Lewis Hamilton thanks Nico Rosberg for 'being a gentleman' after letting him past in Monaco
Lewis Hamilton thanked his Mercedes team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg “for being a gentleman” and allowing him to pass on his way to victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, despite the decision potentially having a pivotal impact on this season’s title battle.
Hamilton recovered from a hindered qualifying session that saw him struggle to third after more engine problems to seal his first victory of the season, though it took a slice of luck for him to beat pole-sitter Daniel Ricciardo after the Red Bull driver came in for his second pit stop only to lose a huge chunk of time when the tyres were not ready for him after a team miscommunication.
The three-time world champion was only able to take the fight to Ricciardo once he had cleared Rosberg, which is no easy feat around the tight streets of Monte Carlo. However, despite the pair battling for the drivers’ championship for a third consecutive year and clashing at the Spanish Grand Prix where an accident ruled them both out of the race, Rosberg was willing to listen to team orders and allow the faster Hamilton through due to his own struggles in the extreme wet conditions.
"I didn't expect the points to shift in the way they have," Hamilton said after the race. "I'm just focused on enjoying the moment.
"But the past five races have shown anything is possible. I'm conscious mistakes are still being made and we really need to pull together."
After being hit by technical issues throughout the first five races of the season, Hamilton would have been forgiven for letting his frustrations get the better of him when a fuel-pressure problem struck during Saturday’s qualifying session.
But as the reigning champion explained, experience of similar situations has helped him to take a different approach to dealing with such incidents, and paved the way for him to take on Ricciardo to seize the 44th victory of his career.
"In the past, I would have been annoyed all night and denied myself any enjoyment in the other great things here," he said.
"But I went out with some friends, had a beer and thought: 'Let's see what tomorrow brings.'"
He added: "I came here today [Sunday] thinking I've just got to go and do it. It's not just going to happen. No-one's going to give it to me. The rain definitely opened a window of opportunity. Once I got past it was hammer time."
The race proved to be the first time Rosberg has been considerably out-paced by Hamilton this season, and while Mercedes claimed a brake issue was affecting the championship leader during the early stages of the race, it’s questionable whether Rosberg would have had enough to answer Hamilton’s challenge in the wet regardless of the condition of his car due to the Briton’s prowess in the wet.
"The feeling I had in the car was more painful [than having to let Hamilton by],” Rosberg admitted afterwards, having come home in seventh after being passed by Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso during the pit stop cycle and seeing Nick Hulkenberg beat him to the line as the rain returned on the final lap.
"It was very painful of course but easy to decide to do that,” he added on letting Hamilton past, with the two Mercedes drivers having an agreement to let each other go if one was considerably quicker and the chances of a team victory were being compromised.
"It was pretty simple - I wasn't going to be able to fight for the win. They gave me a warning to up my pace and I couldn't so it was logical and fully understandable."
Meanwhile, Red Bull motorsport chief Dr Helmut Marko made the unusual decision to speak to the media and publicly apologise to Ricciardo for robbing him of victory, with the team taking the blame for the delayed pit stop that led to the Australian emerging from the pits behind Hamilton.
"We presented it to Mercedes," Marko, who rarely speaks to the media, told Sky Sports after the race. "Unfortunately, a lot of misunderstanding and not the right communication.
"We will investigate and find out, but it was a human mistake. I feel really sorry and all I can do is apologise to him [Ricciardo]."
Ricciardo, who also saw victory in Barcelona taken out of his hands after Red Bull changed his strategy, was in no mood to talk after the race, giving a frosty interview on the podium as well as refusing to discuss the events that had unfolded with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
"I told him 'Save your breath'. Nothing they can say can make me feel better right now," Ricciardo said.
Horner also apologised, with a team statement claiming the four-time constructor champions owe Ricciardo “a huge apology” on a “very disappointing day” that also saw Red Bull rookie Max Verstappen get to know the Monaco barriers a little too closely for the second time in as many days.
"We failed to support him in the way we did to get him to his first pole position yesterday," Horner added.
Independent News Service