The winner of the Monaco Grand Prix had rival Red Bull to thank for handing him the opportunity.
The combination of a strategy gamble to stay on wet tyres long enough to switch straight to slicks, coupled with a disastrous moment in the pits for Ricciardo, handed Mercedes’ reigning world champion Hamilton his first win since Austin 2015.
Hamilton, who has barely led a lap all season, was gifted the lead when Red Bull fouled up Ricciardo’s second pitstop. Ricciardo had been in control since the safety car start, but when he pitted to switch from intermediates to slick tyres, his crew weren’t ready and he lost crucial time – and track position to Hamilton.
The pair almost touched soon after, as Hamilton struggled initially to get his tyres working, but he made a set of ultrasoft rubber last until the finish to claim his first win here since 2008.
Sergio Perez made some perfectly-timed pitstops to climb to third, ahead ofFerrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Fernando Alonso finished an impressive fifth for McLaren, ahead of World Championship leader Nico Rosberg – who struggled with brake temperatures early on, and also suffered a very slow pitstop.
Story of the race
Steady rain ahead of the race meant a safety car start, with poleman Ricciardo leading the wet-shod field ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz, Perez, Daniil Kvyat and Alonso. Max Verstappen and Felipe Nasr joined the queue from the pitlane, the former with a new chassis and the latter with a fresh power unit.
Kvyat was in trouble already, complaining he was stuck at constant speed and pitted at the end of lap one. He lost a lap while the problem was rectified.
The green flag was waved at the start of lap eight, with Ricciardo pulling away from the battling Mercedes – Hamilton running alarmingly wide at Loews but getting away with it.
Kevin Magnussen pitted immediately for intermediates, but teammate Jolyon Palmer lost control of his Renault on the start/finish straight on a Zebra Crossing – turning sharp right into the wall and then plunging headlong into the barriers at Ste Devote with only one wheel still attached to his car.
Before the virtual safety car was called, Button, Nasr and Kvyat also pitted for inters.
The race went green again on lap 10, with Hamilton attacking Rosberg for second as Ricciardo pulled clear again by 2s per lap. The drivers on intermediates were already faster than those on wets.
Raikkonen was the next to fall, whacking the tyrewall at Loews and then driving Romain Grosjean off the track at the following corner, as his front wing became trapped under his front wheels. “What was Kimi doing?” complained Grosjean, who fell to 14th.
Vettel pitted for inters on lap 14, dropping him to 11th, soon followed in by Alonso. Hulkenberg and Bottas then pitted too, promoting Sainz to fourth.
Mercedes team orders
Rosberg, who has won last three races here, was told to let Hamilton – who last won at Monaco when it was wet in 2008 – to pass him and did so at the exit of Ste Devote. This released his chase of Ricciardo, who was 12s down the road.
The Mercedes team reported that Rosberg was struggling for brake temperature in the wet.
Hamilton immediately lapped seven tenths quicker than Ricciardo. Rosberg then pitted for intermediates on lap 21, rejoining third just ahead of Perez (who timed his stop for inters to perfection) and Vettel.
Sixth-placed Massa, on full wets, then held up the leading inter-running group of Vettel, Hulkenberg and Alonso.
Further back, Manor’s Pascal Werhlein had his own train of inter runners: Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen and Magnussen. Bottas failed to pass cleanly at the Harbour Chicane, and then had to let both Werhlein and Verstappen – who passed him in the meantime – past.
With clear track, Verstappen was the fastest man on track and into the points by lap 24 by passing McLaren’s Jenson Button at the chicane.
Kvyat, who was a lap down, crashed into Magnussen at Rascasse – who had clipped the wall at Tabac moments earlier.
Magnussen later smashed into the barriers at Mirabeau, removing his front wing.
Ricciardo pits for inters, Hamilton doesn’t
Leader Ricciardo stopped for intermediates on lap 23, with Hamilton gambling on staying out and – with a 24s lead over Rosberg in third – attempting to stretch his wet-tyre stint so he could go straight to slicks.
Ricciardo caught Hamilton by lap 27, but did not seem keen in getting his track position back.
Perez and Button pitted for soft-compound slicks on lap 30, which was the trigger for Hamilton to pit – going straight to the ultrasofts. Rosberg mirrored his move, but a slow stop (being held for Vettel) allowed Perez, Vettel and Alonso to jump him, demoting the second Mercedes to sixth.
Pitstop disaster at Red Bull
Ricciardo also pitted for slicks, but his tyres weren’t ready due to a miscommunication between the strategists and mechanics – and he rejoined on supersofts, but the time lost was crucial.
Hamilton crucially took the lead, but struggled for pace at this point and had an angry Ricciardo all over the back of him.
A virtual safety car briefly interrupted their duel, as Verstappen clanged heavily into the barriers at Massenet. “Arrgh, I’ve crashed, arrgh,” he reported.
As the race went green again on lap 37, Ricciardo attacked Hamilton hard. They almost touched wheels on the exit of the Harbour Chicane, as Hamilton straightlined it and then rudely barged across him. “What the [bleep] was that?” Ricciardo complained.
Hamilton was put under investigation for the incident (no action was taken), but then his tyres appeared to switch on and he pulled away from Ricciardo with ease for a time.
Third placed Perez was 10s behind, running the soft tyre like Vettel closely behind him. Alonso had Rosberg, Hulkenberg and Sainz on his tail.
Ricciardo closed again as the race moved into its second half, using tyres that were a step harder than Hamilton ahead.
Another short VSC period was caused by shunting Saubers. Nasr was instructed to allow teammate Marcus Ericsson past, but ignored it. Ericsson decided to take matters into his own hands, the cars colliding ignominiously at Rascasse.
Ricciardo attacked again as the VSC ended, forcing Hamilton to defend into the chicane as they negotiated backmarkers.
Sprint to the finish
Hamilton and Ricciardo put on a grandstand show up front as the race neared its conclusion, but their battle petered out as Hamilton managed to control the gap to the finish.
Perez and Vettel were embroiled in a duel for the final podium place, which was ended when Vettel had a huge moment at Massenet, while Alonso continued to hold points-leader Rosberg, Hulkenberg and Sainz at bay.
Rosberg briefly got past Alonso into the chicane on lap 59, but had to give the place back as he didn’t make the apex.
Another VSC was required for some debris being blown on to the start/finish straight, and although rain threatened in the closing stages, it didn’t amount to anything.
Jenson Button finished ninth to give McLaren a rare double-points haul, ahead of Felipe Massa, Esteban Gutierrez, Bottas and Wehrlein, who was given a 10s penalty for failing to stay above the target time under VSC.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||+7.252|
|3||Sergio Perez||Force India||+13.825|
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+1:32.999|
|8||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||+1 lap|
|9||Jenson Button||McLaren||+1 lap|
|10||Felipe Massa||Williams||+1 lap|
|11||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap|
|12||Valtteri Bottas||Williams||+1 lap|
|13||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor Racing||+2 laps|
|14||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||+2 laps|
|15||Rio Haryanto||Manor Racing||+2 laps|
|R||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing|
|R||Kevin Magnussen||Renault F1 Team|
|R||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso|
|R||Jolyon Palmer||Renault F1 Team|