Lewis Hamilton: Monaco the hardest race of my life
Lewis Hamilton described the Monaco Grand Prix as “the hardest race” of his Formula 1 career, as he ran a 68-lap stint on Medium tyres to hold off Max Verstappen.
Hamilton edged Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas for pole position and retained the lead off the line, with Bottas slotting into second and Verstappen third.
The Safety Car period triggered by Charles Leclerc brought forward the pit stop window and Mercedes fitted Mediums to Hamilton’s car, while Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel were equipped with Hards.
Hamilton repeatedly voiced his concern over the durability of the tyres and spent the rest of the race defending against Verstappen – who jumped Bottas in the pit phase – with the duo making contact late on.
Hamilton ultimately held on to beat Verstappen by half a second across the line to chalk up victory at the event for the third time in his career.
“It was definitely… I think it was the hardest race I’ve had,” he said.
“Obviously I’ve had a lot of races in my entire career, even beyond Formula 1.
“I think just globally, just in the car, with the tyres, with the strategy, with the circumstances with Max behind, yeah it was the biggest challenge I think I’ve had.
“But I’m really, really grateful that I was able to pull it off.
“But of course there were multiple things coming into my thought process.
“I’ve got 38 laps to go and I’ve got no tyres left and I’m thinking that ‘there is no way that with the feeling that I have and with the pace that I have to do at the moment that I’m going to make it’.
“It’s a horrible feeling to have that, as the thought of having to doing another stop obviously means we’re not going to win the race. I’ve been there before.
“A few years ago [in 2015] I was leading this race by 20 seconds, the safety car came out, pitted, came out third, and your heart just sinks, so I was like: ‘I’m not coming in, whatever the case. I’m just going to drive around with no tyres until they blow up.’
“With sheer will I just kept pushing.”
Hamilton added that he was inspired by the late Niki Lauda during the course of the race, and paid tribute to the three-time World Champion, who died last Monday.
“I really, really tried my best to stay focused and not crack under pressure, because Max was doing a great job behind on a much better tyre,” he said.
“This week has been such a hard week, emotionally, for us as a team and me personally, I just really, really wanted to do the job.
“I really wanted to deliver on the word of Niki, and imagining him taking the hat off in support.
“When I was driving I was like, ‘what would Niki do?’ so I just kept going.
“Ultimately I’m really grateful for the opportunity the team gave us this weekend to have the car we had and the team continues to evolve and improve and we’re growing constantly as a team, even through our faults.
“We win and lose as a team, and I also wanted to pull it through for the team, because so many guys aback at the factory deserve it. So a proud one for us.”