Hamilton powers to Monaco victory in turbulent race today
Hamilton powers to Monaco victory in turbulent race today
Lewis Hamilton dominated today's race in Monaco with a lights to flag victory, which pushed the Englishman to a clear championship lead and sent the strongest possible warning to his rivals of his strong title ambitions. Hamilton was never headed during the race, including his pitstop, and collected his trophy on the famous ACM steps ahead of Franck Perera and Alex Premat before spraying the champagne over his ecstatic mechanics.
As the lights went out at the start of the race Hamilton powered off the line ahead of fellow front row starter Perera and started to walk away. Behind the pair Olivier Pla powered by Gimmi Bruni into St. Devote, with teammate Clivio Piccione right on his tail.
But behind them there was chaos, as Tristan Gommendy ran over the rear wheel of Jose Maria Lopez and was airborne, coming down against the wall and ricocheting into countryman Nicolas Lapierre, who was pitched into a wild flight before landing with a thump on top of Lucas di Grassi's rear wing.
Meanwhile Javier Villa was smashed out of the race by the pinballing Lopez, with championship leader Nelson Piquet also losing his rear wing in the process. Adam Carroll was also in the wars: his power was off and on and then finally off for good as he rolled to a halt in Casino Square.
Incredibly there was no safety car: tremendous work by the marshals removed all traces of the damaged cars before Hamilton was back around to start his second lap, with Piquet limping back to the pits for repairs just behind Bruni's clearly terminal car.
Hamilton was soon setting a string of fast laps to build up a gap over Perera, who no longer had to worry about Pla after the latter ran into the wall out of the swimming pool complex after bouncing off the inside kerb.
Giorgio Pantano was in for an early stop, hoping for a bonus if there was any further incidents to come, while di Grassi also found his way into the pits for his inevitable replacement wing. Pantano was doing everything he had to do, setting a string of fastest laps in clean air and putting himself into contention for a good points haul.
The order at the front was now Hamilton from Perera, Piccione, Premat and a fast starting Andreas Zuber, and so it stayed until lap eight, when Premat was the first of the frontrunners to pit, coming out just ahead of Pantano in eleventh position.
Perera, who had stated after qualifying that no one else had the pace of he and Hamilton around this circuit, was being proved right: the pair were leaving everyone else behind, with the Englishman pulling out a slightly larger lead over his French rival on every lap as the pair left everyone else behind.
Pantano's hard work all came to nothing though when he stopped at St. Devote on lap 12, while just ahead of him Premat was on a charge: he muscled his way past Hiroki Yoshimoto at the Mirabeau, and then powered past Sergio Hernandez a few turns later at Nouvelle Chicane as he looked to eat into Perera's advantage.
It wasn't enough, and Perera was in and out of the pits one lap later, dropping to sixth in the process and promoting local driver Piccione to second.
Piccione was in on lap 15, but the one that counted was just one lap later when race leader Hamilton came in for his stop. His team were a blur of activity around him as Perera did everything he could to catch up.
The gap between the pair was ten seconds as Perera came in, and in just three laps he ate seven seconds out of Hamilton's time, but the Englishman re-emerged just in front of second placed Zuber and the challenge was effectively over.
Zuber was in two laps later and the order at the front had effectively shaken out: Hamilton led from Perera, Premat, Piccione (who had struggled with a slow stop), Glock and Zuber.
Behind them Yoshimoto, the only man yet to make his stop, was at the front of a train of cars covering seventh to eleventh, the five cars covered by just two seconds. At the back of them was a very fast looking Ferdinando Monfardini, who was throwing everything he had at Michael Ammermüller in front of him.
For lap after lap the Italian looked for a way past the German, and for lap after lap the defense held firm. On lap 23 frustration clearly got the better of him and Monfardini outbraked himself into the chicane, running straight across and collecting Ernesto Viso's front wing as he did so.
Monfardini and Viso were inevitably straight into the pits, followed by Yoshimoto, who had stopped at the Rascasse corner before restarting his car and limping across the track and into retirement.
Further back di Grassi and Piquet were on track, three laps down and pushing for the fastest lap, with the former claiming the honour for four laps consecutively after stopping for fresh tyres. Piquet eventually came in for new tyres too but, despite setting the fastest first sector a number of times, claiming the point for fastest lap was just beyond him.
With Timo Glock coming to a stop on the front straight, restarting and then stopping for good at the entrance to the tunnel on lap 36 the field was now down to just twelve drivers, but as the laps rolled down there was nothing anyone of them could do about their closest rivals on the tight, twisty street circuit.
And therefore Hamilton was the first man to be greeted by the chequered flag, finishing eight seconds ahead of a delighted Perera, who had taken his first points along with his podium finish, while Premat was third, more than half a minute behind his teammate.
Piccione had to make do with fourth for his home race, with Zuber the last driver on the lead lap in fifth. Behind him Felix Porteiro led home Ammermüller and Hernandez, whose teammate di Grassi had done enough to claim the fastest lap of a race of attrition in Monaco.
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2006 INTERNATIONAL GP2 SERIESFRIDAY PRACTICE & QUALIFYING
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1 E. VISO iSport International 45:17.116 1:34.431 24
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4 A. PREMAT ART Grand Prix 1:01:29.602 1:35.981 24
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1 G. BRUNI Trident Racing 1:32.691 13
2 J. LOPEZ Super Nova International 1:32.941 12
3 L. HAMILTON ART Grand Prix 1:32.990 11
4 A PREMATART Grand Prix 1:33.138 9
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