Monaco Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton Shows Nerve, Luck in Win

Jonathan CraigContributor IMay 25, 2008

There are a certain number of events on the sporting calendar that inspire the pure essence and romance of sport. Be it the Olympics, the Grand National or the World Cup Final, certain events will make the casual fan sit down and see what makes a particular sport special. The Monaco Grand Prix is certainly one of those occasions.

In recent years large, purpose-built tracks in locations such as Bahrain and Malaysia may have shown the future of the sport. Yet if you ask drivers, and ask commentators and armchair fans to list their favourite Grands Prix, you can be sure that Monaco is up there on the vast majority of many people's lists.

The glamour, the iconic corners, the sheer amazement that anyone in their right mind would want to drive at high speeds so close to those unforgiving barriers. There is always something captivating about street-circuit racing.

Given that type of build-up, it was only fitting that this year's race around the streets of Monte Carlo was full of incident, skill and luck, both good and bad. Part of the allure of the race at Monaco is that it is test of a driver's nerve and skill, more so than most modern circuits. Add in wet and slippery conditions, and you have the makings of a potential classic.

Lewis Hamilton, the prodigious talent from a quiet corner of Hertfordshire, showed that he is no one-season wonder with a skillful and at one point, a rather fortuitous drive to win the Monaco GP in his McLaren-Mercedes.

A jaunt into the barrier could have ended Hamilton's race early on—yet he was lucky enough to come away with a puncture. In normal conditions and at a high-speed circuit, this would have put him far down the field. Yet with the tight, twisting nature of this circuit coupled with the weather conditions, limited damage was done.

This enabled the young Brit to alter his fuel strategy, staying out for much longer—which allowed Hamilton to change his tyres from Bridgestone's intermediate-wet tyre to dry tyres at a time when the track had begun to develop a dry racing line—unlike his rivals, who either had to gamble on changing early or wait until their next scheduled fuel stop, losing valuable time.

Hamilton wasn't the only driver to make acquaintance with the steel barriers. Double world champion Fernando Alonso came off slightly worse with a broken wheel. The Spaniard used his experience to guide his Renault back to the pit lane. He stayed in contention for a points position, but fell away later in the race.

Other casualties of the barriers (and resulting crashes) were Sebastien Bourdais (Torro Rosso) and David Coulthard (Red Bull) were early retirees. Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India) and Nelson Piquet Jr (Renault) also came to grief in one of the more exciting Grands Prix of what has already been an exciting year for F1.

If Lewis Hamilton had the share of the good luck in the principality, then the German Adrian Sutil in the ever-improving Force India car had the largest share of bad luck.

Before being bought by an Indian consortium, the Spyker team were the "moving chicanes" at the rear of the grid. However, with newfound billionaire backers, the Force India team are looking to progress further up the grid. This has been aided by adding the promising young German to their books.

Having shown some promise already this season, Sutil was mere minutes away from finishing fourth, ahead of current World Champion Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari). Despite a drying track and his experience, Raikkonen lost control of his Ferrari coming out of the iconic tunnel—and ploughed into the back of the hapless Sutil, ending the young driver's almost-fairytale drive.

Sutil was forced to retire after a pit stop, while Raikkonen managed to limp into a ninth-place finish, just outside the points. Despite the setback, a bright future is in store for the German.

Due to often-treacherous circuit conditions, racing speeds were dramatically lower than usual—thus, the two-hour cut off was enforced. Hamilton eased over the line for a deserving win to put him top of the driver's standings. The impressive and more consistent Robert Kubica finished second in the BMW, with pole-sitter Felipe Massa finishing third after a mistake at St Devote.

Lewis Hamilton narrowly missed out on the World Championship last year. After winning the most iconic race of the year, perhaps he now has the skill and the luck needed to win the biggest crown in motor sport.