Lewis Hamilton holds off Max Verstappen to win Monaco Grand Prix and extend championship lead

Oliver Brown
Lewis Hamilton took his fourth win of the season to extend his championship lead over Valtteri Bottas - PA
Lewis Hamilton took his fourth win of the season to extend his championship lead over Valtteri Bottas - PA

Drained by tension, and drenched from his plunge into the portside swimming pool, Lewis Hamilton believed he had conjured a Monaco miracle. To win for a third time on these streets, having toiled for 66 laps on fast-shredding rubber, while still fending off the attacks of a swarming Max Verstappen? It all amounted, he said, to “the hardest race I have ever had”.

Having worn a helmet designed in Niki Lauda’s signature colours, Hamilton claimed to have been possessed here in Monte Carlo by the late Austrian’s spirit. It was, to be sure, a study in cussedness that Lauda, who died last week at the age of 70, would have cherished. Hampered by Mercedes’ dubious early decision to switch him to medium tyres, Hamilton was forced on the defensive at every turn, using all his peerless racing acumen to thwart the surging young Dutchman in his rear-view mirrors.

Even in the dying stages, as Verstappen flew out of the tunnel and tried one last lunge at the Nouvelle Chicane, Hamilton kept up his thou-shalt-not-pass defiance. On a day when each member of Mercedes staff wore a black armband to mark Lauda’s passing, team principal Toto Wolff put it best. “Only Lewis can drive like that,” he said. “It was a drive by a champion, for a champion.”

Traditionally, it is in the rain that Hamilton delivers his most indelible displays: think Silverstone in 2008, or the chaotic conclusion at Hockenheim last year. While the faint threat of showers yesterday failed to materialise, he had more than enough to contend with in the dry, after an ill-thought switch to softer rubber during a safety-car period left him at Verstappen’s mercy for the rest of the afternoon.

Time and again, Hamilton ranted at his race engineer that the team had made the wrong call. “You guys need to hope for a miracle,” he said at one point, convinced that his tyres would disintegrate and deprive him of victory. Those back in the garage seemingly had other ideas. James Vowles, Mercedes’ head of strategy, who infamously had to accept fault on live television for his driver’s retirement in Austria last summer, told him: “Lewis, you can do it if you trust it.” Ultimately, it was the man with the laptop who was proved right. This was a triumph that owed less to luck or divine intervention than to Hamilton’s iron-clad resolve.

Lewis Hamilton is congratulated on his victory by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff - Credit: Reuters
Lewis Hamilton is congratulated on his victory by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff Credit: Reuters

“There were so many opportunities, to make a mistake, to give up, to make an excuse,” said Hamilton, breathless with all the mental energy he had expended. “But I thought, ‘I’m not letting go of this thing. There’s no way I’m coming in even if the tyres blow up.’ I still can’t believe I finished. I don’t know I did it, to be honest.”

On Wednesday, Hamilton will head to Vienna for Lauda’s funeral, an occasion that most Formula One drivers are expected to attend. Lauda was a figure of particular significance in the five-time world champion’s life, having brokered the move from McLaren to Mercedes that turned him from a prodigy into a legend. Hamilton has acknowledged that without such a guiding hand, he could still be marooned on 21 wins, rather than 77, and here he was determined to express his debt of gratitude.

Pointing to his bespoke helmet the moment he emerged from the car, he powerfully evoked Lauda’s memory. “I wanted to deliver for Niki,” he said. “When I was driving, I thought, ‘What would Niki do?’ I definitely feel that he was with me today. I have never won wearing someone else’s helmet design before, and I hope that one day I’m as respected as he was. He set a great example to follow.”

Glory in Monaco has often been hard to come by for Hamilton. Even with three wins in the principality, he remains far short of his idol Ayrton Senna’s record of six. As such, this was a feat he was determined to celebrate for its rarity. His first action, he explained, would be to telephone his father, Anthony, to ask him what he thought. Then, he suggested that he might be tempted by some unusual alcoholic indulgence. “I’m going to try to enjoy a glass of wine tonight, or a few,” he smiled. “From an expensive bottle, too.”

Such was Mercedes’ supremacy entering this race, with five straight one-two finishes, Hamilton, as the pole-sitter, might have dared to expect a serene day out in front. But the combination of a pit-stop miscalculation and Verstappen’s relentless pace ensured it was anything but. When Charles Leclerc’s damaged Ferrari scattered rubber all over the track, the subsequent safety-car period, triggering a rush of tyre changes, transformed a procession into a compelling pot-boiler.

Verstappen, who was given a five-second penalty for unsafe release after shunting Valtteri Bottas into the pit-lane barrier, knew that he had to make his choice of harder tyres count, and fast. His chase of Hamilton, trying desperately to control his pace so that he could last the course, made for one of Monaco’s most mesmerising pursuits. Each time they jousted through the Loews hairpin, his front wing was almost touching Hamilton’s rear wheel.

26th May 2019, Monte Carlo, Monaco; F1 Grand Prix of Monte Carlo, race day; Scuderia Ferrari, Charles Leclerc rear tire in shreds which will cause him to retire later in the race - Credit: Action Plus
Charles Leclerc's race ended after a collision with the wall Credit: Action Plus

Still Hamilton, who as a Monte Carlo veteran knew exactly where to place his car, would not succumb. Verstappen, who needed to make a pass and eke out a five-second advantage, understood that time was running out. When Red Bull gave him permission to engage maximum power, he made a last-ditch attempt at an overtake, clipping Hamilton’s Mercedes but finding no way around it. A brief stewards’ investigation absolved both drivers of blame. “I gave it my all,” said Verstappen, whose time punishment relegated him to fourth, behind Sebastian Vettel and Bottas. “I pushed Lewis as hard as I could.”

Sometimes, even the fiercest effort is not enough to deny Hamilton in this mood. For all his outbursts at Mercedes over the radio, Hamilton decided, both out of his love of Monaco and his determination to honour Lauda, that he would see this one through to the bitter end. On such days does he offer irrefutable proof of greatness.


Actually Ferrari's best finish of the season...

...not really reason to celebrate, mind you. 


Great result for Toro Rosso also...

...and especially Albon. His best finish in F1. 


It's definitely worth considering the format of the Monaco Grand Prix...

...with what happened today and last year. It's so difficult to overtake in the race. How about lengthening it to a three-hour endurance race? Or would that just lead to more tyre saving? Could be the best or worst idea ever...


You might think the best moment of the race...

...was the Verstappen/Hamilton incident at the end. But it wasn't really for the lead, given his penalty, so it wasn't really great. Probably Leclerc's move on Grosjean, then. That seems like an awful long time ago now. 


Driver of the day

 Maybe. Dunno. I'd give it to Sainz, to be honest. Not that we saw much of him on our screens. 


Super drive from Carlos Sainz for sixth place...

 McLaren making the most of what they have got. They seem to have a very decent all-round car this year. Haas, who have been ahead of them on raw pace, have fallen away on Sundays way too often. 


Updated constructor standings


Updated driver standings


Correction on the top 10...

...Grosjean apparently demoted to 10th, Ricciardo to ninth after his five second penalty. Well, that's what David Croft says on Sky Sports F1 but my timing screen indicates that Grosjean would still be ahead by a bit. Will look into that one. 


For Niki


Bottas reacts to third place

Disappointing weekend for me because I think the speed was really there. Small margins yesterday and that makes today difficult. I lost a bit of time in the pit stop. Bit of a Sunday drive in the end. 


Vettel reacts to second place...

It was obviously a tough race to manage. I thought we had a good stop but Max must've had an incredible stop. I saw them touching in the pit lane. There is a good chance for me we could capitalise on Valtteri's puncture. I struggled a little bit towards the end of the race. I struggled with my rears. Obviously a great result for us, great for the team. We know we are not quick enough compared to these guys. Congrats to Lewis. [Niki Lauda] would be happy today. We will definitely miss him. My thoughts are with his family. 


Hamilton reacts to his third Monaco GP victory

That was definitely the hardest race I think I have had. I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki. I know he would take his hat off today. I was trying to stay focused and make him proud. We truly miss him. I have not driven on empty tyres since Shanghai 2007 when McLaren left me out for a ridiculous time. I hope it wasn't too boring. 

I was never going to come in. A few years ago I was in the lead and then I came in for a pit stop. I was either going to crash or finish. Honestly, I was driving around on nothing. Ultimately it was the wrong tyre. Nonetheless, this team has done an incredible job. What we have achieved in the first six races is remarkable. 


Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VET

  3. BOT

  4. VER

  5. GAS

  6. SAI

  7. KVY

  8. ALB

  9. GRO

  10. RIC

Norris finishes just outside the top 10 in 11th. Magnussen, starting fifth, finishes 12th. 


The moment Verstappen and Hamilton collided



"That one is for Niki, mate, that one is for Niki," Hamilton is told on the radio. Not a great race but a great drive. 

"There is no-one else that could have done that," he is also told. He stayed on those mediums for a long time and delivered. But is that really what racing should be?



78/78. Almost done. 


Lap 77 of 78 - Well, it looks like it's going to be Hamilton/Vettel/Bottas podium..

...after Verstappen's penalty is applied. That incident is going to be investigated by the way. Ooooh. Could be another penalty for Verstappen to be honest. Can't see it being Hamilton's fault. 


Lap 76 of 78 - Oooh drama

Hamilton and Verstappen touch into the nouvelle chicane! He came from a long way back, locked up and hit Hamilton's rear...we nearly had it...


Lap 75 of 78 - the only way Lewis Hamilton doesn't win this race...

...is if he has a shunt or some kind of mechanical issue. Verstappen has a penalty, five seconds, yet to be applied. 


Lap 74 of 78 - Can Verstappen do it?

Verstappen gets closer than ever out of Portier...but still isn't close enough. The traction on that Mercedes is doing the job, as is he. Kevin Magnussen is about to be in their sights for a lapping. 


Lap 73 of 78 - Pierre Gasly sets a fastest lap of the race...

...this race hasn't been that dull, really, but when you know the chances of overtaking is so slim it dampens any enthusiasm. Wonder of Hamilton will complain this year if he wins that it was boring. I guarantee he will say "it wasn't boring in the car...".


Lap 72 of 78 - It's close out there...

...but does anyone doubt the ability of Hamilton to hold Verstappen off?


Lap 71 of 78 - Verstappen makes an error...

...and cuts the final chicane. Just 2.6s separates the top four though...something could happen, still...


Lap 70 of 78 - Verstappen really going for it now...

Verstappen is now closer than ever! He's so close into the hairpin but Hamilton defends brilliantly. Will he have a go into the hairpin? Does it really matter anyway? Verstappen isn't going to have enough laps to build a big enough lead. What an anti-climax the Monaco GP is nearly every year...


Lap 69 of 78 - Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. VET

  4. BOT

  5. GAS

  6. SAI

  7. KVY

  8. ALB

  9. GRO

  10. RIC

Verstappen told he can use full beams on his power unit. Can he do anything? Hamilton not very happy about this after being told.  


Lap 68 of 78 - We haven't heard much more from Hamilton on the radio...

...presumably he is buckling down and doing what he needs to do. Verstappen might not even finish on the podim here. In fact, he probably won't. 


Lap 67 of 78 - Verstappen just not close enough...

...to trouble Hamilton where he needs to. 


Lap 65 of 78 - The big thing is...

...that Verstappen doesn't just need to get past Hamilton but needs to be five seconds up the road of him or Vettel due to his penalty. Verstappen could cross the line first and then Hamilton would still win. We are running out of laps now...


Lap 64 of 78 - It seems bizarre to say it...

...but Hamilton is strolling to victory here. That's the absurdity of the Monaco Grand Prix. 


Lap 63 of 78 - that rain hasn't arrived...

...and Hamilton hasn't stopped complaining about his tyres. Two constants. 


Lap 62 of 78 - Mercedes chief strategist gives Hamilton...

...some words of encouragement. Verstappen isn't even really close enough to even have a look at the moment. Gasly pits...he had a pit stop in hand, he'll be going for the quickest lap point. 


Lap 61 of 78 - Verstappen within half a second now...

Hamilton is having to brake earlier than ever now. He doesn't have the confidence on the braks at the moment. Backmarkers coming up as well! Please, something happen!


Lap 60 of 78 - Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. VET

  4. BOT

  5. GAS

  6. SAI

  7. KVY

  8. ALB

  9. GRO

  10. RIC

Good race from Grosjean after that superb first stint. 


Lap 59 of 78 - Hamilton: "You need to hope for a miracle"

He's worried. But if he were to pit he'd end up in fifth. He can win it from here. It might be hard but this is the best strategy. Hope his team have just started to ignore him. 


Lap 58 of 78 - With 20 laps to go...

...will Max Verstappen risk it? Remember he has a five second penalty so even if he passes Hamilton he needs to be five seconds ahead of him and Vettel. Or will Red Bull settle? He'd be fourth after his penalty is applied on current timings. 


Lap 57 of 78 - Hamilton's leads Verstappen by 0.5s

As he has done for about a year now. 


I have a feeling he's hoping for a "no"...

 Call it a gut feeling. 


Lap 55 of 78 - How are Hamilton's tyres looking?

Pretty rough. 

 Vettel, meanwhile, has dropped back a bit further. Hamilton getting angrier and angrier.

"We are going to lose this race...I can't manage any more on these tyres. I can't keep the car behind, Bono, can't you see that?"


Lap 54 of 78 - Hamilton leads Verstappen by 0.7s...

Norris is just outside of the points at the moment. The rain still hasn't arrived in any real way. I'd be surprised if many spots made it to the tarmac before evaporating. 


Lap 52 of 78 - Hamilton's front left does look pretty worn...

...but will it make any real difference? He's going to have to make a mistake, you think, unless they REALLY drop off. But Verstappen's tyres aren't exactly fresh, either. 

Top 10:

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. VET

  4. BOT

  5. GAS

  6. SAI

  7. KVY

  8. ALB

  9. GRO

  10. RIC

Remember Verstappen has a five second penalty. So that's another complication here. If he is going to win he needs to get past and then scamper away. 


Lap 51 of 78 - Vettel gets a bit closer to the front two...

...1.833s separate them at the end of the lap. 


Lap 50 of 78 - Hamilton: "I think I am in big trouble guys"

"Left front is dead". His team tell him he isn't going to stop. The rain stays away. If only there was ONE overtaking spot on this track...

Meanwhile Grosjean finally stops on lap 51. He was on the softs all that time...


Lap 48 of 78 - No real problem for Hamilton and Verstappen with the backmarkers yet...

...but Bottas gets blocked by Stroll around Tabac. It's hard to overtake but generally the lapped cars just jump off the throttle and racing line. Verstappen's car or brakes are overheating, he's told to lift and coast. 


Lap 47 of 78 - 30 laps to go...

...or so. The leaders are now about to approach seven or eight midfield cars. Hamilton says he's definitely in a bad way. Mercedes do not want to pit him. It's so hard to overtake here so I can see why but he doesn't like the state of his tyres. 


Lap 46 of 78 - Hamilton leads Verstappen...

Magnussen and Perez have a tight tussle into the chicane. A bit of wheelbanging as the Haas cuts the chicane a little and takes the place. Is the "rain" getting heavier?


Lap 45 of 78 - a gaggle of backmarkers coming up now for the leaders to deal with...

...one of them peels into the pits, which is handy. This could be interesting. 


Lap 44 of 78 - Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. VET

  4. BOT

  5. GRO

  6. GAS

  7. SAI

  8. KVY

  9. ALB

  10. NOR


Not you too, McLaren...

Stop teasing us. 


Lap 43 of 78 - a few more spots of rain on the camera...

...but nothing much anywhere else. Vettel and Bottas sit patiently behind Verstappen and Hamilton. Albon just sets the fastest lap on fresh mediums, nearly two seconds quicker than the leaders. 


Lap 42 of 78 - Hamilton complaining about being on the wrong tyres...

...his race engineer says it's alright at the moment. Grosjean has done 40-odd laps on his softs so far and is lapping in the 1.16s...he tells him. Fair point. 


Lap 41 of 78 - Frontrunners approaching backmarkers now...

...but Kubica gets well out of the way. Not sure what happened to Ferrari's weather forecast. 


Lap 40 of 78 - This image is burned onto my retinas

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W10 leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15 on track - Credit: Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W10 leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15 on track Credit: Getty Images

 Alex Albon pits from P5. No rain yet, either. 


Lap 39 of 78 - Hamilton leads Verstappen at half distance...

...Vettel and Bottas hanging back a little. Verstappen's tyres not looking super happy, to be fair. 


Lap 37 of 78 - Hmmmm

This is getting quite repetitive now as we wait for rain or something to happen. I think we will have a better idea in 10 laps time, obviously. At the moment it's all a bit vague. If Hamilton hangs on here without stopping. Well that would be quite something in many ways...


Lap 36 of 78 - Hamilton and Verstappen lapping very similarly...

...the gap has been at around 0.5-0.8s for what seems like forever. 


Lap 35 of 78 - Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. VET

  4. BOT

  5. ALB

  6. GRO

  7. GAS

  8. SAI

  9. KVY

  10. NOR

Hamilton asks about going for the hard tyre at the next stop. He is told Verstappen is struggling with his tyres as much. Is this race coming to Vettel and Bottas?


Lap 34 of 78 - Hamilton is 0.6s ahead of Verstappen

Verstappen's tyres starting to look a bit off now. 


Lap 32 of 78 - Kvyat finally pits from P5...

...he goes onto the mediums. Albon now up into fifth. Kvyat comes out JUST behind Sainz in the McLaren, who is the fastest man on track by over 1.5s...Hamilton really slow now and is complaining about his front left. 


Lap 31 of 78 - Here we go...

Kvyat and Albon up into P5 and P6. 


Lap 30 of 78 - I see a couple of spots of rain on the camera...

...do I? Hamilton crosses the line 0.640 ahead of Verstappen. Verstappen, by the way, has a five second time penalty. Which would drop him down to fourth. So Vettel might be in the best position here. But maybe not. It's all a bit of a waiting game here. Hamilton needs a safety car or rain to help him out here. 


Lap 29 of 78 - Verstappen harrying Hamilton...

...he's still within a second of him. 


Lap 27 of 78 - Hamilton picks the pace up...

...as Verstappen puts him under pressure. Smart move. Get it moving, no point helping Hamilton manage his tyres until the end of the race. 

The top four are all within 2.4s of each other. Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel and Bottas. This is reminding me of the 2011 race when Vettel, Alonso and Button battled it out like this. 


Lap 26 of 78 - Verstappen informed of his penalty...

...as he gets quite a bit closer to Hamilton. Hamilton clearly managing his tyres here. Heavily. It's interesting but a bit rubbish, to be honest. This is the problem with Monaco every year. 


Lap 24 of 78 - Some confusion about weather...

...really. Some light spots around. Is it going to rain soon? No idea. Not sure Hamilton is sitting pretty here. He will have to do 60-odd laps on these medium tyres. 


Lap 23 of 78 - Top 10 and gaps for the top six

  1. HAM

  2. VER +0.8

  3. VET +1.7

  4. BOT +2.4

  5. GAS +4.1

  6. SAI +5.9

  7. KVY

  8. ALB

  9. GRO

  10. NOR


Lap 22 of 78 - Verstappen has five second time penalty for unsafe release...

Not a huge punishment, there. The smallest penalty of all, really. He still has a good chance of victory here...


Lap 21 of 78 - Hamilton queries his strategy

"I don't know how long they will last," he asks about his tyres. He wants to know what he's supposed to be doing. He knows he's driving very slowly. Surely he can't go to the end? They are about two seconds off what they were doing at the start of the race...bit of a chess game now. A chess game in the dark. 


Lap 20 of 78 - Hamilton leads Verstappen by 0.8s...

...Verstappen lapping just about quicker but Hamilton clearly managing his tyres. Still no rain. 



The damage is too much, his car is finished, undriveable. He pulls into the garage. 

Is Hamilton managing his tyres here? He hasn't pulled away on the quicker mediums...hardly at all. 



Here's an image of Red Bull's unsafe release of Verstappen...

...it was worse than it looks. 


Lap 17 of 78 - Mercedes brought Bottas in for a second time under the safety car...

...because they think he had a slow puncture. 

Meanwhile Hamilton leads Verstappen by under a second. Vettel not too far behind him. 


Lap 15 of 78 - Hamilton keeps the lead after the SC comes in...

...no real drama on the restart. No rain yet, either. Hamilton is on the medium tyre. Verstappen, Vettel and Bottas on the hards. This could unfold interestingly in the next 60-odd laps...in theory Verstappen, Vettel and Bottas could go to the end...

Oh, there's a traffic jam at Rascasse, caused by Giovinazzi tagging Russell down the inside...

Incident at La Rascasse - Credit: Sky Sports F1
Incident at La Rascasse Credit: Sky Sports F1

 They, somehow, get it all sorted out by spinning around in fairly quick time. Verstappen under investigation for the unsafe release. Leclerc pits again!


Hamilton backs the pack up...

Lewis Hamilton leads the field under the safety car - Credit: Sky Sports F1
Lewis Hamilton leads the field under the safety car Credit: Sky Sports F1


Lap 13 of 78 - Running order under the SC

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. VET

  4. BOT

  5. GAS

  6. SAI

  7. KVY

  8. ALB

  9. GRO

  10. NOR

  11. STR

  12. RAI

  13. RIC

  14. MAG

  15. KUB

  16. GIO

  17. PER

  18. HUL

  19. RUS

  20. LEC

Who hasn't stopped? Everyone from Gasly to Raikkonen, then Kubica. 

Safety car in this lap.


The moment Leclerc spun it

 The safety car came out due to the debris from Leclerc's tyre on the track. 


Lap 12 of 78 - SAFETY CAR PERIOD

Hmmm. It was an unsafe release by Red Bull, surely. Verstappen and Bottas actually collided in the pit lane. A bit of damage to the Finn's floor, it seems, debris flying off. He pits again...two stops under the safety car. Not sure that was because of damage but he has gone onto the hard tyre...


A close-up of Leclerc's tyre

Charles Leclerc's tyre heavily damaged - Credit: SKY SPORTS F1
Charles Leclerc's tyre heavily damaged Credit: SKY SPORTS F1



Lap 11 of 78 - both Mercedes and Ferrari pit...

Hamilton in under the safety car. Bottas comes in also...can he get out ahead of Vettel? Yes! But he's not ahead of Verstappen! The Red Bull is ahead!


Lap 10 of 78 - Leclerc pits...

...after running around with a tyre flailing all over the place. He has now been lapped. 

SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED.Debris on the track. 


Lap 9 of 78 - Leclerc spins!

Leclerc collides with Hulkenberg into Rascasse! Similar to the previous move. Almost exactly the same, Hulkenberg gave him room but he spun on exit! He's got a puncture from it, he must have hit the barrier. Oh well, this was predictable...


Lap 8 of 78 - Hamilton is now a pit stop ahead of fifth placed Daniel Ricciardo...

...and Leclerc DOES make the move on Grosjean into La Rascasse. Very late on the brakes, very bold and he makes it stick. "That was kamikaze!" Grosjean says. "We'll look at it," his engineer says. Nothing in it, really. The room was there...


Leclerc puts the move on Norris on lap three


Lap 6 of 78 - Top 10

  1. HAM

  2. BOT

  3. VER

  4. VET

  5. RIC

  6. MAG

  7. GAS

  8. SAI

  9. KVY

  10. ALB

Good work from Ricciardo to get up into P5. He's 13s off Vettel ahead of him, though, allowing the top four to get away. Leclerc has another lunge heading into La Rascasse. Not quite this time...


Lap 5 of 78 - Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.2s

Oof! Leclerc almost puts one down the inside of Grosjean in the chicane. Thinks better of it, though. I can see a collision here, to be honest. 


Lap 4 of 78 - Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.3s

Replays show Verstappen backed out of making a move on Bottas in turn one at the start. Fair, it would have been almost certain contact. 


Lap 3 of 78 - Hamilton leads as Bottas gets within DRS range...

...not that it's must use around here, to be honest. Leclerc right up on the back of Grosjean now...


Lap 2 of 78 - Leclerc gets past Norris...

...as Hamilton leads. Leclerc did it right up the inside of the hairpin this time. Bold move. He's up into P13 now. 



Hamilton and Bottas get good starts, they go 1-2 into the first corner with Verstappen close behind! Bottas just about made it past him cleanly. Leclerc going around the outside of Norris at the hairpin. Or trying to! Stroll and Raikkonen touch!

Hamilton leads Bottas after one lap...


It's nearly time...




Looks like everyone gets away cleanly. The 90 per cent chance of rain is for the entire session, by the way. That doesn't say much about how heavy it will be, mind. 

Everyone in the top 10 starts on the soft tyres. Hulkenberg in 11th, Norris in 12th, Leclerc, Perez, Stroll in 14th-16th on mediums as are both Williams cars at the back. 


If it is dry, though...here are the main strategies


A chance of light rain in 15 minutes...

...need a bit more than that, I think. "Higher intensity stuff" apparently on the way, according to Lewis Hamilton's engineer. 


Predictions then?

I reckon a smattering of rain about 40 minutes in. A safety car on lap one. Bottas to beat Hamilton off the line. Leclerc to end up sticking it into the barriers in frustration. 


Remembering Niki Lauda


Paul Di Resta of Sky Sports F1...

...has been speaking to the safety car driver who has said they expect some rain. David Croft, lead commentator for the same channel, says it's now a 90 per cent chance of rain during the race. Not sure of his meteorological credentials, though. 

Just under 10 minutes until lights out. 


What can the number 33 car do from third on the grid?

I backed Verstappen to win here earlier in the week but he will need a MEGA first lap or a bit of luck if that is to happen. 


Martin Brundle is finishing off his grid walk...

...it hasn't been the most eventful, really. It's quite cramped and looks a little hellish, to be honest. 


The final starting grid...

  1. Hamilton

  2. Bottas

  3. Verstappen

  4. Vettel

  5. Magnussen

  6. Ricciardo

  7. Kvyat

  8. Gasly

  9. Sainz

  10. Albon

  11. Hulkenberg

  12. Norris

  13. Grosjean

  14. Raikkonen

  15. Leclerc

  16. Perez

  17. Stroll

  18. Giovinazzi

  19. Russell

  20. Kubica


You may have noticed the red halo on the Mercedes car...

...they have painted it red as a tribute to Niki Lauda's trademark red baseball cap. It also carries the message "Niki, we miss you". Lauda was the non-exec chairman of the Mercedes F1 team. 

Formula One F1 - Monaco Grand Prix - Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco - May 25, 2019 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during practice  - Credit: Reuters
Mercedes have modified their halo as a tribute to Niki Lauda Credit: Reuters


Very few people get the chance to drive around Monaco in an F1 car...

...and, to be honest, a lot of the onboard footage makes me feel a bit queasy. Especially through the swimming pool and Tabac sections of the track. Still, this video of Hamilton's pole lap is worth a watch. 


It has not been a good season for Williams this year...

...but our Chief Sports Feature Writer Oliver Brown spoke to their deputy team principal Claire Williams about the team and being a woman in male-dominated F1, amongst other things.  Read it all here. 


Cars heading out onto the track from the pitlane


Speaking of Graham Hill...

...as the only man who won the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 hours and the Indianapolis 500. This evening also sees the running of the 2019 Indy 500.  One man who won't be taking part will be Fernando Alonso, who had tried to qualify in a McLaren entry but failed to get into the top 33, finishing 34th and not making the cut. Ouch. It was a pretty messy situation for McLaren all in all. 

Fernando Alonso, of Spain, drives through turn one during practice for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Credit: AP
Fernando Alonso did not qualify for this year's Indy 500 Credit: AP

The Indy 500 starts about 5.20pm BST though there is rain forecast. Speaking of which, it looks like it has clouded over in Monaco.  


Current driver standings


So, how is it looking for rain during the race?

Well, it's certainly possible. 

The chances of rain during today's race - Credit: accuweather.com
The chances of rain during today's race Credit: accuweather.com

The race starts at 3.10pm local time.  


You can't beat old photos of Monaco Grand Prix...

Here's Graham Hill, five-time winner, driving his Lotus in 1968 when he took his fourth win in the principality. 

Graham Hill's Lotus leading John Surtees' Honda, Monaco Grand Prix, 1968 - Credit: HULTON ARCHIVE
Graham Hill's Lotus leading John Surtees' Honda, Monaco Grand Prix, 1968 Credit: HULTON ARCHIVE

 And here's one of Stirling Moss in '61. 

1961 Stirling Moss driving a Lotus 18 at Monaco GP  - Credit: GP Library
1961 Stirling Moss driving a Lotus 18 at Monaco GP Credit: GP Library


Reminder that Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi

...have picked up three-place grid penalties for blocking drivers in qualifying. This was Gasly's incident, which incurred the wrath of Romain Grosjean, and rightly so. He later defended Gasly, saying that it was Red Bull who didn't instruct their driver of his imminent arrival on a hot lap. 


So, this is Kimi Raikkonen's 300th F1 race...

...although not his 300th F1 start. He has joined a pretty exclusive club this weekend. What can he do from down the grid? Probably not a lot, to be honest, given how tough it is to overtake here. Points, though?


A bit more qualifying analysis here...

...this shows the best sector times for all the drivers, their potential best time and their actual best qualifying time. As you can see only two drivers managed to put their three best sectors together but quite a few were within a tenth or so.

Best sector times from qualifying in Monaco
Best sector times from qualifying in Monaco

In Bottas's last two pole positions - in Azerbaijan and Barcelona - him hooking up his best three sectors was key to beating Hamilton to top spot. This time he didn't manage it. Still, had he done it here Hamilton still would have taken pole, so credit to Lewis. 


Niki Lauda: F1 career and life in pictures

Niki Lauda driving his Ferrari during the 1977 Monaco Grand Prix - Credit: Getty Images/Tony Duffy
Niki Lauda driving his Ferrari during the 1977 Monaco Grand Prix Credit: Getty Images/Tony Duffy

 Plenty more of those excellent images from the life and career of a true F1 legend. 


All drivers wearing red Niki Lauda tribute caps on the drivers' parade


Final times after qualifying

Final qualifying times:

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 10.166secs

  2. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:10.252

  3. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:10.641

  4. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:10.947

  5. Pierre Gasly* (Fra) Red Bull 1:11.041

  6. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:11.109

  7. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:11.218

  8. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:11.271

  9. Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:11.417

  10. Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:11.653

  11. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:11.670

  12. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:11.724

  13. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:12.027

  14. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.115

  15. Antonio Giovinazzi* (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.185

  16. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:12.149

  17. Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:12.233

  18. Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:12.846

  19. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:13.477

  20. Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:13.751

* Gasly and Giovinazzi awarded three-place grid penalties for blocking other drivers in qualifying  


Good afternoon...

...and welcome to out liveblog for the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, the 77th edition of the historic race.  Yesterday's qualifying session was interesting again. They have, unfortunately, tended to be a bit more entertaining than the actual races this year.

Lewis Hamilton pipped Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to pole position at the death. Ferrari, again, faltered, with Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth and Charles Leclerc failing to make it out of Q1 after his team opted not to send him out for a second run, thinking his time was good enough to get him into Q2. It wasn't, as a ton of drivers behind him improved their times. It is another mistake to add the their ever-expanding catalogue of errors this season.

"Hopefully it rains and then there will be a bit of lottery in there. If it’s dry it’s going to be boring – I’ll have to take a lot of risks I think, even risking to crash," Leclerc said after qualifying. 

"But at the end that’s the only thing we need to do now is to try to be extreme in our overtaking because this is a track where it is basically impossible to overtake, so we will see."

Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc leaves the pits during the qualifying session at the Monaco street circuit on May 25, 2019 in Monaco, ahead of the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. - Credit: Boris Horvat/AFP
Charles Leclerc disappointingly failed to make it out of Q1 and will start 15th Credit: Boris Horvat/AFP

More on that later, but Leclerc was not particularly happy and it is no wonder - this is his home race and it is nearly impossible to overtake here. Without a safety car, rain or something astonishing happening it will be difficult for him to score any decent points. 

Of all Hamilton's 76 wins he has only won here twice and only once since 2008, which is fairly remarkable, really. It is not his best track and nor is it Mercedes'. Nor has it been we should say, as they are clearly the strongest team  this year. 

At the moment, the championship looks like being a fight between the two Mercedes drivers, who have won and finished second in every single race so far in 2019. No team has ever scored six consecutive 1-2 finishes. Mercedes can and look likely to do it here today. 

Fingers crossed for a bit of rain. There is a possibility of a downpour during the race but I can't say I am optimistic about a wet one. Still, there is always the chance for some unpredictability with those barriers lurking nearby. It'd be nice to not have another boring 90 minutes anyway. I'll be here for the next few hours with all the build-up, live updates and reaction.