In resplendent Monaco, famed for its beautiful people and warm climate......it rained.
This turned out to be a great leveller for Hamilton and Ricciardo who could prove that precision driving and confidence in wet conditions would triumph on a track that Nelson Piquet once likened to "riding a bicycle around your living room." Rosberg admitted he suffered "a complete lack of confidence in those conditions" citing brake and tyre issues. There were also seven non-finishers due to the difficulties that the weather created.
Hamilton won - his first win here since 2008 and his first win this year - after a closely fought battle with Ricciardo. Thus ending his worst run since the end of 2013 and an 8 race winless streak. His season before Monaco had been one of bad luck, technical issues, poor starts and in Spain a race-ending crash with his teammate on the first lap. And now some good fortune - the rain, a tentative Rosberg and a delayed pit stop for Ricciardo.
" I prayed for a day like this and it came through......as soon as it rained, having experienced it here in 2008, I knew anything could happen." (Hamilton)
Hamilton had started 3rd behind Ricciardo and Rosberg. But Rosberg struggled with his car in the wet conditions. Toto Wolff put it down to him being unable to generate the correct tyre temperature. The safety car was out until Lap 8 when the race could start - and Ricciardo soon built up a huge lead. By lap 16 he was 13.1 seconds in front and Mercedes ordered an unsettled Rosberg to let Hamilton pass.
At lap 23 Hamilton had only cut Ricciardo's lead by 2 seconds - until Red Bull decided to pull Ricciardo in for intermediate tyres. This gave Hamilton the lead. Despite his rapidly deteriorating 'extreme' wet tyres he hung onto this lead. He made his only pit stop during lap 31 - choosing the ultra soft tyres. Ricciardo pitted again on lap 32 for supersofts -but was delayed because Red Bull didn't have the tyres ready - despite calling him in for them. This allowed Hamilton to take the lead.
Hamilton benefitted enormously from this error by Red Bull. But also from his own call to delay a tyre change on a drying track - until he could go straight to slick tyres. The only other driver to attempt this was back marker Pascal Wehrlein. Who can blame Hamilton for risking it? He can only have been mindful of last year when a poorly timed pit stop cost him his commanding lead and ultimate victory. And this time it paid off. "It was crazy how long it was (on those tyres)" (Hamilton)
Lap 37 as Hamilton and Ricciardo left the corner following the tunnel - Ricciardo duped him into overshooting the chicane and as Hamilton recovered, moved alongside him. Hamilton then squeezed him, edging closer and closer to the right hand barrier. Ricciardo had no choice but to back off. The incident was investigated and no action was taken.
In a masterclass of defensive driving, worthy of Senna, he held off Ricciardo for 45 laps. His car had gone from feeling 'like a four poster bed' earlier in the season, to being wholly under his command. Even with wet, worn tyres and Ricciardo on new intermediates he didn't falter.
During the last 10 laps Hamilton let go - setting faster lap times and increasing his lead. He was finally in control this season and began to enjoy it.
Red Bull stuck with the 3 stop strategy that so failed Ricciardo in Spain (where he lost a 28 lap lead and ended up coming 4th). But it was the team delay on the 3rd pit stop that cost him the race - eventually taking 2nd place. "How do I feel? Without swearing it's difficult."
Mexican Sergio Perez had one of the best races of his career - with no mistakes and well managed tyres to take 3rd place. After a tough time at McLaren he is looking stronger.
Vettel had admitted that he didn't deal with the Monaco traffic well. And even though he was a second faster than Perez the tight track wouldn't allow him to get past - having to settle for 4th.
Alonso had an impressive race in difficult conditions - with well timed tyre changes gaining him ground to take 5th place.
During the final lap Hulkenberg passed Rosberg to take 6th place. "He had loads of rubber left and I had no rubber left. He had more temperature and with the rain mine were stone cold." (Rosberg) So what happened to the 7 non-finishers?
Max Verstappen could not capitalise on his exceptional win in Spain - crashing for the third time in two days. A dispiriting time for him, but hopefully a learning experience. Last year he also crashed out here. Driving at Monaco requires more than fearlessness - it requires precision.
Jolyon Palmer crashed out after losing control on the pit straight during the 1st racing lap. He had also crashed twice in practice as did Verstappen. Is this pattern simply indicative of how Monaco punishes the inexperienced driver?
Raikkonen crashed at the hairpin and couldn't continue in his damaged car. Saubers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson collided at Rascasse - forcing both out. Nasr was told to let Ericsson past him but refused.
Ericsson was given a 3 place grid penalty for Canada and 2 penalty points - taking his total to 6. Daniil Kvyat was also given the same penalty for crashing into Kevin Magnussen (Renault) also at Rascasse. Total penalty points for this year = 7.
1st - Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2nd - Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
3rd - Sergio Perez (Force India)
4th - Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
5th - Fernando Alonso (McLaren)
6th - Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
7th - Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
8th - Carlos Sainz Jr (Toro Rosso)
9th - Jenson Button (McLaren)
10th - Felipe Massa (Williams)
Are Red Bull overtaking Ferrari as the real rivals to Mercedes now? Force India are also looking promising - with Perez coming 3rd and Hulkenberg 6th. This season is unfolding nicely....
On to Canada June 12th..