Lewis Hamilton wins Italian Grand Prix to lead drivers' championship

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Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton took over as leader of the drivers’ world championship for the first time this year on Sunday when he claimed a lights-to-flag victory as Mercedes dominated the Italian Grand Prix.

The 32-year-old Briton, seeking his fourth world title, made a perfect start from his record 69th pole position to lead his Mercedes team-mate Finn Valtteri Bottas home for his sixth win this year, his third 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 big home crowd on the weekend of the Italian team’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

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’ championship Mercedes lead with 435 to Ferrari on 373.

“I am so happy and the team did a great job – Mercedes power is definitely better than Ferrari power,” said Hamilton, who was booed by a large partisan crowd.

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. A perfect result! No drama,” he said.

Vettel added: “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.

HAMILTON SLICK OFF POLE

Hamilton made a good start from his record 69th pole position and fended off Canadian teenage rookie Lance 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 he passed Bottas into the second chicane while Dutchman Max 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 French rookie Estaban Ocon to secure second place behind his Mercedes team-mate.

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.

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, having started 16th closing fast in fourth.

Vettel, who had reported he was “struggling with the rear now”, 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 master-class 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. It was synchronised perfection from the ‘Silver Arrows’ with 18 laps remaining.

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. 

Provided by AFP Sport

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Hamilton predicts championship battle with Vettel will go down to the wire

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Lewis Hamilton is predicting that his championship battle with Sebastian Vettel will go down to the final race of the season – but has warned that his rival may prove difficult to beat.

Hamilton, 32, halved Vettel’s lead at the summit of the title race after he took the chequered flag in Belgium on Sunday to move to within seven points of the Ferrari driver.

The high-speed nature of the Spa-Francorchamps track had been expected to play to Mercedes’ strengths, but Hamilton was required to be at his very best to stave off the threat from Vettel and his resurgent Ferrari team.

Indeed Hamilton subsequently claimed that Vettel was faster than his Mercedes in race trim.

Hamilton will head to Ferrari’s home track in Monza – the first of three back-to-back instalments in the concluding half of the season – for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix well aware that is a circuit which again should favour his Mercedes package.

But the ensuing race in Singapore – a high-downforce track where Hamilton has struggled in recent seasons – could again prove his Achilles heel.

“I am cautious knowing that we may not be the quickest everywhere ahead, and I am trying to figure out in my mind how I can apply positive energy to my guys to encourage them to bring some more magic to the next eight races,” Hamilton said.

“I hope we have more to come and we need more to come in order to win this thing. It’s going to take everything from every single one of us to finish these next eight races and come out on top. That’s how a championship should be so I’m really looking forward to that challenge.

” Ferrari have had the most consistent season and while we’ve had a solid and well put together weekend here, it was only just enough to stay ahead.

“It is going to go right down to the wire. It will come down to reliability. It will come down to a shift in pendulum on performance, and it will come down to us with our consistency.”

Hamilton, who this season is bidding to become the first British driver to win four championships, looks set to stay at Mercedes after rival Vettel committed his future to Ferrari with a new three-year deal.

Hamilton’s current contract expires at the end of 2018, but his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says talks over a new deal will not take place until the conclusion of the current campaign.

“Our relationship is very good and each of us appreciates what we have in the other one,” Wolff said. “But this is not a topic we want to tackle now, or over the remaining races of the season. It is an intense part of the year. We will get that over the line and then we will pick up the discussions.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton equals Michael Schumacher's record with 68th pole at Belgian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has etched his name into Formula One folklore after equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record by securing pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The triple world champion, competing here in his 200th race, delivered a dominant performance to soar to the top of the order at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit and claim the 68th pole of his glittering career.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who earlier on Saturday committed his long-term future to Ferrari, will join his rival Hamilton on the front row, with the pole-sitter’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in third.

Hamilton has been in a buoyant mood on the sport’s return to action following its summer hiatus, and the 32-year-old Englishman, as he has so often done during his decade-long career, provided the goods when it mattered the most with a record-breaking lap.Hamilton’s best time of one minute and 42.553 seconds enabled him to finish one quarter of a second clear of Vettel, who pipped Bottas in the closing moments of the session.

F1 director Ross Brawn, the English mastermind behind Schumacher’s seven championship triumphs at Benetton and then Ferrari, delivered a congratulatory message on behalf of the German’s family.

Little is known of Schumacher’s condition after he suffered severe head injuries following a skiing accident more than three years ago.

“They want to congratulate you on equalling Michael’s record, and as Michael always said, records are there to be beaten,” Brawn said.

Hamilton, who trails Vettel by 14 points in the championship, replied: “It is special. To hear the message that Ross just gave I have to say a big thank you.

“I think and pray for Michael all the time. I’ve had the privilege of racing with him and always admired him and still do.

“I’m just honoured to be up there with him now in the poles, but he will still be one of the greatest of all time.”

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