Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Emotional Monaco win for Hamilton

Published:Monday | May 27, 2019 | 12:09 AM
Leading Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain out in front during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix race at the Monaco racetrack yesterday.
Leading Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain out in front during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix race at the Monaco racetrack yesterday.

MONACO (AP):

Lewis Hamilton’s stressful win at yesterday’s Monaco Grand Prix extended his championship lead to 17 points after six races, yet perhaps more importantly, it reminded him just why he loves Formula One (F1) racing.

Holding off Max Verstappen on fading tires that made his Mercedes slip around, Hamilton clinched his fourth win of the season and 77th of a glittering career. The five-time F1 champion ranked it among his best five drives.

“I appreciate a tough race,” Hamilton said. “Ultimately, as an athlete, you want the toughest battles when they come.”

Verstappen, despite being hit by a five-second time penalty, would have been hard to catch had he got ahead of Hamilton. For more than 30 laps, Hamilton managed to both maintain his speed and fend off Verstappen — one of the most aggressive and quickest drivers in F1.

“I don’t know how I did it today,” Hamilton said. “There were just so many opportunities to make mistakes.”

It was a particularly poignant win for Hamilton, who dedicated it to the memory of friend and mentor Niki Lauda, who died last Monday at the age of 70 less than one year after a lung transplant.

“I definitely felt he was with me today,” said Hamilton.

The day belonged to both Hamilton and to the memory of the much-loved Lauda.

Fittingly, Verstappen drove brilliantly, too, considering he was not just chasing Hamilton but also competing against his time penalty. Even though he finished just behind Hamilton, Verstappen placed fourth overall behind Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas in third and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in second.

Before the race, drivers wore red caps for a minute’s silence in Lauda’s memory.

As he climbed out of the car after ­winning, Hamilton removed his race helmet and pointed to Lauda’s name on the back.

“I was fighting with the spirit of Niki,” Hamilton said. “I was just trying to stay focused and make him proud.”

It was the first time in six races this season that Mercedes has not placed 1-2.

“Good result, but not a good weekend for us,” Ferrari’s Vettel said. “The lesson from here is that we’re not yet where we want to be. The pace isn’t there.”