A beaming Lewis Hamilton said his Monaco GP win “feels like the best race ever” – a victory “earned” through his driving and decision making.
The world champion ignited his season after a series of setbacks with just his second career victory at F1’s showpiece race, overcoming the on-form Daniel Ricciardo to win from third on the grid.
In an attempt to gain track position over the long-time race leader, Hamilton and his Mercedes team decided to extend his opening stint on wet tyres on a drying track in order to avoid an additional stop for intermediate tyres like Ricciardo, before eventually moving straight onto slicks.
Hamilton, aided by a bungled final pitstop by Red Bull, emerged ahead and then fended off Ricciardo as the Red Bull came back at him into the closing stages.
“It feels like the best race ever,” he told Sky Sports F1. “I’ve had a lot of races so it’s difficult to recall all of them, but this one I feel in my heart that I earned it.
“I earned what I had out there today. It didn’t feel like a stroke of luck or anything like that, I really worked every inch of the track that I could use and ounce of grip that I had.
Lewis Hamilton wins the Monaco GP his first victory of the season
“I used every tool and skill that I had in order to stay ahead of Daniel and slog that car round as fast as I could.”
The start of Hamilton’s title defence had been beset by reliability problems and collisions and he had not won a race since last October’s US GP, where he clinched his third world title.
“Honestly, I feel amazing,” he added. “[Win number] 44, in Monaco, I haven’t won for ages – it feels like a lifetime – so it feels like the greatest blessings.
After running the opening 31 laps on a set of wet tyres, Hamilton then had to complete remaining 47 tours on a set of the ultrasofts – Pirelli’s quickest but most fragile compound.
The 31-year-old admitted “it was the hardest race I can remember having to do” and explained how he pushed for his first stint to be extended in order to go straight onto slicks.
“Those conditions are generally my preferred conditions: mixing, changing conditions,” Hamilton said.
“Whilst today I wasn’t necessary the quickest in those conditions, Daniel was incredibly quick, but they had more downforce than us this weekend, I just decided to stay out.
After securing victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton celebrates with pop star Justin Bieber, even sharing his champagne with him
“The team were like ‘others are boxing, the intermediate looks quicker, box this lap’ and I was like ‘no, it’s drying real quick so if you box me now I’m going to be coming back in in 10-15 laps anyway and probably going to grain the tyres’.
“Then I started to push. I didn’t really have any graining of the tyres, and I was like ‘if I can eke it out a little bit longer I might be able to do one stop and come out on slicks’.
“But over two laps it hadn’t dried much and then the next lap it had dried a load. When I came out it was the trickiest conditions, it was like driving on ice.”