By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer in Monaco
Lewis Hamilton held off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win a nail-biting Monaco Grand Prix.
The world champion was left struggling with the tyres on his Mercedes after fitting softer rubber during an early-race safety car than the Dutchman.
Hamilton repeatedly complained that he was not going to be able to make the tyres last to the end but by careful management managed to take his fourth win of 2019.
Verstappen dropped from second on the road to fourth in the results because of a five-second penalty, promoting Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to second and Merceces’ Valtteri Bottas to third.
Verstappen’s punishment was for causing a collision after an unsafe release in the pits when all the leaders pitted on lap 12 as a safety car was deployed to clear up debris laid by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Although Mercedes’ run of consecutive victories at the start of this season continued, their sequence of one-twos is over as a result of Bottas’ bad luck.
The defining moment of the race
Hamilton was controlling the race, ahead of Bottas, Verstappen and Vettel, after converting his pole position into a lead a the first corner.
But the race came to life when Leclerc suffered a puncture when he spun trying to pass Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault for 11th place on lap eight.
Leclerc had been making up ground after Ferrari’s farcical strategic error in qualifying on Saturday meant he failed to progress beyond the first session.
The Monegasque had passed Romain Grosjean’s Haas for 12th place with a brave move at Rascasse on the previous lap. He tried the same on Hulkenberg but was just too far back.
They rounded the corner together but Leclerc spun as he got on the power on the exit.
He got going again losing only two places but his tyre began to deconstruct around the next lap and tore chunks out of his rear bodywork as he returned to the pits.
When the safety car was deployed, Hamilton led the leaders into the pits, as Bottas backed up Verstappen and Vettel to give Mercedes time to service both cars.
Red Bull pulled off a super-quick stop and released Verstappen into Bottas’ path, and the two cars touched as the Finn was forced into the pit wall on the outside.
It gave Verstappen second place on the road, and caused Bottas a puncture which meant he had to stop again the next time around, losing a place to Vettel. But Verstappen was given his penalty.
More to follow