BACK IN THE RACE: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has won his first race of the 2016 season at the Monaco GP on Sunday. Image: AFP / Andrej Isakovic
Monaco — Lewis Hamilton won an incident-packed Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday to get his Formula 1 championship bid back on track after a dismal run of eight races without a win.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo started from pole position and finished second, with Mexican driver Sergio Perez third for Force India.
Hamilton, the defending F1 champion, started from third but soon overtook his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, and then held off Ricciardo with a gritty blocking move midway through.
Because of poor visibility and a drenched circuit, the first few laps were a procession behind a safety car.
But once the racing began properly, it was a thriller featuring multiple crashes and a huge blunder from Ricciardo's team.
Hamilton was delighted after his win, jumping out of his car and throwing himself into the arms of his team engineers — and getting congratulated by US pop star Justin Bieber.
Hamilton, who had not won since clinching last season's United States Grand Prix, took his helmet off and then ran back to get more hugs from his pit crew.
Grabbing the race trophy from Monaco's Prince Albert, Hamilton then tossed it up in the air and just about caught it.
Ricciardo stood watching, glum-faced, but then went up to shake Hamilton's hand.
It was even worse for Rosberg, this season's runaway championship leader, who seemed to receive team orders to let Hamilton go past him early on.
Rosberg, winner of seven of the past eight races, including the first four this season, had a bad day as he finished seventh — his misery compounded when he was overtaken at the line by Nico Hulkenberg.
It was Hamilton's 44th career win — the same number as his car — and only his second at Monaco, where he finished third last year after being caught behind a safety car following a late team order to pit.
This time, there were no such glitches for Hamilton, whose other win in Monaco was back in 2008 when he was driving for McLaren.
After the track dried out, Hamilton came in for quicker ultra-soft tires on lap 32, with Ricciardo coming in a lap later to switch to the same tires.
But in an astonishing oversight from Red Bull, his pit crew was not ready and this cost him valuable time as he came out behind Hamilton.
"They should have been ready," Ricciardo said. "It hurts."
Shortly after, a race engineer tried to reassure Ricciardo, saying "get your head together, you're quicker than him, let's do it," but the error was a terrible one.
Five laps later, Ricciardo went close to overtaking Hamilton on lap 37.
But Hamilton held his line at the Mirabeau turn, prompting an angry reaction from Ricciardo, who waved his right hand furiously.
"I don't really want to talk about the race," Ricciardo said.