Lewis Hamilton says his victory in the Monaco Grand Prix is a message to 'never give up' as his first win since the 2015 United States Grand Prix almost halved Nico Rosberg's advantage at the top of the standings.
In a year that has seen the Mercedes driver hampered by a series of compromised events – through a combination of on track incidents and mechanical gremlins -, he finally enjoyed a trouble-free race as a savvy strategy and some rapid driving in quick conditions overcame an initial grid deficit.
Despite initially being held up behind team-mate Rosberg while poleman Daniel Ricciardo made his escape once the safety car – behind which the race started – withdrew, Hamilton was able to set about hunting down the Australian when Rosberg, who was struggling with brake issues, heeded instructions to move aside.
When Ricciardo followed the general trend of pitting for intermediates as the track dried, Hamilton stayed out, and managed to make his wet-weather Pirellis last long enough to switch straight onto slicks, aware that his rival – who by now had closed right onto the back of the Mercedes – would have to do likewise.
When Ricciardo pitted, he found that his team wasn't ready for him, and the delay proved crucial as Hamilton was able to narrowly retain the lead, albeit now running on the ultrasoft slick against the Australian's supersofts. Again, they battled nose-to-tail, with Ricciardo taking the occasional look at a passing opportunity, but Hamilton held firm and, as the Red Bull began to struggle late on, locking up at Rascasse and Massenet, was able to ease out to a three-second advantage.
“Thank God today went the way I had hoped!” the world champion smiled, aware that his demeanour after qualifying had hinted at the end of the world if rain wasn't forthcoming, “Big thank you to my team for providing me with a car to see it through to the end. Honestly I'm kinda lost for words, to be honest. I've prayed for a day like this and it came true, so I feel truly blessed.”
With the best part of 40 laps between his pit-stop and the chequered flag, which came after the race ran its full 78-lap course, Hamilton had to be careful not to use up his rubber, particularly running a softer compound that those behind him, but succeeded in getting to the end without any undue drama.
“I'm telling you, that was the longest run, particularly after I stopped for those tyres,” he admitted, “It was crazy how long it was and, really, to understand how much wheelspin you're allowed, how much you can use the tyres - because you don't know to what end they're going to go. I think the last lap was the time they were going to literally drop off, but thank God they stayed on.”
With Rosberg being jumped by Nico Hulkenberg on the run to the flag, Hamilton slashed the German's points lead to 24, but insisted that he had not really contemplated the bigger picture as he revelled in the win.
“I haven't even thought about [the championship battle] just yet,” he claimed, “Of course, we're still in the battle, there's a long, long way to go and, just when you feel like it couldn't get any worse, it gets better, so I really think the message today, for everyone, is just never give up.”
Having allowed the realisation of his first win of the season to sink in, Hamilton was quick to pay tribute to the man who had harried him throughout the second half of the race, noting that he had probably been the form man all weekend.
“Big congratulations to this guy,” he said with a nod to Ricciardo, “He drove phenomenally all weekend and is just one of the best drivers I've raced against.
“He did a fantastic job today – that was a lot of pressure I was under and it was incredibly close, particularly on those restarts, but he did a phenomenal job, particularly yesterday, so I'm looking forward to many more battles with him. I'm sure he's not the happiest because he started from pole and it's never the best to start pole and come second, but he should feel proud of the way he drove..”