MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Lewis Hamilton clung on for a memorable victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, but he spent most of the race questioning his team's strategy and thinking he was about to lose the lead.
An early Safety Car period forced the lead drivers into a premature first stop. Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas took on the medium tyre, while Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel took on the more durable hard tyre. Bottas was soon forced to switch to the hard tyre after colliding with Verstappen in the pit lane, which relegated him to fourth and left the Red Bull driver as the man behind Hamilton.
The decision meant Hamilton had to go to the end of the race on what he felt was the wrong tyre, as he soon realised they were not coping very well around the Monte Carlo circuit. Although he never relinquished the lead around the tight, twisty circuit and eventually held on to claim a tense victory, he did not believe he would be able to do so.
Here's how his radio messages played out with race engineer Peter Bonnington in Monaco:
Hamilton: "Question, does James [Vowles, Mercedes strategist] think I'm in trouble with these tyres? I'm driving super slow now and I'm not sure how long they are going to last."
Bonnington: "Keep the management up and the race will come to us."
Hamilton: "Have you considered [putting] the hard tyre on me?
Bonnington: "If we need to stop again we would consider pitting again. Verstappen also has graining and it looks worse than yours."
Hamilton: "I think we are on the wrong tyre. I'm definitely in a bad way."
Hamilton: "I think I'm in big trouble. My left front is dead ..."
Bonnington: "We're pretty confident Lewis. Grosjean [did] 39 laps on a soft set and still going."
Hamilton: "We're going to lose this race Bono. I can't look after these tyres anymore, they're dead!"
Bonnington: "Thinking about it, if we can manage to the same pace as the cars front, and you keep Verstappen behind, we shouldn't have to pass any of them ..."
Hamilton: "I can't keep the car behind, Bono, can you not see that!?"
Bonnington: "Yep, loud and clear Lewis. Verstappen's been there all race."
Hamilton: "I don't know what you were thinking putting these tyres on, man. You need to hope for a miracle!"
When told Red Bull has given Verstappen permission to use more power to attack.
Hamilton: "Oh, that's great news!"
That extra boost of power eventually gave Verstappen the chance to make a lunge with three laps left. It was optimistic, and despite a small amount of contact, Hamilton managed to hold position and get to the flag without any damage.
The victory, which Hamilton dedicated to Niki Lauda, gave him a 17-point lead in the championship over Bottas.