Lewis Hamilton cut a disconsolate figure after he was denied a famous victory at the Monaco Grand Prix by his own Mercedes team in a controversial and incident-packed race.
An error by the Brackley team cost Hamilton what would have been a fully-deserved victory after the reigning world champion drove a near-perfect race as he sought a first ever win in F1’s blue-ribboned event.
Hamilton had dominated the weekend and was just a few laps away claiming a comfortable win when his team called him into the pits to change tyres during a late race Safety Car period following a crash by Toro Rosso racer Max Verstappen.
Hamilton had four new tyres fitted to his Mercedes F1 W06, but by the time he returned to the track his team-mate Nico Rosberg and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel had passed him after both opted not to stop.
With overtaking opportunities around the streets of the principality limited, Hamilton was left to wonder why he had been called to the pits. Despite his best efforts, he was unable to pass Vettel which allowed Rosberg to cruise to victory - his third successive one in his home town.
“We made a mistake today,” said Mercedes team-boss, Toto Wolff. “We will look at everything that happened and see why we did what we did. This cost Lewis victory today, so it is a bitter sweet result as we still won with Nico.”
Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda has demanded a full team enquiry to establish the facts of the error that cost Hamilton his much-deserved victory.
As Rosberg celebrated on the podium, Hamilton made a swift exit, saying: “I am not sure what happened out there.”
Rosberg added: “I feel sorry for Lewis. He had the pace all weekend and was set for victory. I couldn’t believe he had just gone, and then I could see him behind with Vettel. It is a shame for him, but I am very happy to win a third race in Monaco. The championship race is now very much on.”
Hamilton still leads the way atop the World Championship standings, although his lead has been cut to just 10 points.
The Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team made a welcome return to the points, courtesy of a seventh place finish for Sergio Perez.
The Mexican was pleased with his performance, saying: “It was good for the team to score points here in Monaco. Everyone enjoys this race and it is a good way to celebrate the weekend by scoring points.”
His Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg finished the race in 11th. He will this weekend drive at Le Mans for the first time as a Porsche factory driver in the Le Mans 24-Hours Pre-Test.
Carlos Sainz Jr. was 10th and claimed the final world championship point on offer. He said afterwards: “For my first Monaco Grand Prix, it was good to finish in the top 10.”
Standings after round six: 1. Hamilton, 126pts; 2. Rosberg, 116; 3. Vettel, 98; 4. Raikkonen, 60; 5. Bottas, 42; 6. Massa, 39. Next race: Canada, June 7.