By Alan Baldwin
MONACO (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg thanked his lucky stars on Sunday after a third successive Monaco Grand Prix victory fell into his lap just when it seemed Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton had hit the jackpot.
"I’m aware I got lucky, very lucky, probably the luckiest I’ve ever been in my career, but I’ll take it and enjoy it," said the German.
"I know how horrible a day it is for him after such a strong weekend, and to lose it right at the end, like that, that sucks."
Rosberg had been outqualified on Saturday, with Hamilton seizing pole on a metal-fenced circuit where overtaking is famously difficult, and had seemed destined to a hot and thirsty afternoon playing follow-the-leader.
That was how it panned out for the first 64 laps until Dutch 17-year-old Max Verstappen crashed and brought out the safety car.
With Rosberg second, and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel a close third, the world champion pitted for fresh tyres and came out stunned to find the others had kept going.
The victory had gone and he was third, with his championship lead over Rosberg halved to 10 points.
"Lewis did a great job, he deserved to win. I’m very well aware of that, and I also feel for him. It’s a horrible way to lose a race," said Rosberg after celebrating his second win in a row this season.
"On the other side a win is a win, and in sport luck plays a big factor in all these things, it plays a role, so I’ve learned to just take it.
"I’m very happy because winning Monaco is winning Monaco. It’s just awesome," added the man who grew up in the principality and knows every kerb and corner.
Rosberg won the last two Monaco Grands Prix from pole and Sunday was the first time since 2008, when Hamilton triumphed after qualifying third, that the winner had not started with track advantage.
He said he was as surprised as anyone when Hamilton disappeared into the pits.
"It was a big surprise and I thought ‘where the hell did he go?’ Then all of a sudden I saw wheel-banging (in the mirrors)...behind me between a Mercedes and a Ferrari, and I thought ‘What the hell is going on there?’
"Even at that time I still thought Lewis would win because he was on fresh super-softs and we were on stone-cold hard tyres," added the German.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)