MONTE CARLO, May 25 – Nico Rosberg turned his controversial pole position on Saturday into a faultless victory on Sunday when his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton lost both his vision and his lead in the drivers’ championship.
As mounting attention on their rivalry created a tense atmosphere around the Mercedes team, Rosberg delivered a flawless demonstration of speed, race-craft and good manners to claim a second successive triumph in the Monaco Grand Prix.
His victory enabled him to regain momentum in the title race and, significantly after a difficult weekend, left Hamilton struggling in his wake, on and off the circuit.
Having set himself the goal of claiming his maiden pole and a second victory on the streets of the Mediterranean principality, the 2008 winner Hamilton completed his day by not only fending off charging Daniel Ricciardo, of Red Bull, to keep second place, but also ducking probing questions in a post-race news conference.
To one reporter, who asked about his suggestion on Saturday that he may copy Ayrton Senna’s actions to take revenge after Rosberg’s off-circuit excursion on his final qualifying lap, Hamilton replied by saying ‘it was just a joke.’
He also had to explain how Rosberg’s father Keke, the ‘original flying Finn’ who won the 1983 Monaco Grand Prix after taking the world title the previous year by winning a single race, had been the inspiration for his comments, widely published on Friday, about their contrasting family backgrounds fuelling his appetite for success.
To many other questions, he half-smiled or remained silent, adding, it seemed, a temporary loss of speech to his loss of vision, points and pride.
Ricciardo finished third ahead of Fernando Alonso of Ferrari in a much closer finish than expected after some dirt had crept into Hamilton’s left eye 14 laps from the finish and ruined his hopes of catching Rosberg to fight for victory.
It was Rosberg’s second consecutive triumph in his home event, his second win of the 2014 season and the fifth win of his career. Victory lifted him four points clear of Hamilton in the championship.
– Marussia celebrate first points –
Two-time former champion Alonso finished fourth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Force India and Jenson Button who finished sixth for McLaren.
Felipe Massa came home seventh for Williams, Jules Bianchi was eighth for Marussia ahead of fellow-Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus and Magnussen finished 10th in the second McLaren.
Rosberg’s win lifted him to 122 points in the title race ahead of Hamilton, who was only half a second ahead of Ricciardo as they crossed the line, on 118.
“It’s another special day for me, for sure,” said Rosberg, whose impeccable behaviour in victory was in conspicuous contrast to Hamilton’s apparently taciturn and sulky mood.
“Lewis drove well and pushed me massively hard. The pressure was on, but I kept it cool and pulled a bit of a gap at the end because of the refreshed tyres.”
Rosberg kept his dignity, too, when reporters asked him to react to Hamilton’s reported comments. He had not heard them and did not read the media, he said, adding that he expected their rivalry to remain intense, but sporting, for the rest of the season.
Describing his loss of left-eye vision, Hamilton said: “It was just something that came through the visor, but it was nothing important and it was a good day for us.
“It’s very important for the team to get another 1-2. I had great pace and I felt I was strong, but it’s incredibly difficult to overtake here.”
Ricciardo, who took full advantage of his Red Bull team-mate defending four-time champion Sebastian Vettel’s retirement, this time with a power failure, was left to smile alongside them, having claimed his second podium finish in succession.
“It’s really nice to be on the podium,” he said.
“The start was not great, it was frustrating. Sebastian had a problem and I got fourth, then (Kimi) Raikkonen had a puncture so we inherited third.
It was a red letter day for the British-based Marussia team, who through Bianchi gained their first ever points.