I was fighting with the spirit of Lauda - Hamilton wins his 'hardest race'

Lewis Hamilton said he channelled Formula One legend Niki Lauda as he dug deep to win what be branded "the hardest race" of his career at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Three-time world champion Lauda, who convinced Hamilton to join Mercedes in 2012, passed away on Monday and tributes were paid to him across the grid in the principality.

The drivers gathered around a replica of one of the Austrian's helmets and wore caps inscribed with "Niki" during a minute's silence prior to lights out, while Mercedes adopted a red halo for the race.

Hamilton led from the off but had to negotiate 67 laps on the medium compound as Max Verstappen, who was on hard tyres, pushed him all the way to the end.

"That was definitely the hardest race I've had but nonetheless I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki. Niki's been such an influence in our team helping us get where we are and I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off," said Hamilton.

"I was trying to stay focused and make him proud, that's been the goal all week, and we truly miss him.

"I've not driven on empty tyres since Shanghai in 2007 when McLaren left me out for a ridiculous time."

Hamilton persistently made his struggles with the deteriorating tyres known over team radio but insisted he was never going to pit, having paid the price for doing so from the lead in Monaco in 2015.

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Lewis Hamilton
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The Prince of Wales talks to 14 year old Lewis Hamilton who is sponsored by Mclaren's driver support programme during his visit to McLaren's Formula One factory in Woking.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) ART
Felipe Massa (right) celebrates claiming Pole position with second placed Lewis Hamilton during qualifying at Magny Cours, Nevers, France.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks to Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton at the British Racing Drivers Club Awards, at the Cafe Royal, Piccadilly, London.
(left to right) Nigel Mansell, Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, and Damon Hill at the British Racing Drivers Club Awards, at the Cafe Royal, Piccadilly, London.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton is loaded onto a helicopter following his crash during a qualifying session for the European Formula One Grand Prix at Nurburgring, Germany.
David Coulthard (centre) with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Lewis Hamilton drives Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy round the track in a Mercedes SLR 7722 during the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium, London.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton celebrates after finishing in pole position at Silverstone, Northamptonshire.
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton in the pits during Practice Day for the 2013 Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in the garage during third practice at the Catalunya Circuit, Barcelona.
McLaren Mercedes' Jenson Button of Great Britain and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain in the pits during Second Practice Session during Practice for the Formula One Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Northampton.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory with his brother and his father during The Monte Carlo Grand Prix, Monaco.
Winner of Sports Personality of the Year 2014, Lewis Hamilton, second placed Rory McIlroy (right) and third placed Jo Pavey (left)during the 2014 Sports Personality of the Year Awards at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow.
Nicole Scherzinger and Lewis Hamilton arriving at the British Fashion Awards 2014, the Colosseum Theatre, London.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton unveil the new Mercedes W06 during pre-season testing at the Circuito de Jerez in Jerez, Spain.
(Left - right) Lewis Hamilton, Rita Ora, Graham Norton, Ewan McGregor and Jack Whitehall during filming of the Graham Norton Show at the London Studios, south London, to be aired on Friday.
File photo dated 10-07-2016 of Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory with the crowd after winning the 2016 British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
Lewis Hamilton asks NASA astronaut whether the moon landings were faked
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: (L-R) Singer Rita Ora, F1 Driver Lewis Hamilton, designer Donatella Versace and MMA Fighter Connor McGregor are seen at The Fashion Awards 2017 in partnership with Swarovski at Royal Albert Hall on December 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/BFC/Getty Images for BFC)
ALBERT PARK, VIC - MARCH 17: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport driver Lewis Hamilton (44) holds up the second place trophy at The Australian Formula One Grand Prix on March 17, 2019, at The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Albert Park, Australia. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Lewis HAMILTON of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport on the drivers parade before the start of the 2019 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Second-placed Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton attends a press conference after the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Asanka Brendon RATNAYAKE / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
17th March 2019, Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia; Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix, race day; Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Valtteri Bottas wins first race of the year followed by his team mate Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Octane/Action Plus via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP, Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari and Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari look on at the F1 Drivers Class of 2019 photo before the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes takes a photo with photographers after taking pole position for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 16, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia (Photo by Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Lewis HAMILTON of Mercedes-AMG-Petronas Formula One Team greets fans at the 2019 F1 Season Launch (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) and team principal Toto Wolff (L) greet fans onstage during an F1 live event to introduce drivers and team principals in Melbourne on March 13, 2019, ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) is pictured in the Petronas Yamaha SRT pit at Losail track in Doha on March 9, 2019. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton is seen, outside Stella McCartney, during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020, on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton and Oprah Winfrey attend the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton and Stella McCartney pose after the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 02: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) Lewis Hamilton arrives at the Tommy Hilfiger TOMMYNOW Spring 2019 : TommyXZendaya Premieres at Theatre des Champs-Elysees on March 02, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images For Tommy Hilfiger)
File photo dated 28-10-2018 of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: (L-R) Stefano Tonchi, Carine Roitfeld, Lewis Hamilton and Anna Dello Russo attends the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton and Winnie Harlow attend the 2018 CFDA Awards at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, NY, on June 4, 2018. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)
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"I was never going to come in. A few years ago, I was in the lead and then I came in for a pit stop and so I learnt the hard way, I lost the race here. I wasn't going to come in, I was going to either crash or finish," he said.

"Ultimately it was the wrong tyre...but the team has done an incredible job and what we've achieved in the first six races is remarkable. I'm so proud to be a part of it and I hope I can continue to do well."

Verstappen attempted to get past Hamilton at the chicane with three laps remaining and the pair made contact, with the stewards taking no action over the incident after the Briton took the chequered flag.

"It was close, it was a late dive, luckily I saw him last minute, I think his front wing was beside my rear wheel so he wasn't fully past. It was a light touch and we moved on," added Hamilton.

Verstappen was second across the line but ended up placing fourth due to a five-second time penalty for making contact with Valtteri Bottas, who took third behind Sebastian Vettel, in the pit lane.

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Niki Lauda
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DAMON HILL AND NIKI LAUDA IN MONACO
Niki Lauda, Ferrari
Austrian Niki Lauda celebrates victory in the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch after winning in his McLaren-Ford. Second place finisher Didier Pironi (l) doesn't look too disappointing with his afternoons work
Niki Lauda approaches Surtees Corner in his Brabham Parmalat Alfa Romeo BT48
Austrian Niki Lauda celebrates victory in the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch after winning in his Marlboro McLaren
NIKI LAUDA CHATS TO DRIVER GERHARD BERGER
9-MAR-96 ... Eddie Irvine (right) explains the handling of the Ferrari to Niki Lauda before finishing third on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix
16-MAY-96 ... Michael Schumacher talks to Niki Lauda about the disappointing performance of his Ferrari
Nigel Mansell (left) chats to Niki Lauda (right) on the pitlane wall
Niki Lauda chats to Michael Schumacher in the garage during this mornings practice
l-r; Niki Lauda, Jaguar Racing and Bernie Ecclestone
Niki Lauda and Birgit Lauda attend the premier of Rush at Odeon Leicester Square, London.
Mercedes Toto Wolff (left) and Niki Lauda during the practice day at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton with Niki Lauda during the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Prince Michael of Kent with Niki Lauda in the garages during practice day for the 2015 British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton (centre right) celebrates his victory and winning the 2015 Formula One World Championship alongside teammate Nico Rosberg (centre left), Niki Lauda and the rest of the Mercedes team after the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, USA.
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