Hamilton masters Monaco

Hamilton: championship leader

Briton assumes Championship lead

Lewis Hamilton has taken victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, the McLaren Mercedes star scoring his second win of the 2008 Formula One season.

In a race shortened to 76 of the scheduled 78 laps by rain, the Briton survived a scrape with the barriers to take the chequered flag three seconds ahead of BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.

Polesitter Felipe Massa finished third for Ferrari, ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber and Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel.

Honda's Rubens Barrichello finished sixth, ahead of Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima, with Hamilton's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen taking the final point with eighth place.

With Kimi Raikkonen finishing ninth, the result also means that Hamilton has taken a three-point lead in the Drivers' Championship.

However, Ferrari still holds a 16-point lead over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship.

The combination of both heavy rain at the start of the race and an absence of traction control on the cars led to the anticipation of incident, and so it proved.

With Kovalainen starting from the pitlane having stalled on the grid, the opening lap saw Williams's Nico Rosberg hit the back of Fernando Alonso at the Loews Hairpin, with Honda's Jenson Button also doing the same to Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber.

Running seventh at the end of lap four, Toyota's Timo Glock also had to pit for a new nose after spinning at the final corner.

Having passed Raikkonen at the lights to go second behind Massa, lap six then saw Hamilton getting it wrong when he clobbered a barrier at the Tabac corner and being forced to pit.

Although needing a new right rear wheel, Hamilton was perhaps fortunate to be able to continue. Fuelled for just one more stop, he rejoined the race - his hopes of victory somewhat dented.


However, given the conditions, there was still the likelihood of more of the same and, as Hamilton held his nerve, it was now the turn of his rivals to lose their cool.

Alonso hit the barrier heading into Casino Square on lap eight, before David Coulthard dropped his Red Bull in identical fashion, the Scot's car then being collected by Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais.

With Hamilton already up to fourth place, the safety car was thus deployed.

Racing resumed on lap 10, Raikkonen then receiving a drive through penalty because his tyres were not fitted as per the regulations three minutes before the start of the race.

Alonso then pitted once more after rashly attempting to pass Heidfeld into Loews on lap 14 - the inevitable collision briefly producing a tailback.

Promoted to second after Raikkonen's penalty, Kubica then took the lead after Massa ran wide into Sainte Devote at the start of lap 16 but, with the rain now having stopped, the Ferrari driver managed to recover and keep pace.

A dry line was beginning to appear by lap 23, with Kubica and Massa trading fastest laps and pulling themselves away from Hamilton.

Race leader Kubica pitted at the end of lap 25, the Pole rejoining in fourth.

Fourth became third almost immediately after Raikkonen ran wide at Sainte Devote and knocked the nose of his Ferrari askew. Fuelled to the end of the race, he rejoined in sixth place behind the flying Adrian Sutil.

Massa pitted at the end of lap 32, rejoining in second place behind Hamilton.

By now, both McLaren's hastily-adjusted strategy and the changing conditions were working in Hamilton's favour and he proceeded to build a 26-second lead by lap 46.

As the track dried it was Alonso - out of the running in 15th place - who became the first to stop for dry-weather tyres. Team-mate Nelson Piquet followed shortly thereafter, as did Webber from fourth place.

Drying track

All three drivers initially struggled and, perhaps predictably, the Brazilian rookie soon dumped his car in the barrier. But, with the track getting ever dryer - and a promised rain shower failing to materialise - the dries were soon the tyres to have.

Kubica pitted for them from third on lap 54, with race leader Hamilton and Sutil - the young German driver now up to fourth - doing the same soon after.

Such was the McLaren's advantage by this stage that Hamilton rejoined with a 15-second lead over Massa.

The Brazilian lost second place to Kubica after making his own final stop two laps later, with Sutil retaking fourth place from Raikkonen after the latter made his third stop on lap 58.

Hamilton by now held a 40-second lead over Kubica, but that advantage was wiped out after Rosberg's crash at the swimming pool complex brought out the Safety Car once again with the leaders on lap 62.

Racing resumed once more five laps later and, with Hamilton getting the drop on Kubica, Raikkonen's shadowing of Sutil in fourth ended in disaster for them both - the World Champion losing control on a damp patch coming into the chicane and ploughing into the back of the Force India.

Ironically, Raikkonen was able to continue but damage to the rear of his car meant that Sutil's strong performance did not gain its reward. Webber thus reclaimed fourth place, with Vettel up to fifth.

Meanwhile, as Hamilton took the chequered flag in the Principality to emulate his hero Ayrton Senna, Kovalainen claimed the final point, the Finn surely once again rueing the awful luck he has endured thus far in 2008.

Monaco Grand Prix, result: 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 2hrs 00mins 42.742secs, 2 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 2:00:45.806, 3 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 2:00:47.553, 4 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 2:01:02.037, 5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Scuderia Toro Rosso 2:01:07.399, 6 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda 2:01:11.150, 7 Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams 2:01:12.922, 8 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 2:01:15.933, 9 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 2:01:16.534, 10 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault +1 lap, 11 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda +1 lap, 12 Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota +1 lap, 13 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota +1 lap, 14 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber +4 laps

Not classified: 15 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 67 laps completed, 16 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams 59 laps completed, 17 Nelson Piquet Jr. (Bra) Renault 47 laps completed, 18 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India 36 laps completed, 19 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull 7 laps completed, 20 Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 7 laps completed

Pos-- Driver-- Pts

1 Lewis Hamilton 38
2 Kimi Raikkonen 35
3 Felipe Massa 34
4 Robert Kubica 32
5 Nick Heidfeld 20
6 Mark Webber 15
7 Heikki Kovalainen 15
8 Fernando Alonso 9
9 Jarno Trulli 9
10 Nico Rosberg 8
11 Kazuki Nakajima 7
12 Sebastian Vettel 4
13 Rubens Barrichello 3
14 Jenson Button 3
15 Sebastien Bourdais 2
16 Nelson Piquet Jr 0
17 Anthony Davidson 0
18 Takuma Sato 0
19 Timo Glock 0
20 David Coulthard 0
21 Adrian Sutil 0
22 Giancarlo Fisichella 0