Lewis Hamilton ended a dominant Italian Grand Prix weekend as he meant to, claiming a lights-to-flag victory and the outright lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings for the first time this season.
The Briton led home teammate Valtteri Bottas by 4.4 seconds to give Mercedes its first 1-2 finish since the British Grand Prix, while his main championship rival Sebastian Vettel gave the tifosi something to cheer by completing the podium.
Hamilton dictated the race from the outset. He negated a less than perfect getaway by chopping across Lance Stroll at the off and forcing the Canadian – making his first front-row start – to momentarily back off on the run to the Rettifilo chicane.
That allowed Esteban Ocon to nip through into second place, but Hamilton’s path to victory was clear and untroubled from that moment on. Ocon and Stroll slotted into second and third, while a forceful Bottas banged wheels with long-time nemesis Kimi Räikkönen as they exited the chicane side-by-side.
The Mercedes driver won out in a drag race through the Curva Grande to claim fourth from his compatriot, only for Räikkönen to snatch the place back at the second della Roggia chicane. Bottas eventually made the move stick with a clinical pass around the Ferrari under braking for the Parabolica.
Bottas was the man on the move in the early laps, disposing of Stroll on Lap 3 and Ocon a lap later to give Mercedes a 1-2 run out front. With Hamilton having built a small cushion over the rest of the field, he could run safely in the knowledge that both he and Bottas had superior straight line speed if they came under threat.
With a challenge unlikely to materialise, the pair quickly de-tuned their engines and ran an economy race to the flag.
If Bottas’ early charge through the field was rapid and impressive, then full credit must be paid to Daniel Ricciardo who tigered up to a fourth-placed finish from 16th on the grid.
The Australian ran a long opening stint on Soft tyres, steadily picking off those ahead of him through some dazzling overtaking moves or as they pitted early. He peaked as high as third place before pitting, and had built enough of a gap that he was able to leapfrog Ocon’s Force India as he emerged from pit lane.
The Frenchman had already been passed by Räikkönen after their first cycle of pit stops, which also saw the Ferrari driver get the jump on Stroll with an undercut strategy and a slow wheel change by the Williams pit crew.
Ricciardo put the hammer down and rapidly closed on Räikkönen before surprising the veteran with a lunge into the Rettifilo chicane that was a carbon copy of the same passing move he put on him in 2014.
He had a dozen laps left to close down a 12-second gap to Vettel – running an increasingly lonely race in third – and after initially cutting the deficit to the German at over a second a lap, his tyres’ grip deteriorated in the final laps of the race.
Räikkönen finished fifth while Ocon led a close scrap with the Williams’ of Stroll and Felipe Massa, and the sister Force India of Sergio Pérez across the finish line.
Tenth place went to Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull Racing entry, who put in his own late charge to snatch the final championship point on offer. The Dutch driver had another luckless day, copping a front-right puncture after early contact with Massa’s Williams at the first chicane that forced him into the pits and a two-stop strategy.
Verstappen put in a succession of passing moves that helped him past the two Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz Jr and Dannil Kvyat and the Renault of Nico Hülkenberg to move into eleventh place. Kevin Magnussen’s Haas Ferrari predictably proved to be a slightly tougher prospect, but Verstappen made the move stick at the Rettifilo.
Magnussen tried to fight back with a better exit from the chicane through the Curva Grande and appeared to be forced into the run-off at the della Roggia after Verstappen seemed to chop in front of the Dane. Despite Magnussen’s hysterical complaints over the car-to-pit radio, the FIA Stewards quickly ruled Verstappen had no case to answer.
With rumours swirling that McLaren will announce its split from Honda within days, the Woking squad had a characteristically disastrous race with a double-DNF. Stoffel Vandoorne retired just past mid-distance with a loss of power, having impressively run on the fringes of the top ten in the early stages.
Teammate Fernando Alonso showed his usual flamboyance on track and his sardonic nature over the radio. Struggling with again with a lack of horsepower, the Spaniard vented his greatest displeasure at Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and the FIA Stewards. The two-time World Champion found himself racing wheel-to-wheel with the Briton for the second race running, and he was not happy with the five-second penalty handed to the Renault driver when he cut the della Roggia chicane and refused to hand the position back to the McLaren driver.
Palmer would later retire – Alonso described his DNF as “karma” over the radio – before Alonso joined him on the sidelines with a handful of laps to go.
|FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN GRAN PREMIO D’ITALIA 2017 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (53 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||53||1:15:32.312|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||53||+ 4.471|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||53||+ 36.317|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||53||+ 40.335|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||53||+ 1:00.082|
|6.||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||53||+ 1:11.528|
|7.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||53||+ 1:14.156|
|8.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||53||+ 1:14.834|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||53||+ 1:25.276|
|10.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||52||1 lap behind|
|11.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||52||1 lap behind|
|12.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||52||1 lap behind|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||52||1 lap behind|
|14.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||52||1 lap behind|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||52||1 lap behind|
|16.||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||51||2 laps behind|
|17.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Honda MCL32||50||Retired|
|18.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||49||Retired|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Honda MCL32||33||Power Loss|
|DNF.||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||29||Mechanical|
Image via LAT Images