It was all going so well. Until it went very, very bad. At least for Lewis Hamilton and his new coterie of supermodel besties.
Hamilton, the best race car driver on the planet, was in the coveted pole position Sunday at the start of the Monaco Grand Prix, the world’s twistiest, riskiest road race where two drivers have crashed into the sea.
In brilliant sunshine under azure skies, with the Prince’s Palace at one end of the hilly principality and the world-famous Casino and Hotel de Paris at the other, bikini-clad women enjoyed five-course meals on gleaming, $150 million white yachts while getting ready to watch the race—the Monegasque equivalent of tailgate parties.
It was, said one racing fan, “like Hollywood but with better architecture.”
Hamilton, the multiracial race Brit from a working-class town north of London who’s conquered this bastion of aristocratic white wealth, had maybe the world’s most beautiful cheerleaders in his corner.
Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevingne, and Gigi Hadid sailed into Monte Carlo from the Cannes Film Festival on Friday to support Team Hamilton along with Delevingne’s sister Poppy and models Hailey Baldwin and Shanina Shaik.
It was all about pit-style jumpsuits. Delevingne wore a tailored black jumpsuit with a plunging neckline to the Tag Heuer party Saturday night and a shiny pink-and-black one on a visit to the actual pit lane with footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Jenner paired her trademark Klan aviator sunglasses with a low-cut paisley jumpsuit Sunday before the race.
“There’s a lot going on!” Jenner posted on Instagram, showing a picture of her Grand Prix VIP passes and maybe hinting that as an American, there was a lot going on about a race she didn’t really understand.
Photos of Hamilton’s former longtime girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger, supposedly downcast and depressed in Los Angeles, popped up in the papers here while Hamilton surfaced at the amFar gala in Cannes last week with Hadid, who seems to be his new girlfriend.
“We love you @lewishamilton,” Hadid tweeted. “Everyone knows you da champ. #TEAMLH.”
All eyes were on Hamilton, the outsider whose rivalry with fellow Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, a German/Finn who was raised in Monaco and is part of racing royalty (his father was Grand Prix champ Keke Rosberg) is legendary.
Hamilton was raised Tiger Woods-style by an ambitious, hard-driving father who worked up to three jobs to support Hamilton’s career.
Hamilton and Rosberg, born with much more of a silver spoon, have known each other since they were kids at go kart competitions, but the friendly rivalry has gone distinctly frosty in recent years, with an incident at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix. In fact, Hamilton began the year complaining that the German Rosberg was favored by Mercedes. That changed when Hamilton became the Formula 1 world champ in 2014 and signed a $100 million contract with Mercedes, ticking Rosberg off.
For his part the non-official Mercedes team chairman, gruff former F1 champ Niki Lauda, calls them both “egotistical bastards.”
The egotistical bastards were in first and second place, respectively, as the race began—ready to drive at average speeds of 142 mph on the winding, hilly course around the iconic corners, Casino Square, Tabac, La Rascasse, Sainte-Devote, and the famous Mirabeau hairpin turn near what is now the Fairmont Hotel.
Jenner tweeted a photo of herself showing her backside as she watched the start of the race from a VIP bleacher box.
Monaco, the shortest race on the Grand Prix circuit, is notorious for being tough for one driver to overtake another. Meaning it was Hamilton’s race to lose.
Then he did, as a result of one of the most puzzling and embarrassing screw-ups—by Hamilton’s own team—in recent Grand Prix history. Or as full-time Formula 1 correspondent Daniel Johnson put it in the Telegraph, “Blunder does not quite do justice to the scale of the error.”
It all went down when a hotdogging 17-year-old rookie, Max Verstappen, hit the back of Romain Grosjean’s car at Lap 64, fairly close to the end of the race, and crashed headlong into the barrier at Sainte Devote. Miraculously, he emerged unhurt.
A safety car was brought into the race to slow speeds and Hamilton’s team made the colossal error of bringing him in for a pit stop. When he returned to the race, both Rosberg and driver Sebastian Vettel advanced ahead of him with just eight laps left.
“I can’t express how I feel right now so I won’t attempt to,” Hamilton said after the race. “But you live to fight another day.”
Not coincidentally, Hamilton was a no-show at the spectacular F1 after-party Sunday night at the Amber Lounge at the Le Meridien Beach Plaza hotel poolside near the seafront.
Rosberg and 14 other F1 drivers, along with Princess Caroline’s son Pierre Casiraghi and musical artist Jason Derulo, celebrated Rosberg’s third straight Monaco Grand Prix at $22,000 “Methuselah tables”—which included a 6-liter methuselah bottle of Veuve Cliquot.
“We can't drink before the race so we make up for it now,” said one driver at Rosberg’s table who was making up for lost time, chugging from a bottle and dancing on the white couches at 5 a.m.
Some party organizers expected Jenner, Delevigne, and Hadid to show but there was no sign of them—or Hamilton, who lives nearby in the same apartment building as Rosberg. Two enormous VIP reserved tables went empty all night.
“He’ll be back there next year,” predicted one of the bartenders, pointing at Table 41, where the drivers were holding court. “He’ll win next year for sure. He’ll be out for blood in 2016.”