Heavy rain, huge plumes of spray, start behind the safety car - and all this in Monte Carlo's narrow urban canyons! Conditions for a Formula 1 race could not have been tougher as the eyes of hundreds of millions of people around the world looked on. Unforeseen events, unexpected pit stops, changes from full wets to slicks became the norm and increased the mental pressures on the pit crew.
The Williams crew were not at all fazed by any of this and produced another faultless performance at the Monaco Grand Prix. They turned around Valtteri Bottas in 2.43 seconds to achieve the fastest stop of the grand prix. The crew was only one hundredth of a second slower with Felipe Massa! Just a blink of an eye's difference. The action-packed race presented an enormous challenge for all the teams. Consequently, only seven pit stops in total came in under the magic three-second benchmark figure - four of them achieved by Williams.
Strategy ruse and a bit of luck decide outcome of race
Monaco is a nightmare for the strategists. Overtaking is almost impossible, and so, the driver's grid position is more important than in practically any other race. That's why Lewis Hamilton looked so glum on Saturday afternoon after qualifying. Only third on the grid. A rain dance was the only thing that could help him now, and his prayers were to be answered...
The teams woke up to rain in the paddock on Sunday morning. The start took place on full wets behind the safety car. Once actual racing had commenced, then out came the calculators on the pit wall. When would drivers have to pit to switch to intermediates which are a mix between wet and slick tires?
The race leader, Daniel Ricciardo, stopped for the first time on Lap 23. He came back in again for fresh tires just nine laps later - this time for supersofts, on which he could easily cover the remaining distance without any issues. However, a pit stop problem cost him precious seconds. Hamilton, however, took the risk and stayed out on wet tires until Lap 31 - one lap before Ricciardo - when it became possible to switch directly to slicks (to ultrasofts in his case).
"It's very unusual that I'm able to take any credit for a strategy decision - but when the team first asked me to box, I could see the track drying and my tires still felt pretty good," explained Hamilton. "So I told them all that and they said to stay out, which worked out great. I just carried on looking after the tires - picking up the pace a bit when I saw what times people were starting to do on the intermediates as it dried out. I was matching their times at that stage, so I thought: "I could actually hold on to this until it's dry". Staying in that window was really tricky, though, as the first two sectors were almost dry. When I came out on the slicks it was like driving on ice. It was tough knowing how hard to push and we came out very close together. If he hadn't had a bad stop, I wouldn't have been ahead. But these things happen for a reason - and today, the reason was my 44th win."