MONZA: Lewis Hamilton turned a poor start into a dramatic victory ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, cutting the German’s lead in their bitter battle for the drivers’ championship from 29 points to 22 with six races remaining.
Hamilton dropped to fourth on the opening lap, but recovered with a daring high-speed slalom to take second and then the lead.
He finished 3.1 seconds ahead of Rosberg, who appeared to crack under pressure after 29 of the 53 laps when he made a mistake at the first chicane.
A poor consolation for the German runner-up, it was the first time he had finished on the podium at Monza.
Rosberg was booed when he stepped onto the podium as the fallout from his controversial clash with Hamilton early in the Belgian Grand Prix a fortnight ago effectively ended the Briton’s race.
Brazilian Felipe Massa came home third, 25 seconds adrift of Hamilton — for his first podium finish of the season — ahead of his Williams team-mate Finn Valtteri Bottas, Australian Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull team-mate four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel.
It was Hamilton’s sixth win this year, his second at Monza and the 28th of his career — he needs just three wins to equal Nigel Mansell’s British record of Grand Prix successes.
For the first time in five years, two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso failed to finish a race, retiring his Ferrari with mechanical problems.
“Well done guys on the deserved one-two, it’s a good result for the team,” said Rosberg in a team radio message.
“Sorry to the guys on my side of the garage. It’s a shame.”
On a bright near-perfect late summer’s afternoon, it was Rosberg who made the perfect start. As the lights went out, Hamilton appeared to be bogged down without sufficient torque to pull away from his first pole since Barcelona in May, allowing not only the German, but both Kevin Magnussen, from fifth on the grid, and Massa to pass him and pull clear.
Within a lap, a partial answer emerged when Hamilton radioed in to report he was racing without the use of his Energy Recovery System (ERS). The team confirmed he had to wait for a re-set, but the Briton, keen to recover, made swift inroads into his rivals’ advantage.
Significantly, Mercedes had changed the front wing on Hamilton’s car on the grid before the start, after a team member had; it was reported, caused some damage.
Hamilton pushed hard but without doing enough before he pitted and rejoining just behind Rosberg again. Yet despite his crew advising him to sit tight until the final laps he pushed on and pressed the German.
It paid off as Rosberg for the second time ran straight on at the first chicane and gifted the lead to the Englishman on lap 29.
Both had been warned to preserve their tyres to ensure they finished, a goal that was removed from Alonso when he pulled up and retired, pointless, for the first time this year.
It was his first mechanical failure in a race since 2009 and left him to trudge back to the pits in front of the disappointed tifosi.
“It’s a mechanical failure and said to do it here in front of our people,” said the two-time champion.