Hamilton takes lead as Mercedes rule Monza

Lewis Hamilton took the lead of the Drivers’ World Championship for the first time this year on Sunday, claiming a lights-to-flag victory as Mercedes dominated the Italian Grand Prix.

The 32-year-old Briton, seeking a fourth world title, made a perfect start from his record 69th pole position to lead his Mercedes teammate, Finn Valtteri Bottas, home for his sixth win this year, his fourth at Monza and the 59th of his career.

Hamilton now leads four-time champion Sebastian Vettel by three points after the German finished third, 36 seconds adrift, in his Ferrari in front of a raucous crowd of 93,000.

Having won in Belgium last Sunday, Hamilton also became the first driver to score back-to-back victories this year. It was Mercedes’ third one-two this year and the team’s 39th overall.

Hamilton now has 238 points, ahead of Vettel on 235 and Bottas on 197, while in the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes lead with 435 to Ferrari on 373.

“I love it here in Italy and I love the passion of the fans, particularly the Ferrari fans – they are fantastic,” said Hamilton, despite much booing of his success.

“I am so happy and the team did a great job – Mercedes power is definitely better than Ferrari power.”

Bottas also praised Mercedes’ teamwork. “The car was so strong – it was amazing how quick we were and it was a pure joy to drive,” he said. “A perfect result! No drama.”

Vettel said: “It was entertaining, quite good fun. We just didn’t have the pace of the leading two drivers, but going around seeing these people gives us a lot of hope.

“We have a strong car and will have a strong end to the season.”

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who started 16th after incurring grid penalties, came home fourth for Red Bull ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, French rookie Esteban Ocon of Force India, Canadian teenage rookie Lance Stroll and his Williams teammate, Brazilian Felipe Massa.

Mexican Sergio Perez took ninth in the second Force India ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen, who had started 13th for Red Bull and suffered an early puncture.

Hamilton made a good start from pole position and fended off Stroll, who started second for Williams after nine drivers were handed grid penalties, to take control on the run to the first chicane.

Behind him, Raikkonen began well and passed Bottas into the second chicane, while Verstappen, from 13th, was up to eighth on the opening lap.

Bottas bounced back to reclaim fourth from his fellow Finn on lap two, and then passed Stroll and Ocon to secure second place behind his Mercedes teammate.

As Bottas did this, Massa collided with Verstappen at the first chicane, the Dutchman collecting a front right puncture.

By lap 14, having run within 10 seconds of the lead as he climbed to third, Vettel was more than 12 seconds behind as Ferrari encouraged their men to find more pace. Raikkonen, in sixth, complained of problems with the rear end of his car.

The grumbling Raikkonen pitted after 15 laps, followed one lap later by Ocon and then Stroll, all of them switching to softs. The Canadian had a left-rear problem in his stop, adding two seconds that cost him position ahead of Raikkonen.

Hamilton continued to set the pace and had a ‘moment’ on lap 20 when he skimmed across the edge of a gravel trap at the second chicane. He remained 4.5 seconds ahead of Bottas, with Vettel third and Ricciardo closing fast in fourth after passing Perez.

Raikkonen passed Ocon for sixth under braking into the first chicane and rebuffed the Frenchman’s response. But on the weekend of their 70th anniversary, it was not much to celebrate for Ferrari as Vettel reported he was “struggling with the rear now”.

The German was 22 seconds away from Hamilton by half-distance with little prospect of catching him or Bottas. For the tifosi, it was an unfolding nightmare scenario – a masterclass by Mercedes at their own ‘Temple of Speed’.

Hamilton finally pitted for softs after 32 laps in 2.5 seconds, passing the lead to Bottas who followed suit immediately in 2.2 seconds. It was synchronised perfection from the ‘Silver Arrows’ with 18 laps remaining.

Having also pitted, Vettel was fourth behind the yet-to-stop Ricciardo, with Raikkonen fifth and Ocon sixth. The Australian finally came in for super-softs, losing fourth, but then regained that place on lap 41 with a spectacular dive inside Raikkonen’s car at the first chicane.

Hamilton, who had gone five seconds clear, reported he “lost a bit of power” on lap 43. His lead slipped to 3.6 seconds ahead of Bottas, both Mercedes men running with their engines on reduced power as they cruised home.

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