Lewis Hamilton was headed to victory in the Monaco Grand Prix Sunday with a 20-second lead over teammate Nico Rosberg when the Mercedes high command called him into the pits for new tires while the safety car was slowing the pace following a crash. But something strange happened to him on the way to victory, according to NBC Sports.
Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel sailed past him while he was emerging from the pit lane. With only eight of eighty laps remaining it was Rosberg who held on for the win and Vettel for second while a livid Hamilton had to settle for third.
The unusual often happens in the glamor capital where a person can purchase a decent meal for $400 at La Rascasse Restaurant which the drivers pass on each lap of the course as they wind through the streets of Monte Carlo. Besides elite restaurants, Monaco also boasts of a plethora of yachts floating in the Mediterranean Sea within view of the of the Formula One racecars as they wind through the streets of the principality.
Prince Albert II of Monaco handed a jubilant Rosberg the winner’s trophy in front of the Royal Box while Hamilton fumed for what seemed like a decade inside his car. Commentators for NBCSN speculated as to whether the angry Hamilton would stand the Prince up for the presentation ceremony. He obviously didn’t want to climb from his expensive chariot which he parked by the side of the road in the center of Monte Carlo.
German driver Sebastian Vettel was happy to receive his second place trophy from the Prince while the British driver continued to fume in his car. Vettel, who drives for Ferrari, remains in third place in the world’s driver’s championship race and firmly in contention.
Would Hamilton snub the Prince?
No. He leisurely removed his steering wheel and placed it on the dashboard before finally climbing from his Mercedes. Obviously, angry at losing the race, he ambled over to the Royal Box and accepted his consolation prize of third place in the most magical of all Formula One Grand Prix races.
The incident which led to the controversy occurred when Max Verstappen crashed into a barrier while attempting to pass driver Romain Grosjean in the closing laps of the race. Fortunately, he emerged unhurt. However, the debris scattered across the track from the accident caused race organizers to call out the Safety Car to slow things down while the mess could be removed.
But before the actual Safety Car emerged, the teams received a Visual Safety Car projection advising them as to what had happened. Mercedes principal Toto Wolff said the data from the algorithims he studied in the few second he had to make a decision, told him Lewis had time to make a pit stop and return to the track ahead of both Rosberg and Vettel.
By the time Lewis pitted and returned to the track he was in third where he remained until the end of the race. He should be consoled by the fact Mercedes inked him to a three-year contract worth $150 million earlier this week.
When the commentators asked Wolff what he would say to Hamilton, the team boss said curtly, “Sorry.”
When he was asked if common sense might dictate Hamilton not be ordered to pit when he had a 19-second lead, Wolff replied, “We rely on data. Not common sense.”
It was the third straight Monaco GP triumph for Rosberg. Legendary Michael Schumacher won it a record six times while Ayrton Senna won it five times.
Schumacher remains paralyzed and unable to speak in his home following a 2013 skiing accident in the Alps. Senna was killed in a racing accident.
Former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya won his second Indy 500 today in the United States.
Lewis remains in the lead for the world championship, but Rosberg and Vettel both cut into his lead as a result of today’s results. The next Formula One race is in Canada in two weeks.
Lewis can sulk all he wants, but it’s difficult to feel too sorry for a man with a $150 million contract.