Lewis Hamilton has secured his sixth victory of the 2014 Formula One season at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix in Monza, moving to within 22 points of his Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg.
Despite starting from pole position, Hamilton’s win was far from straightforward, with a slow start caused by a software glitch leaving him in fourth position by the first corner of the opening lap.
The British driver recovered with a storming drive, eventually pressurising Rosberg into making a costly braking error on lap 29 that caused the German to miss a chicane and concede the lead to Hamilton.
Behind the Mercedes drivers, Williams pairing Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas came home to take third and fourth respectively. Massa’s podium finish was his first in more than a year and also his first for the Williams team.
But it was a disappointing day for the home crowd, known as the Tifosi, and their beloved Ferrari. Spaniard Fernando Alonso was one of only two drivers to retire from the race when a problem with his hybrid engine surfaced on lap 29, and this marked the first time he has failed to deliver a podium finish at Monza since joining Ferrari in 2010.
In the other Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen under-performed to cross the line 10th in the final points-paying position. A small consolation for the fans was the 5-second penalty applied after the race to McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen for forcing Bottas off the track, which meant Raikkonen was classified ninth, scoring two points.
But the biggest winner of the day was Hamilton. After overcoming his technical gremlins at the start, he had dispatched Magnussen and Massa by lap 10 to slot into second place behind Rosberg. From there, he began closing the gap to his teammate, before the German pitted for fresh tyres on lap 24.
After pitting himself, Hamilton emerged back on track behind Rosberg and was advised by his engineer to maintain a steady gap behind his teammate in the hope of keeping enough life in his new set of tyres.
Instead, Hamilton chose to use the grip in the fresh tyres to push hard, narrowing the gap to Rosberg to 0.6 seconds. Under pressure, Rosberg braked too late at the end of Monza’s fast main straight to make the apex of turn one. While Rosberg took to an escape road, Hamilton moved into the lead and quickly established a gap of his own, which he held until the finish line.
The rivalry between the two Mercedes drivers has intensified over the past two weeks, following their coming together at the last race in Belgium. While Rosberg has publicly taken responsibility for the collision, Rosberg was once again booed during the podium ceremony in Italy – as he was in Belgium. This weekend’s result will no doubt be a blow to the driver, who, until this point had been coping well with the intensity of the intra-team battle.
Hamilton’s haul of a maximum 25 points to Rosberg’s 18 for second place edges the Brit seven points closer to his rival in the championship hunt, with six races remaining in the season. While the result is crucial for Hamilton’s title bid, he has much work to do if he is to emerge victorious when the season concludes in Abu Dhabi in November.
His championship season is back on track, and there’s all to play for when the battle recommences in Singapore in two weeks’ time.