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GP Week : Issue 12
L EWIS Hamilton has fulfilled a childhood dream, and avenged the heartache of his debut Monaco Grand Prix last season, with an imperious victory against all the odds on the streets of Monte Carlo yesterday. The McLaren driver, whom it transpired was carrying a right rear puncture in the closing laps of the race, beat BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa to record his second win of the season, and his first in the Principality. His race had begun promisingly. With rain falling moments before the 78- lap contest was due to get under way, he got the jump on a slow-starting Kimi Raikkonen to sit second behind pole-sitter Massa after the first corner. With the slippery conditions leaving no margin for error, Hamilton was forced to make an unscheduled pitstop on only the sixth lap following contact with the barriers at Tabac which punctured his right rear tyre. He took on new wet weather tyres and was filled heavy with fuel and, emerging in fifth position, was suitably placed to benefit from any mishaps which might befall the leading pack of Massa, Raikkonen, Kubica and Fernando Alonso. Alonso did for himself when a wet patch at Massenet sent him into the barriers and then the pits with a puncture, handing Hamilton fourth place as a Safety Car was deployed to clear up the abandoned cars of Coulthard and Bourdais, who had also hit Alonso’s slippery patch, but had not been as lucky as the Spaniard with the end result. Hamilton took third on lap 13 when Raikkonen took a drive-through penalty handed to him for not having his tyres secured to his Ferrari at the three-minute signal before the race start. By now, Massa and Kubica were fighting for the lead, but when Massa went straight on at Ste Devote, the Pole took first place. The duo pitted after exchanging fastest laps, handing Hamilton P1 on lap 34. He never looked back. Driving an astonishing 48 laps on one set of wet tyres, he finally jumped in for dries on lap 54. Despite a Safety Car for Rosberg’s huge shunt at Swimming Pool, Hamilton kept a cool head and led all the way from the restart to the race’s shortened two hour conclusion, despite picking up a puncture in the final laps, presumably on the debris from Rosberg’s crash. Behind him, Kubica and Massa fought long and hard over second position. Massa had taken the position back at the first stops, but when the duo stopped for a second time to take on dry tyres, it was Kubica, with three laps more running on the hard compound dry tyre, who took the advantage, beating Massa’s soft-tyre shod Ferrari by 1.7s at the flag. Fourth place should have gone to Adrian Sutil. The Force India driver had gambled on a one stop strategy and had been one of the fastest drivers of the race until a flying Kimi Raikkonen punted him out of the race on lap 67. The position went instead to Mark Webber who had driven a hard charging afternoon to pick up his fifth points finish in a row for Red Bull. The Australian was followed across the line by the super-impressive Sebastian Vettel, who brought the new STR3 Toro Rosso car home in the points on its race debut. Sixth was Rubens Barrichello, taking his first points in more than a season and doubling Honda’s previous tally, while Kazuki Nakajima took seventh position and two points for Williams in Sir Frank’s 600th Grand Prix at the helm of his eponymous team. The final point went to Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn had started from the pit-lane after a problem engaging first gear meant he hadn’t left the dummy grid. Starting plum last, he fought a solid race, overcoming every obstacle in his path to take eighth position after Raikkonen had taken out Sutil, and done for his own race in the process. The World Champion finished ninth. But it was Hamilton who shone the brightest through the clouds and rain of a chaotic Monaco Grand Prix. And with the win comes the championship lead, and a renewed confidence that he is once again the man to beat. 26