2019 Monaco GP: Hamilton Holds Off Verstappen
As races around the narrow streets of Monte Carlo go, the 2019 Monaco GP was a decent one. Lewis Hamilton, suffering from major tire degradation on a set of very used mediums, was barely able to fend off Max Verstappen, who benefited from tires better suited for their long, final stint.
There wasn’t a lot of overtaking, but the race was tense nonetheless, which is about all you can ask for at Monaco. Even when the cars weren’t as long as boats and wide as busses, passing was always difficult business there. Verstappen gave as good as he got, but his desperate late braking move in the dying minutes of the race was poorly executed, and wouldn’t have earned him the win besides.
A safety car earlier in the race had triggered a frantic pit stop window in which Mercedes attempted to double-stack both of their drivers — Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Bottas tried to slow down so that he wouldn’t have to queue behind his teammate and lose time to the cars behind, but it was close nonetheless. Bottas, Verstappen, and Sebastian Vettel all pit at about the same time, but when Verstappen got the green light to peel away from his pit crew, Bottas was already almost alongside him.
This is deemed an “unsafe release” in the F1 rulebook, which states a team cannot release a driver if it would take him side-by-side with another car in the pit lane — one of the few places on the track you’re not supposed to be racing, as it’s full of people on foot. Verstappen ended up ahead, and light contact with Bottas caused a slow puncture, forcing the Finn to pit once more for new rubber and lose another position.
Pit Stop: The best ones are free, just like under the safety car
As a result, Verstappen was given a five-second time penalty, which he could choose to serve during another pit stop, or which would be added to his race time. It’s actually a lenient penalty, and had Verstappen managed to get by Hamilton, he could have built a gap over five seconds and won the race nonetheless. So for a while, there was real tension as to whether Verstappen would be able to manage this, especially as he had the pace advantage over Hamilton.
But the five-time champion ultimately kept Verstappen behind, though how much of it was down to sheer driver skill is hard to say. Last year, Ricciardo had been able to do the same in an even more disadvantaged position, such is the state of overtaking in Monaco. Verstappen was ultimately demoted to fourth behind Vettel and Bottas, who had been following closely all along.
The 2019 Monaco GP notably broke Mercedes’ streak of 1-2 finishes and also marked the first time four Honda-powered cars finished in the top eight since the 1991 British GP.
Fortunately, the next race will take place in Canada, which is typically far more exciting. See you then.
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Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.