Twenty-four hours can be a long time in motorsport.
On Saturday afternoon, Lewis Hamilton could have been forgiven for thinking his hopes of winning a fourth world title were truly cursed after engine problems left him stranded at the end of the pit lane as the final part of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix began.
The Mercedes-GP driver’s season has been beset by setbacks, some self-inflicted, others mechanical and out of his control, and for a brief period it looked as if he would not set a lap time and start from 10th on a street track where overtaking is nigh on impossible.
Happily for the Briton, his team were able to fix the issue quickly and he went out to set one flying lap time to secure third place, behind pole-sitter Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull Racing car and teammate Nico Rosberg. It was a good damage limitation job under the circumstances.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and the contrast in emotions was complete.
• Photo gallery: Lewis Hamilton in celebration mode after winning action-packed Monaco Grand Prix
• Race report and results: Hamilton claims first win of the season in Monaco to trim Rosberg's lead
Hamilton stood triumphant as the victor in Monte Carlo, with the bonus of taking 19 points out of Rosberg’s championship lead to close the gap to 24 with 15 races of the season remaining.
A large degree of fortune went into the events that allowed the triple world champion to prevail, but if anyone deserved a bit of luck, it was him.
This is the driver who had his race weekends in China and Russia hampered by mechanical problems in qualifying, and most infamously lost last year’s Monaco Grand Prix through no fault of his own after Mercedes made the bizarre decision to pit him late in the race behind the safety car.
The first element of luck was the fact that it rained heavily before the race.
It mixed up the conditions. Had it been dry, a processional one-stop race was on the horizon, and it would have been tough for Hamilton to get past both Rosberg and Ricciardo.
Instead Hamilton was much faster than Rosberg in the damp conditions early on, with Ricciardo disappearing up the road ahead.
Mercedes pride themselves on not implementing team orders between Hamilton and Rosberg in their time together, but on Sunday, the German was asked to move out of the way for his teammate.
It was clear Rosberg did not have the speed to challenge for the win, but Hamilton did, and the team made the call.
As the track dried, Mercedes risked leaving Hamilton out on wet tyres after Ricciardo pitted for intermediates.
Hamilton had gained the lead by doing so, but was considerably slower than Ricciardo.
He drove superbly to keep the Australian behind him until he made his switch to dry tyres on lap 32.
The second major element of fortune now came his way as Ricciardo pitted a lap later.
Hamilton’s pace was slow on his lap out of the pits as he struggled to warm up his tyres in the cool conditions. Even a moderately half decent pit stop would have got Ricciardo back on track in the lead.
Instead, the Red Bull pit crew were not ready for him and lost agonising seconds getting his tyres out, and he came out behind Hamilton.
That defined the race. Ricciardo was faster, but could do nothing about passing Hamilton, getting close on a few occasions, but the Briton’s defence was too good.
It was a dream result for Hamilton, especially with Rosberg finishing down in seventh.
“A big thank you to the team. I’m kind of lost for words,” he said. “I prayed for a day like this and it came through so I feel blessed.
He needed some luck to get the victory, but it is hard to begrudge him it and it has breathed fresh life into the championship fight.
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