May 242015

MONACO: Germany’s Nico Rosberg celebrated a surprise hat-trick of Monaco Grand Prix victories on Sunday after Mercedes blew championship-leading teammate Lewis Hamilton’s chances with a needless pitstop.

The result, with double Formula One world champion Hamilton finishing third just when victory seemed assured, slashed Hamilton’s overall lead to 10 points after six of the season’s 19 races.

The Briton had led comfortably from pole position until he pitted for fresh tyres when the safety car was deployed with 14 laps to go.

“I’ve lost the race, haven’t I?” enquired the disconsolate Briton over the team radio after rejoining in third place behind Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, neither of whom  pitted.

Afterwards, with the enormity of what had happened still sinking in, the stunned Mercedes driver told reporters, “I can’t really explain the way I feel at the moment. I won’t even attempt to.”

While he did not blame the team, Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff indicated the call had come from the pitwall, “We thought the gap was different to what it was. A complete misjudgement, I am so sorry,” said Wolff. “We screwed it up for him.”

The safety car had been deployed after Dutch 17-year-old Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso smashed into the back of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus and crashed heavily into the barriers while fighting for a possible 10th place.

Verstappen, who had provided some of the more exciting moments of a largely processional race, was unhurt although the front of his car penetrated the plastic wall at the Sainte Devote corner.

Rosberg’s victory was the German’s second in succession, after winning the previous round in Spain, and made him only the fourth driver to win three Monaco Grands Prix in a row. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th,  2015.

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