Lewis Hamilton celebrated one of the finest victories of his career after he went behind enemy lines to stun Ferrari and take a major step towards securing a fifth world championship.
The fanatical Tifosi supporters arrived in Monza for the Italian Grand Prix expecting to see Sebastian Vettel convert a Ferrari lockout of the front row into a crushing win.
Instead, they saw their number one championship contender fall out of the reckoning after just four corners following a clumsy opening-lap collision with his rival.
Then, they witnessed Hamilton deliver a sensational performance which climaxed in the Brit passing Kimi Raikkonen for his 68th career win. Vettel recovered from last to fourth.
“Given the sheer pressure that we are under, I will definitely consider this win to be right up there in my career,” Hamilton said.
“There are a lot of Ferrari fans out there, and you hear a lot of negative sounds, but that only encourages and energises me.
“When I spot the British flags amongst the Ferrari red, that is my fuel, and I get my positivity and energy from them. They are the miracle today.”
Vettel was at his commanding best seven days ago to win in Belgium, but his defeat here is a major setback in his championship quest, and from one which he will struggle to recover.
On a frantic opening lap, Vettel covered the inside at the second chicane, but Hamilton moved to the racing line and was ahead going into the corner. Vettel did not want to concede the place, and in doing so, thudded into Hamilton’s Mercedes before spiralling into a spin.
Vettel, who limped back to the pits for repairs, blamed Hamilton for failing to leave him enough room as they tangled. “Silly”, was the German’s verdict.
The stewards took no action, but Nico Rosberg, the 2016 world champion, had made up his mind.
“I think it was 100 per cent Sebastian’s fault,” Rosberg said on Sky Sports commentary. “Hamilton gave him all the room. He’s not going to become world champion if he keeps doing these things.”
Indeed, it marked Vettel’s fifth big error of the season, while Hamilton has largely failed to put a foot wrong. It is proving the difference.
“I didn’t want to walk away with here leaving something on the table,” Hamilton said. “I love the wheel-to-wheel battles, and it is the thing I love most about racing.
“That was one tough race, but really fun and enjoyable. This season is shaping up to being one of the best.”
Bottas completed the podium positions. Max Verstappen was demoted to fifth after pushing Bottas off the track.
Sebastian Vettel has accused Lewis Hamilton of being at fault for their collision in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
Vettel is now a distant 30 points behind in the championship race after he finished only fourth and Hamilton claimed a brilliant win in Monza.
The flashpoint arrived after only four corners when Hamilton and Vettel tangled at the second chicane.
Hamilton took advantage of a slipstream off the back of Vettel’s Ferrari to line up a move on his rival.
Vettel covered the inside, but Hamilton moved to his right to take the racing line, and he was ahead of the Ferrari car as they took the corner side-by-side.
Vettel appeared reluctant to give up the place, and the right-hand side of his Ferrari made contact with Hamilton’s Mercedes. Vettel spun, dropped to last, and had to pit for a new front wing.
“That was silly,” Vettel said over the radio. “Where did he [Hamilton] want to go?”
The stewards reviewed the incident, but took no action.
“I didn’t want to try something silly so I left a gap, and Lewis saw a little space around the outside of me,” Vettel said.
“But then he didn’t leave any room. I had no other chance than to run into him and make contact.
“Unfortunately, I was the one that spun around, which was a bit ironic.”
Hamilton’s long-time rival Nico Rosberg, however, claimed on Sky Sports commentary that Vettel was “100 per cent at fault”.
Later, Hamilton was asked for his response to Vettel’s claim that the first-lap move was “silly”.
“It worked,” he replied. “It was a racing move and that is what we are supposed to do out there. We are supposed to be racing.
“I left him space and I was still on the track.
“When we went into turn four, I was a bit surprised that he chose the inside line and did not go for the outside.
“That was my opportunity and I had to make sure that I was far enough alongside him. We touched for a brief moment and my car was slightly damaged afterwards, but fortunately I was able to continue.”
Pole-sitter Raikkonen looked set to win his first race in more than five years, and Ferrari’s first at their homeland since 2010, but Hamilton executed a brilliant pass on the Finn with just eight laps remaining.
Vettel, who fell to last after his coming together with Hamilton, recovered to finish fourth, but the German is now 30 points behind his championship rival. Valtteri Bottas completed the podium places.
Here, we look at the key takeaways from Monza.
The Englishman produced a majestic performance to clinch his sixth win of the season – and fifth at the Italian GP.
The Britons superb move to go around the outside of Raikkonen on lap 45 was effectively the moment that secured victory, and no doubt broke the thousands of Ferrari hearts at Monza.
It was another nail in the coffin, after Hamilton overtook Raikkonen’s Ferrari teammate Vettel on the first lap, and resulted in his title rival slipping down to 17th place.
With seven races remaining, Hamilton is only going to get stronger and it looks like his grip on a fifth title is slowly strengthening.
The 33-year-old extended his lead in the drivers standings to 30 points and needs to stay composed and minimise his errors behind the wheel for the remaining races. If he can do that then expect him to join Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.
Pressure now on Vettel
An eventful day for the German. Starting P2, he looked to have lost his composure when Hamilton took him on the outside on the first lap and then he oversteered in sheer panic, hitting Hamilton and spinning down to 18th.
Although he managed to finish a formidable fourth, it’s the first season that he has ever had this sort of pressure in the title race and he looks to be buckling under the intensity of it.
With the gap widening in standings, this looks to be a crucial moment in the title race, especially with Ferrari failing to capitalise on the frontrow advantage coming into Sunday’s race.
Although no driver will enjoy the tag, Bottas carried out a superb wing man job for Hamilton’s win.
Raikkonen was four seconds clear of Hamilton after the Briton’s pit stop, but after being held up by Bottas for five laps, the gap between Raikkonen and Hamilton was cut to less than a second, allowing the British driver to slip pass to take the lead on lap 45.
For his trouble the Finn finished fourth, but was promoted to a podium, after Max Verstappen refused to let him pass on lap 42.
A sixth podium of the season will surely add some gloss for his hard-working day at the office, but if things had gone his way with the car in previous races, he could be right at the sharp end of the championship alongside his teammate.
Red Bull unreliability
It was another disappointing day for Daniel Ricciardo, who retired on lap 25 after power-unit failure.
What will frustrate for the Red Bull team is that the failed engine was only installed into the Australian’s car earlier this week with the Singapore GP in mind – a track that has favoured them in the past.
The 29-year-old, who will join Renault next season, has retired in four out of the past six races, while his teammate Verstappen has retired three times.
For all the crticism about the relationship with Honda, the engine troubles continue to reduce their title chances. Remember, this was supposed to be the most exciting driver line up on the grid, but they are failing to deliver this season due to the engine issues.
Force India shine again
Another stunning result for Force India. Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez shone in Italy to finish seventh and eighth respectively – their fourth joint top-10 finish in the past five races.
The duo showed once again that they have the potential to threaten the bigger midfield teams, especially in the European races.
Their 10 points scooped means Force India are now eighth in the constructors’ championship – nine points ahead of Sauber and two behind Toro Rosso.