Lewis Hamilton has taken the lead in the driver’s championship for the first time this season with a thoroughly convincing victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton led the race from start to finish only briefly coming under pressure at Turn 1 of the opening lap before establishing a comfortable gap to the chasing pack.
Behind him team-mate Valtteri Bottas bounced back from a poor qualifying to finish in second, about 30 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo pushed through the pack from 16th to end in fourth ahead of Raikkonen’s Ferrari, Ocon’s Force India and the Williams drivers of Stroll and Massa.
Hamilton Becomes Title Front-Runner
It was a near faultless weekend for Lewis Hamilton – off the back of a win in Belgium the week before – after dominating qualifying and then comfortably controlling the race.
The Englishman covered off an early challenge from Lance Stroll at the start and disappeared into a race of his own.
Hamilton said: “It’s an incredibly exciting season, the last two races have been extremely strong for us – we have gone from strength to strength, the way we have come together this second half [of the season] so far is exceptional.”
With Hamilton easily in the lead and untouchable, a more exciting contest was unfolding in the pack as Bottas and Vettel fought for the remaining podium places.
Bottas, starting from fourth on the grid, overtook Stroll at Turn 1 on lap 3 and then made the same move on Ocon a lap later to give Mercedes control of the race.
Ferrari Underperforms at Home
For Vettel, the race was more about damage limitation to restrict Hamilton’s gains.
The German started unusually low on the grid after a dreadful qualifying session but began the race in the best possible way by passing Raikkonen on Lap 3, Stroll a few laps later and then getting past Ocon at Turn 1 on Lap 8.
But by that point both Mercedes were out of reach and instead Vettel had to keep an eye on his rear mirror as Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo made an impressive charge through the field from 16th.
Ricciardo made a stunning move on Raikkonen at the first chicane with 12 laps to go and set sights on Vettel who was over 11 seconds ahead.
The Australian narrowed the gap by a second a lap but as his tyres began to wear his pace advantage fell away and Vettel crossed the line four seconds ahead.
“It was a difficult day, a difficult start. We just didn’t have the pace. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons but I don’t want to get too technical today,” said Vettel.
“At the moment you can maybe say Mercedes has an edge. Saturdays, they are very strong.”
And indeed Mercedes did have the advantage over Ferrari at Monza. The Scuderia were no match for Mercedes during qualifying and they ran nearly 0.7 seconds a lap slower on average in the race.
Mercedes were always expected to have a speed advantage on the fast Monza circuit but their absolute dominance surprised even them.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “For me it looks like this weekend Ferrari has made a step back somehow. I think we were very solid but also they haven’t performed in the way everybody expected. Red Bull starting from the back of the grid almost finishing third tells you something is out of sync here, something is not how it should be.”
The paddock now heads to Asia for the Singapore Grand Prix and that will be some comfort to the Scuderia who are widely expected to perform better on the slower track in the warmer weather.
“We are going to another track where the Ferraris are generally quick with the extra downforce they are able to add on,” Hamilton noted.
“Ferrari are often better in hot places but I think we will be able to give them a good race.”