Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory: Monaco Edition
In what appeared to be another win for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took a turn for the bizarre as his win was thrown away.
With almost 10 laps left in the race, Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean came together on the main straight bringing out a safety car. Hamilton had a comfortable led ahead of Rosberg and Vettel and then with pitted. The other leaders didn’t pit and Hamilton came out in third. The post mortem from the teams and pundits is that Mercedes mistimed the gap Hamilton had in front of Rosberg. These events brought some drama to an otherwise snoozer of a race.
Hamilton said in the post race conference:
I can't really express the way I feel at the moment. So I won't even attempt to. You rely on the team. I saw a screen, it looked like the team was out and I thought that Nico had pitted. Obviously I couldn't see the guys behind so I thought the guys behind were pitting. The team said to stay out, I said “these tyres are going to drop in temperature,” and what I was assuming was that these guys would be on Options and I was on the harder tyre. So, they said to pit. Without thinking I came in with full confidence that the others had done the same.
Mercedes has taken responsibility and apologized to Hamilton, but at what point should a two-time champion exercise better judgment? It appears by Hamilton’s own admission that he is more to blame than the team. They said stay out and he complained that the tires would not hold up due to temperature loss. In the post race Mercedes team officials were tripping over each other to take the blame and express sympathy for Hamilton. It's clear that this was a mutual decision and that Hamilton admitted in the post race conference that he assumed others had pitted as well. We like to think that people operating at this level don't make mistakes but clearly a two time world champion and a team that appears have an unlimited budget dropped the ball.
After Hamilton was interviewed on the podium and look as if his puppy had been kicked he walked off head down, and shoulders slumped. Martin Brundle interviewed Rosberg one last time and then a cheeky Vettel popped into frame with, “I'm Happy.” Vettel gets the win after all.
Official Mercedes GP Apology.
"What a crazy day. I don’t think there has ever been a more bittersweet feeling than this one. We have won the Monaco Grand Prix and we have lost the Monaco Grand Prix all at the same time. First of all, we must apologise to Lewis Hamilton. We win and we lose together and what I am proud of in this team is that we take collective responsibility. But this is a day when we simply have to say sorry to our driver, because our mistake cost him the victory here. What happened? In simple terms, we got our numbers wrong. We thought we had the gap for Lewis to take fresh tyres and come back out in the lead behind the Safety Car, ahead of Nico and covering off any risk of another competitor taking fresh tyres. But the calculation was incorrect and he came out in third place. It was our decision to call him in and our mistake, pure and simple; in these situations, a driver trusts his team. Lewis had driven flawlessly until then and really delivered a perfect weekend, with a stunning pole lap and a masterful race. There’s nothing more to say other than to highlight the grace with which he handled the situation; he was a leader and a true sportsman this afternoon. As for Nico Rosberg, he didn’t put a foot wrong all day, and it would be wrong if we didn’t take the time to recognise his achievement: a third consecutive win in Monaco is something only three other drivers in history have achieved before. It is a very special moment indeed and one for him to savour. He didn’t have the pace of Lewis today but, in this sport, you take the victories any way they come. This, too, is motor racing. We now need to stay calm and analyse how we made the mistake this afternoon. We will be harshly self-critical behind closed doors and this experience will make us a better and a stronger team in the races ahead. There is still a very long way to go in this championship and today showed that we have the performance in our car to do the job this year."