Lewis Hamilton has had a difficult race on highly worn tyres, but managed to maintain the lead to win the Monaco Grand Prix. A penalty for Max Verstappen causes Vettel and Bottas to join him on the podium.
Lewis Hamilton immediately took control of the race and didn’t get threatened into Turn 1, thanks to having a better start than Bottas, and starting on the inside line for Ste. Devote. Verstappen briefly got his nose ahead of Bottas, but it was the Mercedes driver who took second, ahead of Verstappen and Vettel.
Daniel Ricciardo ended up 5th, ahead of Magnussen, Gasly, Sainz, Kvyat, Albon, Hulkenberg and Grosjean.
On the second lap, Leclerc showed skill by overtaking Norris for 13th at Loews, a spot that is rarely used for overtaking in recent years. The Ferrari driver started the race on medium tyres to try to do a long first stint.
On lap 7, Leclerc passed Grosjean with a gutsy move through Rascasse, but the same move on Hulkenberg cost him dearly one lap later. Leclerc didn’t come into contact with the Renault, but he did clip the barriers with his right rear wheel, causing him to partly spin and rejoin just ahead of Norris again.
However, the incident had caused a puncture. Leclerc got passed by everyone, and had his tyre ruptured, leaving pieces all around the circuit, along with parts of his car’s floor that got damaged as well. The resulting safety car period triggered lots of pitstops, a series that cost Bottas two positions due to pitting immediately behind Hamilton.
Verstappen was later given a 5s time penalty for an unsafe release during that pitstop.
The race restarted on lap 15 but without major events, except for a coming together between Giovinazzi and Kubica. For a little while, this caused the track to be fully blocked, but the situation was solved before the leaders completed their lap. Giovinazzi was given a 10s time penalty by the stewards for that incident.
Leclerc pitted one lap later to change his hard Pirellis to softs, but retired another lap further down the road when realising there was no more pace in the car with such damage to the floor.
The biggest loser of the safety car and pit stops was Daniel Ricciardo. Though he was clearly slower than the cars behind, his 5th position early on was an achievement, but he lost dropped down to 13th, losing 8 positions to drivers who all chose not to pit during the safety car.
Meanwhile at the front, Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel and Bottas lapped on without giving an inch away to one another. Hamilton at the time was perhaps in the most tricky situation because of being on the medium tyres, contrary to 3 drivers on hards behind him.
Then Gasly pitted from 2.5s behind Bottas, followed by Sainz another lap later. They rejoined the track in 7th and 8th and started to close the gap to the leaders. Kvyat did so as well and rejoined in between the McLarens of Sainz and Norris.
After Albon pitted, he similarly rejoined the race ahead of Norris, and recorded the fastest lap on mediums.
At lap 44, this left Grosjean as the only top 10 runner that hadn’t made a pitstop, but he changed that eventually in lap 50.
Hamilton out in front continued to fend off Verstappen while complaining about the state of his tyres. The graining on his front left was obvious, but his pace still reasonable. In fact, by this time, the pace of the medium runners in the midifeld had faded as well.
By lap 60, Hamilton’s troubles became more and more evident, as well as in his messages to his race engineer, ultimately leading him to say “I don’t know what you were hoping for man, but now we need to hope for a miracle”. Verstappen was nearly glued to the back of the Mercedes through the slow corners while Vettel kept to within one second of Verstappen as well. Bottas followed 5s further behind.
Meanwhile, Red Bull pitted Gasly from 5th to change to softs, allowing him to still remain 5th, but go considerably faster than anyone else, resulting in a fastest lap on lap 67. Gasly went on to go fast, making sure to to ahead if any of the front 4 runners would stop in the closing stages.
On lap 70, Verstappen was the first one to really make an error by cutting a chicane. Still, it didn’t mean a whole lot, as the gap that was created had disappeared completely 5 corners later. Bottas meanwhile had rejoined Vettel, likely having chosen to keep some distance earlier on.
2 laps from the end, Verstappen made an attempt and took the inside into the chicane coming out of the tunnel, but as he didn’t have a clear advantage, Hamilton still turned in, making his rear wheel to touch with Verstappen’s front. Hamilton went straight on, and Verstappen held on to second.
This essentially settled the result, and with Verstappen taking a penalty, this meant another 2 Mercedes on the podium with Vettel finishing second, Bottas third and Verstappen fourth.
Gasly scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
Verstappen received a 5-second penalty for an unsafe pit-stop release.
Grosjean received a 5-second penalty for crossing the pit exit line.
Stroll and Magnussen each received 5-second penalties for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.