Lewis Hamilton shrugged off a last-minute alarm on his Mercedes-Benz to secure a commanding victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, while teammate Nico Rosberg retired with three laps of the 53 remaining, leaving Hamilton 53 points ahead in the sprint to the finish of the Drivers’ Championship with seven rounds to go.
Second place went to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with former Ferrari favourite Felipe Massa third for Williams Mercedes ahead of his own teammate Valtteri Bottas. Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo produced a strong comeback drive through the field to take eighth for Red Bull Renault as six teams shared the World Championship points.
As usual, Hamilton built his race win on his qualifying performance: pole position was his seventh in a row, his 11th of the season and the 49th of his Formula 1 career – third on the all-time list behind the late Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton’s 40th F1 career victory and seventh of 2015 was made unexpectedly easy, first when the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel inserted themselves between him and Rosberg on the grid, and then when Raikkonen threw away his front-row performance by failing to get the scarlet car moving.
Any tag-team tactics Ferrari might have entertained went out the window as the Finn embarked on a dramatic comeback drive from the very back of the field, responding to the challenge superbly to claim fifth place by the finish.
Hamilton would have been surprised, five laps from the end, to hear his team asking him to increase his pace: he was already 22 seconds ahead and had just set the fastest race lap, but some data they were reading had them concerned.
‘Pull a gap, no questions, just execute,’ was the instruction and while the Englishman duly obeyed – his final margin was over 25 seconds – he made a tart comment on the slow-down lap: ‘Those last few laps were not cool, man…’
To put his difficulties into perspective, Rosberg endured a nightmarish weekend when he needed one of his best. A Saturday component failure compromised his engine, he reverted to the old-spec Mercedes power unit which had five race weekends on its CV already, had no answer to the front three in qualifying and finally saw his engine give up the ghost as he looked set for a podium and possible second place.
The two Silver Arrows drivers summed their contrasting fortunes up succinctly. ‘A perfect weekend for me,’ said Hamilton. ‘I can’t remember one like it.’ Rosberg, on the other hand, said Monza was ‘a massive step in the wrong direction’ for his title chances.
Williams took another decisive step of their own away from Red Bull in the fight for third place overall behind Mercedes and Ferrari, while Force India’s 14-point haul for Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg in sixth and seventh places edged them ahead of Lotus and back to fifth.
Lotus, limping from race to race financially, came back to Earth with a bump on track after Romain Grosjean’s Spa podium: both he and Pastor Maldonado were out within two laps after incidents in the crowded first few corners. As team high-up Federico Gastaldi said, ‘The cruel mistress that is motor sport gave us a resounding slap in the face.’
Those were the only two retirements as the rapidly improving Marcus Ericsson took ninth place for Sauber, sandwiched between the Toro Rosso pair of Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. Both of them started from the back in a weekend where penalties fell like a paper blizzard upon driver after driver.