Lewis Hamilton’s determination was enough to overcome the carnage of an accident-marred race and win the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton brushed off a crash into the wall six laps in and adopted a new strategy to lap up the rain-soaked streets of Formula One’s marquee race and win by four seconds over BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica.
The 23-year-old celebrated like he’d won the championship even if he only just took the overall F1 standings lead away from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
“From the last corner onwards, I was screaming my head off basically, making sure the radio was off, but just so happy that I was able to pull it off,” said Hamilton, the first English driver to win at Monaco since Graham Hill in 1969. “With the incident that I had, it definitely makes it even more satisfying.”
Hamilton’s right tire was hanging off when his rear swerved into the wall coming through the Piscine chicane. He dragged his car into the pits and got back out in fourth place — with more fuel for a longer run that proved the key.
Holding a 40-second lead, Hamilton was forced to dig in for his sixth career win when Nico Rosberg of Williams crashed with 17 laps left to send out the safety car and bring the back-markers into the mix.
But Hamilton steered clear of trouble for the win he has dreamed of since he was a kid watching three-time world champion Ayrton Senna drive to six wins in Monaco.
“Lewis was sensational and his performance was just terrific,” McLaren vice president Norbert Haug said. “The fight for the championship is wide open, and we certainly want to go for it.”
Ferrari, which had won four straight races coming into the race, prepared long and hard for Monaco but the rain threw off its plans despite a front row start for both of its drivers.
Pole sitter Felipe Massa slid off to surrender the lead then picked the wrong tires to end up third, while Raikkonen’s problems started when Hamilton overtook him at the first corner.
The defending world champion had to perform a drive-through penalty because the team failed to get his tires on in the allotted time before the race.
The Finn then slid off at the same corner as his Brazilian team-mate to damage the front wing of his car, before running into the back of Adrian Sutil to destroy a second nose with nine laps remaining.
Raikkonen, who trails Hamilton by three points, finished ninth.
Ferrari has won only five of the last 31 races at Monaco compared to McLaren’s 15 in 26, and hasn’t won F1’s marquee race since Michael Schumacher’s victory in 2001. Ferrari holds a 16-point edge over McLaren in the constructors’ standings.
Massa trails Hamilton by four points and holds a two-point lead over Poland’s Kubica going into the Canadian GP at Montreal on June 8.
In all, six cars failed to finish after rain soaked the short circuit ahead of the 55th edition, while intermittent rain caused a of collisions that saw the drivers in and out of pit lane throughout.
Sutil, who was on course for Force India’s first points, was knocked out to allow Mark Webber of Red Bull to move up into fourth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel, who scored his first points of the season.
Rubens Barrichello of Honda snapped a 22-race pointless drought with a sixth-place finish ahead of Kazuki Nakajima of Williams.
McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, who stalled during the formation lap to start last, earned the final point in eighth.