British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton on Sunday strengthened his grip on the top spot of the 2019 standings with a hard-fought win in the Monaco Grand Prix.

This is Hamilton’s third triumph in Monaco, following his successes in 2008 and 2016.

"That was definitely the hardest race I've had. I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki (Lauda). I know he'll be looking down, I was just trying to make him proud. We truly miss him," the Mercedes driver, who started the race from pole position, said afterward.

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel came second ahead of Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas after a five-second penalty sent Max Verstappen of the Netherlands (Red Bull) to the fourth spot.

Verstappen was handed the penalty for a clipping Bottas' vehicle in the pit lane as he overtook him.

Bottas subsequently hit the wall and punctured a tire, falling from second to fourth.

With the sanction on Verstappen, the Finn was able to make the podium in the end.

"Obviously, it was a disappointing weekend for me. Today was difficult," Bottas, who was out of the top 2 for the first time this season, said after the race.

But it was even more disappointing for local favorite, Monégasque Charles Leclerc, as he was forced to withdraw 16 laps into the race after his Ferrari suffered floor damage after a collision with Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault.

Having kicked off the race from the 15th spot due to a strategic miscalculation by his Italian team during the qualifying rounds, he spent the opening laps trying to regain lost ground.

He even made it to 12th spot before the collision rounded off a disappointing weekend on turf.

Before the sixth race of the season gets underway, the drivers observed a minute of silence for late Formula One great Niki Lauda of Austria, who died on Monday aged 70.

Throughout the week, Lauda’s memory has been honored by messages written on the helmets and cars in Monaco.

Ahead of the race, the Formula One’s 20 drivers put on Lauda’s characteristic red cap with his name and his three world championships written on it during the tribute. EFE