McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton battled to a masterful Monaco Grand Prix victory today despite hitting the barriers on an afternoon of mayhem on the principality’s slippery streets.
“This has got to be the highlight of my career and it will be the highlight for the rest of my life,” declared the ecstatic Briton, the first English winner of the showcase race since Graham Hill in 1969.
“Even if I win here again, which I plan on doing, this is the best one … it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a race.”
The Briton’s sixth win in 23 starts, and second of the season, catapulted him to the top of the standings, three points clear of Ferrari’s world champion Kimi Raikkonen who took ninth after a wet and crash-strewn race.
Poland’s Robert Kubica was second for BMW Sauber, 3.0 seconds behind, with Ferrari’s Brazilian Felipe Massa in third after starting on pole position.
Australia’s Mark Webber finished fourth in his Red Bull and is now seventh in the standings.
The race, glamour highlight of the Formula One season, was ended after the two hour mark was reached with 76 of the 78 scheduled laps completed.
“Great guys, fantastic job as always,” the jubilant Hamilton told his pit crew over the radio as he took the chequered flag.
“I apologise for hitting the barriers but we made up for it. Now let’s go and party tonight.”
Hamilton made a great start, taking Raikkonen for second place into the first corner, but had to pit on lap seven with a deflated right rear tyre after a brush with the barriers at the harbour-side Tabac corner.
The Briton rejoined in fifth but still with everything to play for on a circuit where the slightest mistake carries a heavy penalty.
Ironically, the early pit stop played into Hamilton’s hands as others literally slipped up, with Massa sliding off at the Ste Devote corner and handing the lead to Kubica for a long stretch before the pitstops.
Hamilton’s victory made up for the disappointment of finishing runner-up in a McLaren one-two last year and allowed him to emulate his late boyhood hero and champion Ayrton Senna as a Monaco winner.
“Incredible, an incredible feeling,” said Hamilton. “The last 20 laps were very emotional.”
In a race turned into a lottery by rain and crashes, Germany’s Sebastian Vettel fifth for Toro Rosso and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello sixth for Honda, his first points since 2006.
Hamilton’s friend Adrian Sutil provided the heartbreak and tears, the German starting 18th for Force India but enjoying the race of his life in fourth place until Raikkonen misjudged his braking and shunted him out at the tunnel exit with the chequered flag less than 10 minutes away.
“It was a great race with an incredibly sad ending,” said the distraught German.