Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and More
More than seven months after his last Formula One victory, Lewis Hamilton finally returned to the top step of the podium in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.
With Mercedes gambling on the weather by extending Hamilton's first stint on extreme-wet tyres, and with Red Bull again throwing a win away with a disastrous pit stop for Daniel Ricciardo, there was certainly an element of luck about his 44th career victory.
But the three-time world champion was keen to ensure everyone was aware of just how impressive his own performance was.
Having lost a near-certain Monte Carlo win as a result of a pit-related blunder in 2015, Hamilton would have known how Ricciardo was feeling after being denied the winners' trophy through no fault of his own.
And following the disappointment of Red Bull's strategic error in Spain, Ricciardo has admitted he has no idea how to move on from his latest missed opportunity.
Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg had no idea why his pace was so poor throughout the race, having finished seventh after starting second to Ricciardo.
The German's early decision to swap positions with Hamilton condemned him to an afternoon of damage limitation, but Rosberg has insisted he has no regrets about playing the team game despite losing a sizable chunk of his points lead.
While Rosberg was more than happy to surrender his position to Hamilton, Felipe Nasr was determined to keep Marcus Ericsson behind in Monaco and ignored the instructions of his Sauber team.
The frustration on both sides of the garage led to the drivers colliding at La Rascasse, and team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has explained why a repeat incident will not be tolerated.
Closing this week's roundup is Pastor Maldonado, who has revealed he is working on a return to the F1 grid in 2017.
Lewis Hamilton Feels He 'Earned' Monaco GP Win
Lewis Hamilton has expressed his delight after returning to winning ways in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, insisting he "earned" the victory despite Red Bull's pit-stop blunder.
After suffering a fuel-pressure problem in qualifying on Saturday, the three-time world champion started from third on the grid but excelled in changeable conditions in the race.
Hamilton was gifted second position by team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg, who struggled on a wet track, and inherited the lead after deciding to extend his first stint on extreme-wet tyres, while most others headed to the pits for intermediates, before switching to ultrasofts.
Daniel Ricciardo's slow second pit stop allowed the No. 44 car to maintain its lead, and Hamilton defended well from the Australian for the remainder of the race to claim his first win since last October.
Referring to the Monaco GP as "the hardest race I can remember having to do," Hamilton—now just 24 points behind Rosberg in the drivers' standings—insisted he had to work hard to secure his 44th career victory, telling Sky Sports' James Galloway:
It feels like the best race ever. I've had a lot of races so it's difficult to recall all of them, but this one I feel in my heart that I earned it.
I earned what I had out there today. It didn't feel like a stroke of luck or anything like that, I really worked every inch of the track that I could use and ounce of grip that I had.
I used every tool and skill that I had in order to stay ahead of Daniel and slog that car round as fast as I could.
Honestly, I feel amazing. [Win number] 44, in Monaco, I haven't won for ages—it feels like a lifetime—so it feels like the greatest blessing.
Per Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suggested the "difficult moments" endured by Hamilton in recent weeks, when his battle with Rosberg was compromised by several technical issues, have only "strengthened" the relationship between team and driver.
Daniel Ricciardo Struggling to Accept Monaco GP Defeat
Daniel Ricciardo has admitted he is struggling to come to terms with his defeat in the Monaco Grand Prix after his Red Bull team's slow pit stop.
After the disappointment of the Spanish GP, where he led the opening phase of the race only to finish a distant fourth after being switched to a three-stop strategy, the Australian recovered strongly to claim the first pole position of his career in Monte Carlo.
With Nico Rosberg delaying Lewis Hamilton's progress in the early stages of the grand prix, Ricciardo managed to build an early advantage but lost the lead when the three-time world champion decided against pitting for intermediate tyres.
Ricciardo had been set to regain first place when he pitted for supersofts on Lap 32, but he was left stranded when his Red Bull mechanics were late preparing his tyres.
Despite following Hamilton closely for the rest of the race, Ricciardo was unable to pass the Mercedes driver, ultimately finishing seven seconds behind the race winner.
Although Ricciardo secured his best result of the season with second place, he was left struggling to comprehend how Red Bull managed to deny him two potential victories in the space of a fortnight, telling Autosport (h/t Eurosport):
I took Barcelona on the chin and then took it well but two in a row now, and it's not like we're in Mercedes' position, we're not able to win [every] race.
So to have an opportunity to lead two races in a row and especially here in Monaco—to get it wrong twice definitely hurts.
I'm not sure where we go from here, what to do.
Obviously they've got to understand what's going on and learn from it but this win I'll never get back, that's a fact.
I put it on the front and you wake up and you see thunderstorms and it's like, 'OK, there's a few curveballs coming my way today' but I felt I dealt with them as well as I could have.
I had pace in the wet at the beginning and again I thought I was controlling everything I had to.
Obviously a big part of it is relying on the team and the strategy.
Two races in a row, two races in a row. That's all I can say. Massively, massively disappointed.
Per Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained the tyre mixup was caused by the team's sudden change in strategy, with the team originally intending to fit Ricciardo's car with the soft-compound tyres instead of the supersofts, which "were at the back of the garage."
He added Red Bull could only "apologise to Daniel" for not giving him "a good enough service," but insisted the Spanish and Monaco GP mistakes were "very, very different" situations," per Noble.
Nico Rosberg Bemused by Lack of Pace in Monaco Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg has admitted he was left bemused by his lack of pace throughout the Monaco Grand Prix, but he has defended his decision to gift second position to eventual winner Lewis Hamilton in the early stages of the race.
Rosberg entered the race with a 43-point advantage over Hamilton in the drivers' standings having won four of the opening five events of the season, but he produced his worst performance for some time in Monte Carlo after starting second.
Unable to keep up with race leader Daniel Ricciardo, the German intentionally slowed on the exit of Sainte Devote on Lap 16 to offer Hamilton a chance to beat the Red Bull driver.
While Hamilton went on to register his first win of 2016, Rosberg was almost a lap down in seventh after losing a position to Force India's Nico Hulkenberg on the last lap of the race, with his points lead cut to just 24.
Speaking in a video on his official YouTube channel, Rosberg explained Mercedes identified problems with his brakes but suggested there was more behind his lack of speed on race day.
Massively tough day. Very, very disappointing because [throughout] the weekend I was out there to try and win the race and I was so far from it today, so that was really frustrating.
I noticed that very early. [I] was just completely uncomfortable in the car and we still need to go through it and try and figure out why exactly.
For sure, we've seen that the brakes were not looking good temperaturewise, so that's definitely one explanation but I don't think it's the whole thing, so, yeah, really not a great day.
Despite offering Hamilton an opportunity to regain his confidence and dramatically enhance his chances of claiming a third consecutive title in 2016, Rosberg insisted he had no regrets about swapping positions with his championship rival, telling the same source:
If you're on the Monaco track with no confidence in the car, that's not going to go well. I had to stay so far away from the limit, so I was just not quick enough.
And then the team called me to let Lewis by, which at the time was a pretty simple decision because I was not going to have a chance to win with that pace today and it was definitely the right thing to let him have a go.
And, of course, massively tough at the time—a horrible feeling—but easy for me to decide to just follow instructions and get it done, and the end result proved that it was the right thing to do because Lewis wouldn't have won otherwise, so that's the way it is.
It's been our team rule since many months and years now, so there's no surprises there. So that's all good.
Per the same source, Rosberg insisted he was defenceless to prevent Hulkenberg passing him on the run toward the finish line, with the Force India driver's soft-compound tyres responding better in a late rain shower than his ultrasoft rubber.
According to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, Hamilton thanked Rosberg for "being a gentleman" in letting him past, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff praised the German for "putting the team's interests first," per the official F1 website.
Sauber Horrified by Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr Crash in Monaco GP
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has criticised Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr for their collision in the Monaco Grand Prix, which led to the retirement of both drivers.
Nasr was running ahead of his team-mate in the second half of the race when he was instructed to concede 15th position to Ericsson over pit-to-car radio.
The Brazilian refused and Ericsson soon took matters into his own hands, colliding with Nasr after a half-hearted overtaking manoeuvre on Lap 49 of 78.
Both drivers retired a short time later, and Kaltenborn has insisted a repeat incident will not be tolerated, telling the team's official website:
It was unacceptable behaviour by both drivers. Today the work of the whole team ended in a collision. Marcus and Felipe both know how much work is put into every race weekend. They have the responsibility to make it to the end of the race.
After evaluating the overall situation, it was important to bring the fastest car as far as possible to the front, so that we were able to use any chances. Our decision was based on the data from both cars. After this, we have clarified the situation internally and both drivers are aware of their responsibilities. Such an incident will not happen again.
Ericsson was later handed a three-place grid penalty for the next round in Canada but suggested he was not entirely to blame for the crash, telling Motorsport.com's Charles Bradley how the Sauber pit wall encouraged him to "go for it" when it became obvious Nasr would not move aside.
Per the same source, Nasr admitted the collision was "unnecessary" but insisted he saw "no reason" to gift the place to Ericsson as both drivers "were clearly catching the cars in front."
Sauber remain among two teams yet to score a point after the opening six races of 2016.
Pastor Maldonado Working on 2017 F1 Return
Pastor Maldonado has revealed he is holding negotiations with teams with a view to returning to the Formula One grid in 2017.
Representing Williams and Lotus, Maldonado made 95 grand prix starts between 2011 and 2015 and became the first Venezuelan to win an F1 race with victory in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.
Following Renault's takeover of Lotus, Maldonado was expected to partner Jolyon Palmer for 2016, but complications between the team and his personal sponsor PDVSA—"as a result of plunging oil prices" in Venezuela, per BBC Sport's Andrew Benson—saw him replaced by Kevin Magnussen in February.
At the time, Maldonado's manager, Nicolas Todt, told Reuters' Alan Baldwin how his client would "try to bounce back in 2017" rather than pursue one of the remaining seats on the 2016 grid.
And Maldonado has suggested he is talking with a number of teams about next season, insisting he is still capable of doing "a very good job."
He told Autosport (h/t Eurosport):
I really want to have my second chance because I still feel I have a lot to do in F1.
My plan is to return to Formula 1. It was not too bad to stay away for one year as it has given me time to reflect.
We have started conversations with teams and we are trying to negotiate something for next year.
I never had the car to show my talent. When I was with Williams, we won a race and 2012 was a good season.
But the other two seasons were not so good and at Lotus, it was a bit the same—I never had a chance to be at a good level.
I would like a good car, maybe not the best but a car that allows me to show my potential and be in the points regularly.
As reported by Motorsport.com's Roberto Chinchero, Maldonado has assisted Pirelli's development of its 2017-specification tyres and recently participated in test sessions at Mugello and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
It is possible that his experience on the new tyres will make Maldonado an attractive proposition for teams hoping to gain an advantage ahead of the major 2017 regulation changes.