Hamilton leads Italian Grand Prix from start to finish
Lewis Hamilton cruised to his seventh win of the season at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, and nearly doubled his Formula One lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, whose engine caught fire with two laps remaining.
Three and a half hours after taking the checkered flag, Hamilton’s victory was confirmed following a tyre pressure inquiry.Hamilton’s left rear tyre pressure was found to be 0.3 psi below the minimum of 19.5 when measured before the race. But stewards decided to take no action because they determined that the pressure was at the correct level when the tires were fitted to the car.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, celebrates his second place as Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, winner, background left, looks at him flanked by third placed Williams driver Felipe Massa, of Brazil, during the podium ceremony for the Formula One Italian Grand Prix, at the Monza. Picture/AP
“I wasn’t aware of it,” Hamilton said, adding that 0.3 psi “is not really a huge amount on one tyre.”
Sole tire supplier Pirelli, still recovering from the Belgian GP two weeks ago where there were frightening tyre deterioration problems, agreed with the stewards’ decision.
“We are totally sure no one is cheating,” Pirelli spokesman Roberto Boccafogli said, adding that “0.3 psi is nothing. ... Such a small thing.”
Otherwise, it was a golden weekend for Hamilton, who topped every practice, started from pole position and led the race from start to finish.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a weekend like this,” said Hamilton, who is aiming for his second straight F1 title and third overall.
A potential challenge from Ferrari fizzled when Kimi Raikkonen stalled on the front row of the starting grid.
Lewis Hamilton drives his Mercedes to victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, in front of a sea of red Ferrari fans. Picture/AP.
In perfect conditions, Hamilton finished 25 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the other Ferrari, while Felipe Massa crossed third, 47 seconds back.Massa finished just three tenths of a second ahead of Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas.
“It’s the best second-place I’ve ever had,” said the four-time world champion Vettel, who raced for Ferrari for the first time at Monza.
“The emotions on the podium are incredible.”
Amid speculation that Monza might be removed from the circuit after its contract expires next season, Vettel made an emotional call to keep the race in Italy.
“If we take this race away from the calendar for any money reasons, I think you are basically ripping our hearts out,” said the German, who won twice at Monza with Red Bull and once with Toro Rosso before signing with Ferrari a year ago.
“Because this (race) makes it so much more worthwhile. You look left, look right, and people are just happy to be part of it. And it makes our day. It’s incredible.”
Hamilton now leads Rosberg by 53 points with seven races remaining this season.As thousands of red-clad Ferrari fans rushed out onto the track below, Hamilton was joined on the winner’s podium by Star Wars creator George Lucas.
“This circuit is such a special one for me. I think it’s the same for all the drivers,” Hamilton said.
“When you stand atop that podium you feel incredible pride and incredibly proud to be amongst the greatest who have ever stood up there. And you see a sea of fans in red. The sea of fans is just unlike anything I’ve seen.”
With the 40th win of his career, Hamilton moved within one victory of his childhood idol Ayrton Senna and Vettel on the all-time list. The Briton also became the first driver to secure back-to-back wins at Monza since Damon Hill in 1993-94.
Hamilton had such a comfortable lead that he told his team midway through the race that he was turning his engine down.But Mercedes must have been made aware of the tire pressure issue late in the race — and potential time penalties — because the team started to send worrisome messages to Hamilton via radio.
“We need to pull a gap,” a Mercedes engineer told Hamilton. “Don’t ask questions, just execute.”
Raikkonen started on the front row for the first time since China in 2013 but wasted the opportunity by stalling in his grid position. The Finn eventually got going but dropped immediately to the back of the pack, before working his way back through the field to finish fifth.
Before the race, fighter jets flew overhead leaving a trail of red, white and green smoke — the colors of the Italian flag. Italian Premier Matteo Renzi was among spectators enthusiastically singing the national anthem, while standing next to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who will decide Monza’s fate.
There was more smoke — pure red — produced by Ferrari fans in the grandstand.Also, drivers stood for a minute of silence to remember Justin Wilson, the British driver who died after debris struck his helmet in an IndyCar race last month.
F1 now heads to Asia for races in Singapore and Japan. The season ends in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 29.