(CNN)Sport can be so cruel -- as Lewis Hamilton discovered at Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, when a mistake by his team gifted Nico Rosberg a place in the Formula One history books.
Monaco Grand Prix: Mercedes' mistake gives Rosberg victory
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Hamilton had seemed set to convert his first pole position at elite motorsport's most prestigious race into his first win on the testing street circuit since 2008.
Leading by over 10 seconds with 13 laps to go, he was called into the pits -- but to the world champion's horror he was stuck in third place when he returned as the safety car had been called out.
On a track notoriously difficult for overtaking, it allowed Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to become only the fourth driver to win three consecutive races in the principality, joining Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Graham Hill.
"I know it was just a lot of luck today," said the German, who cut Hamilton's championship lead to 10 points after six races following his second successive victory.
"Lewis drove brilliantly and would have deserved the win for sure but that's the way it is in racing. It's difficult in the car to judge what decisions are being made. It was hard to do the restart with the hard tires, which were very cold.
"I know I got lucky today, I will just enjoy the moment now. Lewis was a little bit stronger this weekend so I have to work hard."
Hamilton came home third behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who now trails the Englishman by 28 points in the drivers' standings.
Mercedes was quick to acknowledge its error, tweeting an apology to Hamilton.
"There is nothing else to do than apologize to Lewis, it was a misjudgment in the heat of the moment," team boss Toto Wolff said later.
"I'm sorry for Lewis that we made the mistake and I'm sorry for Lewis. It should have been a perfect 1-2 today.
"We made a decision and it was the wrong decision. We need to analyze it and to apologize to Lewis."
The key moment came when Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen crashed into the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and ran into the barriers.
"That was stupid," Grosjean said on his team radio after the 17-year-old's move. The Dutchman, son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, had been trying to use the slipstream of faster cars who'd lapped him to move his way up the field.
Hamilton was fuming on the track, telling his race engineers to "please stop talking to me" but regained his composure after the race.
"I'm sure we will sit down afterwards and try to think of ways we can improve," he told reporters.
Vettel said it was difficult to regain tire temperature after the safety car was called.
"This is like sending swimmers out with weight on their legs," the four-time world champion said on his team radio at the time. "We need at least three laps to get some temperature into tires."
The German added later: "We were there in the moment when it mattered and able to pip Lewis when he came out of the pits.
"When we decided to pit we were a bit too far back but nevertheless, second is a great finish for the team."
His former team Red Bull continued its improvement from Saturday's qualifying as Australian Daniel Ricciardo -- who set the fastest lap of the race, one minute 18.063 seconds -- finished fourth ahead of young Russian Daniil Kvyat.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth in the second Ferrari, ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez.
Jenson Button was eighth to give McLaren its first points this season in conjunction with engine supplier Honda, but teammate Fernando Alonso suffered more disappointment as he failed to finish.
Sauber's young Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr was ninth, while Toro Rosso's Spanish rookie Carlos Sainz Jnr. made his way up the field after starting in the pit lane to take the final point on offer.