By Nicola Kenton
- Lewis Hamilton claimed victory at the Italian Grand Prix, extending his championship lead to 30 points
- Kimi Räikkönen could only finish second in front of the Tifosi while Valtteri Bottas completed the podium
- Sebastian Vettel recovered to fourth place, having spun on the first lap after contact with Lewis Hamilton
MONZA, ITALY – Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to 30 points after claiming victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
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Hamilton extends championship lead
Having lost the Belgian Grand Prix on the first lap, Lewis Hamilton battled back this weekend to secure victory and extend his championship lead. Ferrari had the edge over Mercedes once again in practice and in qualifying Ferrari locked out the front row in front of their home crowd. Hamilton found his edge on race day and after a great battle with Kimi Räikkönen, the Brit came out on top.
It was not all plain sailing for Hamilton though, who clashed with Sebastian Vettel on the first lap. Heading into turn four, the two touched and Vettel came off worse spinning his Ferrari and dropping to the back of the field. The Brit continued and battled hard with Räikkönen, as the two traded the lead in the opening laps but it was strategy that won the day.
Räikkönen pitted on lap 20 with Hamilton staying out to complete ‘Hammer Time’. When the Brit eventually pitted nine laps later, the Finn had already taken a lot of life out of his tyres and was stuck behind Valtteri Bottas. When Bottas pitted the gap between Hamilton and Räikkönen was less than a second and with eight laps left in the race, Hamilton made his decisive Grand Prix winning move.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Hamilton said: “The pressure is so high, all I can do is focus on trying to deliver every weekend. I definitely feel I am extracting everything and more out of the car. The last three wins, knowing those weekends we have not had the upper hand and have been a step or two behind, to finish ahead by one step, that is an incredibly proud feeling for everyone in the team.
“That excitement is what is spurring us along. There are still seven races to go and we are not being complacent at all. We have to deliver results like this more often. Today could easily have been the other way around.”
Räikkönen recovers from Spa
It was a good weekend for Kimi Räikkönen, albeit the Ferrari driver did not manage to win in front of the Tifosi. Similarly to Spa, the Finn had proved that he was just as quick as his team-mate around the Monza circuit. Qualifying saw Räikkönen have the edge over the rest of the field and the Ferrari driver produced the fastest lap in F1 history to secure pole position in Monza. With Sebastian Vettel putting his car in second position, it was the first Ferrari front-row lockout at Monza since 2000.
Race day saw Räikkönen maintain his lead on the first lap but the Finn came under threat from Hamilton soon after. The two drivers battled hard and it was reminiscent of 2007 when the pair were fighting for the championship. The Brit managed to get ahead of Räikkönen but a few corners later and it was the Finn who was back ahead.
Strategy was Räikkönen’s downfall in the end. Ferrari pitted him on lap 20 and when he returned to the field, the former World Champion pushed very hard. Soon enough, Räikkönen had caught up with leader Valtteri Bottas but was unable to get past his compatriot and the Ferrari driver became stuck in a Mercedes trap. Having already used too much of the life in his tyres, Räikkönen was not able to have the same grip as Hamilton and the Brit got ahead and pulled away.
Disappointment for Vettel
Last weekend in Spa, Sebastian Vettel managed to close the gap on title rival Lewis Hamilton at the Belgian Grand Prix. However, all of his hard work was undone in Monza as the gap between the two grew once again – this time to 30 points. Hamilton claimed victory while Vettel crossed the line in fifth but was promoted to fourth thanks to a Max Verstappen time penalty.
Vettel was unhappy with Räikkönen claiming pole on Saturday, as the Finn was able to get a tow from Vettel on the crucial laps. While on Sunday, the German made his mistake on the first lap following a clash with Hamilton and had to spend the rest of the race recovering.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Vettel said: “I wanted to get down the inside of [Räikkönen into] Turn Four. I think I had the space but again Kimi opened the brakes which it is absolutely fine for him to do. I could do the same but then the apex is coming very rapidly and it would have been a nasty one. I tried to get out of there. Lewis saw his chance around the outside but didn’t give me any room and turned in. His car at that point feels a lot better than mine with nobody in front, and I had nowhere to go. It was unfortunate for us to get spun around and have a lot of damage but it could have been him spun around and us carrying on.”
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More bad luck for Ricciardo
Monza was another bad racing weekend for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian had engine penalties this weekend so qualified on the back row but things didn’t get much better on Sunday. During the race, Ricciardo suddenly pulled over after replays showed some smoke coming out of the back of his car.
Speaking about the retirement, Ricciardo told Formula One: “I passed Stroll into Turn 1, then out of the corner, I looked in the mirrors to see if I was clear of him. I couldn’t see that well and that’s when I realised there was smoke coming out of the back. I mentioned that straight away and they said stop. Honestly, looking at the whole year it’s been pretty frustrating.”
It was later confirmed that a clutch issue was the reason for the Australian’s fourth retirement in six races. Ricciardo, who is moving to Renault for next season, sits in sixth place in the drivers’ championship – 12 points behind his team-mate Max Verstappen. However, he is 66 points ahead of Nico Hulkenberg – his team-mate for 2019 – who is in seventh place.
Double points finish for Williams
Williams have had a torrid season but the Italian Grand Prix proved to be a successful hunting ground. Before the race weekend, Lance Stroll had picked out Monza as a track on which he could succeed and past results have said that Williams perform well in Italy. On Saturday, both cars made it out of the first qualifying session and Stroll managed to get his car into Q3 – the first time that the team have achieved that feat in 2018.
Stroll continued his good fortunes on Sunday, where he didn’t make any mistakes and battled hard to claim the final point with team-mate Sergey Sirotkin in eleventh. After the race it became clear that Romain Grosjean may lose his sixth place finish. Renault protested about the floor on the Frenchman’s Haas and the FIA deemed that the floor was not compliant.
Grosjean was disqualified from the race and as a result of that Stroll was promoted to ninth place with Sirotkin claiming his first ever Formula One point. Although Williams still sit in last place in the constructors’ championship, both drivers have now at least scored points in 2018. With seven Grand Prix remaining, Williams will be hoping to see if they can catch up to Sauber who sit twelve points ahead of them in the championship.
Next up on the Formula One calendar is the night-time Singapore Grand Prix which takes place on September 14th – 16th.
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