Vettel stretches title lead with controversial Monaco GP win

Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari on the streets of Monte Carlo

Sebastian Vettel has beaten pole-sitting teammate Kimi Räikkönen to victory in Monte Carlo after Ferrari controversially appeared to hand him a favourable strategy.

Vettel’s win on a day Lewis Hamilton finished sixth means his points advantage has grown to 25 points over the Briton — a full race win worth of points — and Ferrari now holds a 16-points buffer over Mercedes in the constructors standings.

Räikkönen led off the line, but though he was able to keep Vettel behind him comfortably, the German appeared to be holding some pace in reserve.

“I think it was a very tense race,” Vettel said.

“I was hoping at the start to have a bit of a better launch, but Kimi had a better start. I had to be patient.”

Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas tailed both Ferraris at a distance, only closing on them when the trio began lapping traffic on lap 26.

Teams dared each other to blink first, and Red Bull Racing obliged with Max Verstappen from fourth place on lap 32, the Dutchman hitherto unable to pass Bottas.

Mercedes was easily able to cover the undercut, however, stopping Bottas one lap later — but the pair’s brief duel triggered Ferrari to pit Kimi Räikkönen in what would prove a contentious decision.

With clean air ahead Vettel put in a series of quick laps until his pit stop on lap 40, giving him a six-lap buffer over his teammate.

He emerged from the pits ahead of Räikkönen, where he stayed until the flag.

“Nothing to say, really,” Räikkönen said after the podium celebration, his body language despairing. “Obviously it’s still second place, but it doesn’t feel awful good.

“This is how it goes sometimes. It’s one of those days you wished you’d get a bit more.”

Vettel denied there was any preordained pit-stop tactics influencing the race.

“We couldn’t plan much — the plan was to try to pull away, which we did.”

It was a day for the so-called overcut — banking on superious pace by extending your stint on warm tyres when your rival pits for a colder set — as also demonstrated by Daniel Ricciardo, who moved from fifth on the grid to third on the podium by elongating his first stint.

The Australian was disappointed to qualify poorly after a team error left him behind traffic, lamenting that the Monaco Grand Prix was run on Saturday, but his pit stop on lap 39 after a blistering handful of laps in clear air put him ahead of both Bottas and teammate Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman in particular was furious, shouting expletives to his pit wall over team radio when he discovered he had lost track position to his teammate.

“I’m happier today for sure,” Ricciardo said. “Yesterday I felt like we had so much more to offer.

“I managed to get some good times in those tyres — managed the overcut — so happy with that.”

Ricciardo’s only high-stakes moment after that was at the safety car restart on lap 60, when cold tyres and brakes and a crumbling piece of tarmac at turn one almost spat him into the outside barrier.

“I didn’t enjoy that!” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I damaged anything, and then I saw Bottas trying to get inside me.

“These tyres, when you get a safety car, they’re like driving on ice. Happy to hold it.”

The restart in question was caused by a bizarre crash at Portier, the entrance to the tunnel section, caused by Jenson Button opportunistically poking his nose down the inside of Pascal Wehrlein’s car.

The McLaren tipped the Sauber onto its left side, and the car came to rest on its side against the barrier.

Wehrlein escape unscathed — he sounded more perplexed than angry on team radio as he sat sideways in his car awaiting rescue — and Button retired his car with suspension damage.

Carlos Sainz drove superbly to hold sixth place on merit, particularly as he held back a resurgent Lewis Hamilton in the final stint of the race.

Hamilton had one of the grand prix’s most memorable drives, moving up from P13 to P7 over the course of the race by plying an alternative strategy.

The Briton was left out by his pit wall on the ultrasoft tyre until lap 46 — well after the majority of cars took their first stop — by which point he had moved up to sixth thanks to his car’s inherent pace.

His stop lost him only one place — P6 to Sainz — but Hamilton told his pit wall in the final few laps that he was satisfied with the result in the circumstances, opting not to risk damage with an unlikely overtaking move.

Romain Grosjean executed a similar strategy to Hamilton, switching off his ultrasoft tyre on lap 48 to maintain his eighth-place grid spot.

Felipe Massa drifted into the points at the end of the race despite being P12 behind the safety car.

He picked up his first place when Stoffel Vandoorne crashed into the barriers at turn one shortly after the safety car restart — the Belgian losing McLaren a points-paying position in the process — and two more positions when Daniil Kvyat and Sergio Perez tangled at Rascasse, with the Russian retiring at Casino Square shortly afterwards.

Kevin Magnussen finished tenth, earning Haas its first double points finish of the season.

Jolyon Palmer finished eleventh for Renault on a day teammate Nico Hülkenberg retired with gearbox issues, while Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez’s P12 and P13 — the final cars to take the flag — ended Force India’s unbroken run of double points finishes this season.