Joyful Hamilton ends winless run

A joyful Lewis Hamilton revived his flagging title defence and ended a six-month winless streak when he seized a superbly-executed opportunistic victory in Sunday’s rain-hit and incident-filled Monaco Grand Prix.

The defending three-time world champion took full advantage of a bungled Red Bull pit stop for his nearest rival luckless Aussie Daniel Ricciardo and an off-form display from his Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg, who finished seventh, to claim his second win at the Mediterranean street circuit.

Driving with supreme skill in changing wet and dry conditions, resisting pressure and managing his tyres supremely, Hamilton grabbed his first win in nine races, since clinching his third title at the 2015 United States Grand Prix last October, in flawless fashion.

"Thank God that today went as I'd hoped,” he said, after giving Justin Beiber a swig of his victory champagne. “A big thank you to the team. I'm kind of lost for words. I prayed for day like this and it came through so I feel blessed.

“That was the longest run after I stopped for those tyres. How much can you use the tyres? You don't know how much they can do…. On the last lap they were about to drop off.

“Big congratulations to Daniel. He was phenomenal this weekend. He's one of the best drivers I've raced against and it was so close. I'm looking forward to more battles with him."

Ricciardo, who started from his maiden pole position, led until he pitted for slick tyres – that were not ready for him -- after 32 of the 78 laps and after making several thwarted attacks finally came home second, 7.2 seconds behind the 31-year-old Englishman.

It was Hamilton’s second win at the famous Mediterranean street circuit, his first this season and the 44th of his career. It also repeated his 2008 triumph when he started third and won in wet conditions.

Hamilton’s win kept his title challenge alive and, with Rosberg off the podium, trimmed the leader’s advantage to 24 points, less than a single victory.

"I haven't even thought about the championship,” said a happy Hamilton. “We're in the battle and there is a long way to go. When it feels like it can't get worse, it gets better. We never give up."

Ricciardo was almost speechless and struggled to control his feelings. “I don't even want to comment on the race,” he said. “Two weekends in a row now I've been screwed. It sucks. It hurts…

“I’ve no idea what happened.  They should have been ready. It hurts – and I don't have anything else to say.

“We had the speed in the wet, we pulled away, we pitted for ‘inters’ and put ourselves in a race with Lewis that we didn't need to be in.

“I was the quickest in all conditions, but the result doesn't show that."

Of his pit-stop, he added later: “The tyres weren’t ready. I didn’t make the call. I got there and everyone was running around like headless ‘chooks’ – I’m massively disappointed.”

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko apologised to the Australian and promised an in inquiry into what he said was a “human error.” His team-mate record-breaking Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, victorious two weeks earlier in Spain, this time crashed out of the race after 34 of the 78 laps. 

Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India finished third, 6.5 seconds behind the disconsolate Ricciardo, ahead of four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who finished a superb fifth for McLaren on the 50th anniversary of their Formula One debut race in 1966.

“I'm extremely happy,” said Perez. “The team did a tremendous job with the strategy. It’s my third podium with the team and a very special one.”

German Nico Hulkenberg resisted pressure from championship leader and compatriot Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes to take sixth place with Spaniard Carlos Sainz taking eighth for Toro Rosso.

Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, finished ninth in the second Honda-powered McLaren – their best result of the season -- ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams. 

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