Raikkonen never escaped Vettel’s clutches, and pitted at the end of Lap 34 as Ferrari responded to the stops of Verstappen & Bottas behind.
Verstappen took advantage of the pause to pit for fresh ultra-soft tyres before, when the action resumed after 66 laps, the final chase, and battle of attrition, began.
“But who knows, it might go the other way – I might need to give Valtteri the upper hand”. But then I had a second attempt.
In fact, so tame were the opening few seconds that the top seven all retained their positions.
But the twists and turns of Monaco are so tight that even when the field bunched up after a late safety auto, thanks to a tangle between Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein, Hamilton was unable to make any further progress. I was a bit too greedy in my last run.
However, echoing the post-race views of his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner, Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff believes Ferrari’s pitwall could not have known before pitting Raikkonen that the “overcut” would prove so powerful for Vettel. “To be 25 points down is a long way, but I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure a weekend like this is not repeated“. From thereon, the Mercedes Finn was sandwiched by the two Red Bulls till the finish line.
But by the time the chequered flag was waved, Hamilton had risen through the field to finish seventh. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas – Ferrari 9.
If Hamilton pits at the end of the first lap and the safety vehicle comes out at an early stage of the race, he will cruise up to the back of the pack, which will all need to pit at some point.
“I know how it feels, it’s not a good feeling”, reigning champion Nico Rosberg, who retired at the end of past year, consoled him at the post-race interview.
Lance Stroll avoided the safety barriers during the qualifying session, but this time it was his Williams vehicle that refused to comply. “When you get the safety vehicle, these tyres are like driving on ice”.
Sergio Perez set the fastest lap of the race but had two incidents in the race. Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium) McLaren 13.
Button, in what is likely to be his last race, retired having sustained significant damage to the front left of his McLaren following the crash. Looking at the drivers’ standings for the season, Vettel leads the race, have 129 points in the bag.
Hamilton received help from teammate Valtteri Bottas at the Bahrain Grand Prix when the Finn let him pass for second place, but Mercedes justified that by saying it was the team’s best chance of winning. “It’s still second place but it doesn’t count a lot in my books at least”.