Monaco GP: Nico Rosberg wins after Mercedes 'mistake' denies Hamilton
Mercedes admit they "screwed it up" for Hamilton after mistakenly pitting the race leader under Safety Car; Lewis ends up third behind victor Rosberg and Vettel; McLaren finally open 2015 points account
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 25/05/15 9:00am
Nico Rosberg won the Monaco GP for the third successive year but only after an inexplicable Mercedes mistake cost Lewis Hamilton a certain victory.
Having finally broken his pole duck in the Principality, Hamilton dominated the majority of F1's blue-riband race from the front and had opened a 21-second lead over his Mercedes team-mate heading into the closing stages.
However, the race dramatically turned when Mercedes chose to pit Hamilton for the second time when the Safety Car was called for a big accident for rookie Max Verstappen at Sainte Devote.
With neither team-mate Rosberg nor Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel pitting, Hamilton returned to the track behind both cars in third place. Despite having the advantage of new supersoft tyres when the race was restarted, the Briton found Monaco’s infamously tight confines prohibitive to any overtaking.
With Hamilton finishing third in a race he had been in complete control of, Mercedes immediately admitted they had misjudged the gap between their two drivers.
"We've lost Lewis the grand prix with the mistake," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted to Sky Sports F1.
"We thought the gap was a different one that it actually was. Then he made a call and said the tyre temperature has dropped and there is no grip any more. A complete misjudgement, we shouldn't have had the overview. We screwed it up for him."
An apologetic Niki Lauda, Mercedes' non-executive chairman, added: “It’s clear. No discussion. This is for me unacceptable."
The error means Hamilton's World Championship lead over Rosberg is halved to just 10 points. While hugely fortunate, Rosberg nonetheless becomes the first driver since Ayrton Senna and just the fourth of all time to win F1's most famous event in three consecutive years.
"I am very, very happy, but I know it was a lot of luck today," Rosberg acknowledged to Sky F1's Martin Brundle on the podium. "Lewis drove brilliantly and he would also have deserved the win. But that is how it is in racing."
Hamilton, who finally signed a new three-year contract at Mercedes on Wednesday, was naturally crestfallen on the podium afterwards but refused to criticise the team.
"It was not the easiest of races," he said. "The team has been amazing all year long and we win and lose together."
The dramatic and hugely unexpected finale brought to life what had otherwise been a characteristically soporific Monaco race, in which the leading cars had become increasingly spread out as they managed tyres and brakes for what was scheduled to be a one-stop race.
While Hamilton had steadily pulled away from his team-mate, Rosberg struggled to shake-off Vettel's Ferrari for the whole race but held second place at the opening stops despite his rival attempting the undercut.
After their strongest qualifying performance of the year, Red Bull finished fourth and fifth with Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo respectively, the Russian getting ahead of his senior team-mate at the start and then running strongly thereafter for his best-ever F1 result.
Ricciardo, meanwhile, found himself engaged in a particularly eventful duel with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. After losing position to the Finn at the stops, the Australian then pitted under the Safety Car and strong-armed his way back past the Ferrari at Mirabeau.
He then passed team-mate Kvyat in an attempt to catch Hamilton, but having been told he would have to give the place back to the Russian if he couldn't make any inroads towards the top three, Ricciardo ceded position back to the sister car on the final lap.
Raikkonen, who had engaged in his now regular radio rant at the stewards over what he perceived to be a lack of blue flags for lapped cars, ended up a disgruntled sixth ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez, one of the star performers of the weekend.
Meanwhile, at the sixth attempt in 2015, McLaren-Honda finally scored the first points of their reunion as Jenson Button raced hard to eighth place. Fernando Alonso was on course for points too, but the Spaniard's MP4-30 broke down for the second time in as many days.
Sauber's Felipe Nasr and the sole-remaining Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz, who had been relegated to the pit lane for the start, rounded out the points finishers.
Monaco GP result:
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:49:18.420
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, +4.4
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +6.0
4. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, +11.9
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, +13.6
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, +14.3
7. Sergio Perez, Force India, +15.0
8. Jenson Button, McLaren, +16.0
9. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, +23.6
10. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, +25.0
11. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, +26.2
12. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, +28.4
13. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, +31.1
14. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, +45.7
15. Felipe Massa, Williams, +1 lap
16. Roberto Merhi, Manor,+2 laps
17. Will Stevens, Manor, +2 laps
DNF Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso
DNF Fernando Alonso, McLaren
DNF Pastor Maldonado, Lotus