Lewis Hamilton has produced a stunning drive, staving off a rampaging Max Verstappen and some destroyed tyres to win his third Monaco Grand Prix in an emotional tribute to Niki Lauda.

Sebastian Vettel was third in his Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas fourth in the other Mercedes but they were elevated to the podium due to a five-second penalty imposed on Verstappen for an unsafe release in earlier pit lane chaos.

Verstappen went for broke with two laps remaining, coming out of the tunnel and nudging Hamilton into the chicane, narrowly averting disaster for the pair of them as Verstappen dived down the inside.

 Team Mercedes leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands. Photo / Getty
Team Mercedes leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands. Photo / Getty

They both got away with it though.

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If Verstappen wasn't enough Hamilton had to deal with serious tyre degradation throughout the race.

He complained loudly and often to his team over the radio about the situation.

"We're going to lose this race, I can't look after these tyres," Hamilton said on team radio.

"I don't know what you're thinking, keeping these tyres on man. You need to hope for a miracle."

The Brit started on pole and finished the race in first wearing a special one-off helmet that was in the colours Lauda made famous during his career.

Hamilton had earlier paid tribute to the F1 legend, who died last week aged 70 and revealed he owed Lauda "my career".

This win though was an even bigger tribute to the Austrian as Hamilton simply said: "That one is for Niki mate" on the team radio.

Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle called it a "champion's drive".

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Hamilton said the win was amongst the toughest drives of his career as he emulated what Daniel Ricciardo did one year ago in Monte Carlo, by winning the race in a car that was deteriorating badly at the end.

"That was the hardest race I think I have had. I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki — I know he will be looking down," Hamilton said.

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

"I wasn't going to come in, I was either going to crash or finish."

The race was turned on its head early on as Ferrari's Charles Leclerc looked to charge hard and make amends for the mistake his team made in qualifying.

He made pass after pass until he got too bold trying to take Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and clipped a wall, shredding a tyre and causing a safety car to come out, which is when most drivers pitted.

Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to Niki Lauda. Photo / Getty
Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to Niki Lauda. Photo / Getty

That chaos saw Verstappen's unsafe release come as he collided with Bottas in the pits, ultimately costing the Dutchman a podium.

It was also the moment that cost Ricciardo badly as Renault panic pitted.

The French outfit's strategy failed badly as he was released behind Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen, who were both slow and stayed out on track longest of all before pitting.

It ultimately destroyed the Aussie's race after he pitted in fifth and left in 14th before rallying to finish ninth due to a time penalty to Haas driver Romain Grosjean relegating the Frenchman to 10th.

Pierre Gasly was fifth for Red Bull with Carlos Sainz sixth, Daniil Kvyat seventh and Alexander Albon eighth.