sport to have 3 victories or more at the track.