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Hamilton exceeds Mercedes’ expectations with fightback to P7 in Monaco

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Lewis Hamilton was left pleased with his fightback from 13th on the grid to finish Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix in seventh place, going some way to limit the damage of Formula 1 title rival Sebastian Vettel’s victory for Ferrari.

Hamilton qualified a lowly 14th on Saturday in Monaco after struggling with setup and tire management, but gained one place on the grid following Jenson Button’s penalty.

Hamilton passed just one car in the opening stint of the race and struggled to keep up with the cars ahead, prompting Mercedes to extend the Briton’s ultra-soft run for as long as possible.

Hamilton was able to find some clear air when the cars ahead made their pit stops, giving him the chance to lay down some rapid laps that vaulted him up to seventh thanks to the overcut, where he would finish the race.

“I’m really, really happy that I was able to fight back to seventh. The strategists said P10 was probably the maximum today, so it feels great to have beaten that target,” Hamilton said.

“To score six points, considering where I was on the grid after a disastrous day on Saturday is a good recovery. Today it was impossible to overtake and I tried everything to get past Carlos [Sainz] at the end!

“I’m just grateful to have ended up in P7. I went on the radio at the end there to make sure the team know that this battle isn’t over.

“We’ll be sure to push those red cars hard next time out in Canada. We’ve got a real fight on our hands, but there are still 14 races to go.”

With Vettel’s victory, Hamilton now sits 25 points behind in the F1 drivers’ championship with 14 races remaining this season.

Wolff can see Hamilton finishing F1 career with Mercedes

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says he can see three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton completing the rest of his career with the team, something he did not think would happen one year ago.

Hamilton has raced with Mercedes since 2013, claiming two F1 drivers’ titles in that time and the majority of his grand prix victories.

Hamilton is currently in the second of his three-year contract with Mercedes, and will be 33 upon its expiration at the end of next season.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Wolff said he could see Hamilton remaining at the team “forever”, believing their relationship to be stronger than ever.

“If you would have asked me the same question one year ago, I would not have been very optimistic, but now it is different,” Wolff said.

“I have the feeling that it can’t be much better in a different place, for him and for us.

“This is very strong now, and I am not speaking only about on-track performance because there are going to be difficult moments, but I am speaking about the relationship.

“After five years, this relationship has become so strong in a way that it wasn’t last season. For Lewis it will be important to see whether we are competitive or not.

“But at the moment there is such a solid basis that I can imagine it going on forever.”

Wolff believes there has been a shift for Hamilton in the wake of Nico Rosberg’s departure from the team at the end of 2016 following the German’s world title win.

Hamilton and Rosberg enjoyed a frosty rivalry that saw them clash a number of times on-track, with the latter’s exit helping to ease some of the tension within the team.

“Definitely the biggest positive development I have seen between 2013 and now happened over the winter and after Nico left the team,” Wolff said.

“Drivers are sometimes viewed within teams as contractors and they will always look after their own agenda rather than the team’s interest.

“But Lewis is now in his fifth year with us and that has changed. He has become a part of the team.

“I would not use the world team player because that goes against the DNA of a racing driver, but I think he has realized, acknowledged and respects the whole effort that is happening in the team.

“Somehow it has become natural, he towards the team, and the team towards him. We have built a trustful relationship.”

WATCH LIVE: Monaco GP on NBC, NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET

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Formula 1 hits the streets of Monaco today for one of the most hotly anticipated races of the year – and with the grid shaken-up, we could get a Grand Prix that lives up to the hype.

F1 MONACO GRAND PRIX LIVE STREAM

Kimi Raikkonen sprung a surprise on the F1 paddock by charging to his first pole in almost nine years, ending a drought that dated back to the French Grand Prix in 2008.

The Finn will head up the second all-Ferrari front row in the space of three races, with drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel sitting second.

Vettel’s chief title rival, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, starts all the way back in 13th after a woeful qualifying that saw his car setup problems cost him dearly.

Valtteri Bottas gave Mercedes some cheer by running to third on the grid, with the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo starting fourth and fifth.

You can see a full run-down of what to watch for in today’s race in our Sunday preview.

You can watch the Monaco Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET. CLICK HERE for NBC live stream.

F1 Countdown begins at 7am ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app, and runs until the NBC coverage begins. CLICK HERE for NBCSN live stream.

You can also try out a new ‘Mosaic View’ for the race that includes the race simulcast, in-car cameras, driver tracker and pit lane cam. CLICK HERE to watch the Mosaic View live stream.

Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call on the ground in Monaco, with pit reporter Will Buxton providing updates and interviews throughout the race.

Also be sure to follow the @F1onNBCSports Twitter account for live updates throughout the race.

What to watch for: Monaco Grand Prix (NBC from 7:30am ET; NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am)

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In Formula 1, races do not come any bigger than Monaco.

The sport’s ultimate sporting challenge combines with the glitz and glamor that F1 has become so famous for throughout its 67-year history, making the Monaco Grand Prix the ultimate event.

The race comes six rounds into what is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing title fights in recent history, with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton going toe-to-toe for Ferrari and Mercedes.

Monaco always has an extra spice – but this year, we have new cars, a reinvigorated title fight, some surprises on the grid, and even an old face making a guest appearance.

Combined, we are poised to enjoy one of the most unpredictable and perhaps significant Monaco races in recent memory.

You can watch the Monaco Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET. CLICK HERE for NBC live stream.

F1 Countdown begins at 7am ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app, and runs until the NBC coverage begins. CLICK HERE for NBCSN live stream.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s race.

2017 Monaco Grand Prix – What to watch for

Can the Iceman stay cool?

Kimi Raikkonen may have ended his pole drought of almost nine years on Saturday, but the popular Finn remained as non-plussed as ever, simply saying “ah good” when informed of his success.

Raikkonen’s charge to pole came as a surprise, going some way to responding to the critics who have questioned his lack of pace compared to teammate Sebastian Vettel so far this season – yet the real challenge is to come.

With Lewis Hamilton so far back, Ferrari knows that this is a golden chance for Vettel to extend his championship lead. If Raikkonen wants to win this race, he’s going to have to do it convincingly and rekindle some of the old Kimi that has arguably been missing for a few years now.

There was a flicker of that flame in qualifying. The Iceman now needs to turn that into a fire.

Damage limitation the focus for Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton’s had a pretty rotten weekend so far. From setup troubles on Thursday to tire temperature woes in qualifying, the three-time champion is resigned to starting 13th in Monaco – a track where overtaking is nigh on impossible.

So Hamilton’s focus must be on damage limitation. A good start should help, and on raw pace along, a top six finish should be possible – but it would take a bold strategy, a slice of luck and perhaps a safety car or two to bring him into the fray at the front.

Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas can do his bit and try to cause trouble for Vettel at the front of the pack, but most probably, Hamilton is going to be having a Sunday drive through the streets he calls home.

Will tire management decide this race?

Mercedes has struggled for much of this season to manage its tires, with Hamilton’s qualifying problems being the height of that. The fact neither the driver nor the team had an answer after qualifying shows there is still plenty to be worked out overnight.

The ultra-softs seem to be lasting well in Monaco, but the hotter things get, the more difficult it could be. Expect a fine balance between this being a one and two-stopper. Safety cars will certainly alter things as well.

If things do heat up, then Ferrari should run away with this at the front. It’ll then be up to the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull to work on the fly to rein in the Prancing Horse.

Button out to make more memories

Jenson Button’s one-off comeback to F1 has been a real good news story. Despite having not tested the 2017-spec McLaren, he was rapid throughout practice and even took the team through to Q3, taking P9 on the grid.

The bittersweet part of this story is that he will start last after another Honda power unit penalty following the emergence of an issue following FP2. So don’t go thinking JB will be taking any final points to add to his career haul, although with a finish and high attrition rate, it’s certainly possible.

But points aren’t what this comeback was about for Button. No, it was about making memories. That’s what he did in qualifying, taming the MCL32 en route to Q3. And it’s what he’ll be out to do in the race.

This will most probably be goodbye to Button in F1 – but it’s an opportunity we thought had passed us by in Abu Dhabi. It’d be great if he can make it to the checkered flag this time.

2017 Monaco Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
3. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull
5. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
6. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
7. Sergio Perez Force India
8. Romain Grosjean Haas
9. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
10. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
11. Kevin Magnussen Haas
12. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren*
13. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
14. Felipe Massa Williams
15. Esteban Ocon Force India
16. Jolyon Palmer Renault
17. Lance Stroll Williams
18. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
19. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
20. Jenson Button McLaren**

* Stoffel Vandoorne takes a three-place grid penalty as punishment for a crash with Felipe Massa in the Spanish Grand Prix.
** Jenson Button takes a 15-place grid penalty following power unit element changes by McLaren ahead of FP3.

You can watch the Monaco Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET. CLICK HERE for NBC live stream. To watch the race with Mosaic View, CLICK HERE.

F1 Countdown begins at 7am ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app, and runs until the NBC coverage begins. CLICK HERE for NBCSN live stream.

Hamilton ‘deflated’ after shock Q2 exit, will start 13th in Monaco

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Lewis Hamilton felt “deflated” after recording his worst Formula 1 qualifying result in Monaco since 2009 by finishing 14th in Saturday’s session.

Hamilton struggled to manage his tire temperature throughout practice in Monaco, which carried over through to qualifying as the Briton abandoned his first Q2 run.

Following a short wait in the pits after being called to the FIA weighbridge, Hamilton ventured out for a second three-lap run in the final few minutes of Q2.

Traffic forced Hamilton to abandon his initial effort before working up a final flying lap that was projected to get him through to Q3, only for yellow flags shown for Stoffel Vandoorne’s crashed McLaren at the exit of Swimming Pool to prevent any improvements.

This all left Hamilton 14th and out in Q2, although he will gain one place on the grid by virtue of Jenson Button’s grid penalty.

“I really struggled with the car today and I just don’t think the opportunity was quite there for me,” Hamilton said.

“It was a little bit unfortunate with the yellow flag, but it doesn’t really matter now if I could have gone faster.

“I think that lap may have just got me into the top 10 but I would have struggled to make it into the top five with the pace that I had.”

Hamilton admitted he was perplexed by his struggles compared to Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who qualified third and was just 0.045 seconds shy of pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen’s time.

“Valtteri didn’t have any struggles today so I’m a bit confused and I can’t pinpoint the problem at the moment. I’m feeling pretty deflated right now but I’ll try again tomorrow,” Hamilton said.

“It’s great that Valtteri extracted a good lap. We just need to identify why I wasn’t able to be up there too. Onwards and upwards.”

The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown starting on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET.