Hamilton robbed of Monaco victory

Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton Monaco F1 GP 2015

F1: Merc mistake hands Monaco to Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton had the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix on ice … until lap 64, when rookie Max Verstappen crashed heavily whilst trying a rash overtake on Romain Grosjean.

The shunt brought out the first virtual safety car whereupon Mercedes called Hamilton to the pits for super-soft tyres, allowing second-placed Nico Rosberg and third-placed Sebastian Vettel to move ahead.

Rosberg and Vettel didn’t follow and at the subsequent restart, Hamilton could not better his position. "We've lost this, haven't we?" said Hamilton over team radio, as he realised he’d rejoined behind his two closest title rivals.

It was Rosberg’s second win of the season and he made history at this circuit, becoming only the fourth driver to win three consecutive races in Monaco, following the illustrious trio of Graham Hill, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

It was a victory of pleasure and pain for Mercedes, the team owning up to an appalling mistake in pitting Hamilton under the safety car, ultimately costing him the win.

Hamilton took off from pole and left the rest, led by championship rival Nico Rosberg, in his wake, opening a 21 second gap at the time of the safety car intervention.

“I can't express the way I feel at the moment,” said a clearly shattered Hamilton. “I saw the team out in the pit-lane on one of the screens and thought Nico was pitting. I came in with full confidence that the others had done the same. This is a race that's been close to my heart for years and it's special to me, so I really wanted to win.”

Hamilton is a polarising figure in F1.  Not everyone likes his crazy coif, flashy diamond earrings, body graffiti, and his hip-hop swagger. But the manner in which he took the adversity at Monaco and refused to blame his team shows a commendable depth of character. “The team have been brilliant all year, so I don't blame them,” he said. “I always say to my team and my fans, we win and we lose together. You live to fight another day.”

Rosberg also understood he was fortunate.  “That was my luckiest experience in racing so far. What a crazy race. I was surprised when I saw no one else behind the safety car other than me. I didn’t know what was happening in that moment. But I concentrated on getting temperature into the tyres as they felt like ice. Until the safety car Lewis has done a perfect job; he was better than me over the weekend, so he definitely deserved the win. I know how horrible he must feel now.

Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, delivered a very public mea culpa. “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. 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,” conceded Wolff. “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. 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.”

Until lap 64, the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix was a race of stunning boredom, despite the unrealistically positive commentary.

It took the Mercedes team stuff-up to ignite our interest.

The restart and burst to the flag was notable for Vettel’s fine defensive job of keeping Hamilton behind, and a great charge from Daniel Ricciardo’s in the Red Bull.  Ricciardo dropped back at the start and didn’t look that speedy until the end when he aggressively shouldered past an unhappy Kimi Raikkonen

Red Bull then asked Daniil Kvyat to allow the faster Ricciardo through to take a shot at Hamilton.  When he closed on but failed to pass the world champion, Ricciardo slowed to let his teammate retake fourth.

 “I had some fun in the last few laps trying to get close to Hamilton and Vettel to fight for a podium position,” reported Ricciardo.” I knew we were in a position to attack in the end which made it exciting I think. The team worked well, Dany let me past to have a crack at the podium and I gave back the place on the last lap when I couldn’t get past Hamilton. I had a little incident with Kimi and it’s hard to get a clean move without a little contact in Monaco.”

Qualifying was again owned by the Mercedes pair, with Hamilton (his new contract worth $600,000 per week) edging Rosberg for pole.

Ricciardo was disadvantaged by a miscommunication with his team in the moments before he took his final qualifying shot, starting with his engine in a less than optimal mode.  Realising he was down on power, he changed to the correct mode but his lap time had already suffered.

The F1 circus now moves to Canada (June 8) with Hamilton 10 points up on Rosberg, with Vettel a further 18 points behind.

Indianapolis 500: Montoya pips Power in a nail biter

Fifteen years after his first Indianapolis 500 victory, Juan Pablo Montoya repeated the triumph in the 99th running of the classic, edging his Penske teammate Will Power in a gloves-off thriller.

There was more overtaking in the closing laps than in a season of Formula One.

Montoya fought back brilliantly after an early setback which sent him to pit lane for a new rear wing, dropping him as low as 30th.

With 30 laps remaining, a debris caution sent most of the field scurrying in for their final stop.  Power led everyone off pit row after some radical wing changes intended to give him a little more straightline speed.

It came down to a tense 15- lap sprint with Power, Montoya, and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon trading places up front, with Charlie Kimball then joining the lead trio.

With three laps to the chequered flag, Montoya got back to the lead and made it stick, leading Power to the line with Ganassi’s Kimball grabbing third from Dixon.

But Montoya had a slender edge on Power when it counted.

“That was some serious racing there,” said Toowoomba’s Power, disappointed to be pipped for the win but accepting the consolation of a swag of championship points.  “It sucks finishing second.”

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing quickly unfolded into a fight between the two giant teams, Ganassi – with Dixon and Tony Kanaan going for it  – and Penske – Simon Pagenaud, Power, Helio Castroneves and the tenacious, rebounding Montoya.

Pole winner Dixon, Pagenaud and Kanaan looked to have the early pace over the rest.

After leading 30 laps, Kanaan crashed out all by himself on lap 153.  Then Pagenaud mangled his front wing and lost car balance.

There were the usual huge shunts.

A turn-one crash on the opening lap, caused when Takuma Sato tried a silly three wide pass, eliminated young gun Sage Karam’s machine.  The incident also very nearly took out Aussie Ryan Briscoe, who was clipped and spun.   Then during the yellow caution, Simona de Silvestro hit Montoya’s car, forcing the Colombian to pit for repairs.

Sydney’s Briscoe turned a late call up from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports into a good result, coming from grid 32 to 12th.  

He got the drive a few days ago after James Hinchcliffe was seriously hurt in a massive practice crash.

It was Briscoe’s first experience of an IndyCar with the aero kits introduced to the IndyCar Series this season, and he went into the race with just a one-hour familiarisation session in the No. 5 Honda.  Briscoe did not have an IndyCar ride this year and has been driving in IMSA Sports Car racing.

Melbourne’s James Davison made good progress from his rearward start until a bungled pit release which brought him into heavy contact with another car, an incident in which a crewman was also injured.

WRC:  Volkswagen trio in fight to the flag in Portugal

It went right to the wire, but Rally Portugal - the fifth WRC event of the season – went to Jari-Matti Latvala after a massive fight in tough conditions. 

It was the hot-and-cold driver’s first win of 2015, the Finn taking the event by 8.2secs from Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier while Andreas Mikkelsen made it a total VW domination, claiming third, 16.4secs further back.

For the first time since 2001, Rally Portugal was located in the country’s north where all four manufacturers – Volkswagen, Citroën, Hyundai and M-Sport-Ford – fought for the lead. A four-way battle for the podium kept masses of enthusiastic fans on tenterhooks right to the final stage.

After three pointless events, this win sees Latvala climb to fifth in the standings, with VW team mates Ogier and Mikkelsen occupying the top two places and Citroen’s Mads Ostberg in third. June 11th is the next date on the calendar when the championship kicks up the dust at Rally Italy in Sardinia. 

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