Nico Rosberg has taken full advantage of one of Formula One’s greatest ever tactical errors to land an unexpected victory and become only the fourth man to claim a hat-trick of consecutive wins in the Monaco Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old German – who won his second successive race this season – came home in his Mercedes ahead of compatriot Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari with and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton third.
Red Bull’s Daniil Kyvat was fourth and his Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo fifth.
Rosberg trailed Hamilton for 63 laps until an accident prompted a safety car intervention that led the team to call the Briton in for an unexpected and unnecessary pit-stop to change to softer tyres.
Obeying his team, Hamilton, who led by 21 seconds before he pitted, came out in third place and, after the race was re-started with eight laps remaining, found it impossible to regain his lead.
“I’ve lost the race, haven’t I?” asked Hamilton on seeing his reversal of fortunes after exiting the pit lane.
“What’s happened, guys?”
Hamilton’s team were swift to apologise for the misjudgement, but their actions had deprived him of a win.
“(Hamilton) was in the media scrum after and I said to him ‘apologies’,” a despondent-sounding Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told reporters after the race.
“We win and we lose together, we got it wrong … I’m sure he will understand, that sometimes we make mistakes.”
He then tried to explain why the incorrect decision was taken to call Hamilton in for a pit stop.
“The potential risk could have been that Seb (Vettel) swapping for a soft tyre behind Nico. We have to follow the data,” Wolff said.
“There was a message that the temperatures dropped a lot (in the tyres) and that they were losing grip.”
Rosberg’s triumph enabled him to join Briton Graham Hill, Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna in completing a Monaco hat-trick.
“I am very happy,” said Rosberg, who was also winning two consecutive Grands Prix for the first time.
“But I know it was just a lot of luck. Lewis drove brilliantly and would have deserved the win, for sure, but that’s the way it is in racing.
“I know I got lucky. I will just enjoy the moment.”
Hamilton, who has won just once at Monaco, was remarkably relaxed about the mishap.
“It was not the easiest of races,” said Hamilton.
“But the team has been amazing all year and we win and lose together.”
Asked about his mind set, he added: “Come back and win the next one.”
Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth for Ferrari ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India and Briton Jenson Button who claimed the struggling McLaren Honda team’s first points of the year in eighth place.
Brazilian Felipe Nasr came home ninth for Sauber and remarkably, after starting from the pit lane, Spaniard Carlos Sainz finished 10th to score a point in the second Toro Rosso car.