Hamilton triumphs in Monaco to take F1 lead

Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren-Mercedes won an incident-packed Formula One Monaco Grand Prix in difficult conditions Sunday to take the overall lead in the drivers' standings.

Hamilton finished ahead of Poland's Robert Kubica in a BMW Sauber and Brazilian Felipe Massa in a Ferrari at the end of a rain-affected and at times chaotic race on the city streets of Monte Carlo.

It was the second victory of the season for Hamilton, winner of the opening Grand Prix in Australia, who ends a series of four Ferrari victories this season.

The 23-year-old Briton drove a near faultless race in slippery conditions for his sixth Grand Prix win in 23 races and his first on the streets on Monaco.

Ferrari's defending champion Kimi Raikkonen finished just outside the points in ninth place after a braking mistake putting him into the back of Force India's Adrian Sutil while lying fifth.

After six races, the drivers' championship remains a tight affair, with Hamilton on 38 points, Raikkonen on 35, Massa on 34 and Kubica, after his third podium place of the season, on 32.

Raikkonen's mistake with 10 minutes remaining of a race shortened to the two-hour limit was the last of a series of mishaps which included a drive-through penalty and a nose repair.

The Finn was one of several drivers to need front-wing repairs after hitting barriers on the tight city roads of the principality failing to find any grip in slippery conditions.

Hamilton was one of the first to need an unscheduled pit stop when he slid into a barrier and ruin his right rear tyre.

However he was not alone in a race slightly reduced from 78 laps to 76 after two hours in which drivers had to cope with changing conditions and tyre strategies in a race which began in rain.

McLaren-Mercedes got off to a bad start when Heikki Kovalainen stalled before the warm-up lap and had to start from the pit lane at the back of the field.

Hamilton did well to get past Raikkonen at the start to chase leader Massa starting from pole position, but was soon in trouble when he slid into a barrier and ruined his rear right tyre.

A similar problem affected Renault's Fernando Alonso who punctured a rear tyre and took the opportunity to change from intermediates to extreme wet tyres.

The safety car was then out after David Coulthard (Red Bull) and Sebastian Bourdais (Torro Rosso) hit the barriers and each other to end their respective races.

There was no let up in incidents, with Raikkonen suffering a drive-though penalty imposed for having his tyres not fitted in time before the race, and Alonso driving into Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber).

Two-time world champion Alonso faced another visit to the pits for a new front wing, as did Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg (Williams), who clipped his nose in the incident, for a second time in the race.

Kubica took the lead briefly after a braking mistake by Massay, but by the half-way stage after the teams' scheduled stops, Hamilton was more than 17 seconds up on Massa, with Kubica third, the Australian Mark Webber (Red Bull) fourth and Sutil a surprise fifth.

However, Hamilton's advantage was wiped out in a second safety-car phase when Rosberg crashed heavily at the Swimming Pool bend with 16 laps remaining, leaving wreckage across the track. The German driver was quickly out of the car and appeared uninjured.

Hardly were the drivers back racing with 10 minutes left when Raikkonen charged into the back of Sutil, ending his race and Force India's hopes of first Formula One points.

Hamilton held on comfortably to take the chequered flag ahead of Kubica and Massa, with Webber fourth, Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) fifth, Rubens Barrichello (Honda) sixth, Kazuki Nakajima (Wiolliams) seventh) and Kovalainen eighth, dpa reported.

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