Fresh off the back of his superb Belgian Grand Prix victory at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, new F1 2010 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has confessed his burning desire to make it back-to-back glories by similarly triumphing in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza next on the schedule – revealing that he will be extra-motivated to shine in 'Ferrari's backyard'.
Hamilton vaulted past Red Bull Racing rival Mark Webber to reclaim the advantage in the chase for the coveted crown courtesy of his unchallenged Belgian success – despite an off-piste moment along the way that came perilously close to ending his challenge in the Turn Eight tyre barriers. The British star admits that the result was just the kind of tonic both he and McLaren-Mercedes needed following his failure to score in the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring just prior to the F1 mid-summer holiday.
“We went into the break knowing that we hadn't had a great race in Hungary,” the 25-year-old told his personal website, acknowledging that his victory in the Ardennes was a crucial one for his title bid. “Even though I retired [in Budapest], we'd really struggled for pace all weekend. Going into Spa, we were confident that we'd have a more competitive package – but, given the strength of the other top teams, you never quite knew where that would leave you.
“It was quite a hard weekend to read, because of the conditions. Obviously Friday was wet, and although we were quick, we didn't know whether that was just because of the weather, or because the car was quick. On Saturday we got a better idea, and I'm sure I'd have been able to take pole if it hadn't been for that last-minute rain shower, or if we'd fitted fresh 'Options' for the first run in Q3. Still, to put the car on the front row, with Jenson [Button – team-mate] fifth, showed that we were competitive again.
“In the race itself, I was able to settle into a steady rhythm at the front. The track was only slightly damp in places at the start, so it was quite easy to establish a gap. When the rain started to fall, that's when I began to get quite nervous, because you know you've built up a margin, and you know that you can so easily lose out in those sorts of conditions. It was scary.
“My heart was absolutely pumping [when he made his unintentional late-race excursion into the gravel]! In my mind, I was absolutely on the edge, just trying to nurse the car through the gravel and get it out and back onto the track. The funny thing is, I wasn't particularly pushing at that point – I'd just been on the radio to the team to explain to them how the track was feeling and how slippery it was.
“I braked at what I thought was a sensible distance, but the car just kept going forwards – which was pretty, er, exciting! I just had to take a straighter line, scrub off as much speed as possible and then try and get the car through the gravel. I just made it – I think I kissed the barriers with the left-hand wheel rims, so it was close!”
His trip to the top of the podium in Belgium marked Hamilton's third triumph of the 2010 campaign and the 15th of his four-year top flight career, and he reflected that it rates alongside his victories at Silverstone and Monaco in previous seasons in terms of prestige.
That being the case, he is quick to point out that he is now firmly focussed on completing the quartet at Monza – the only other truly historic and 'classic' circuit still on the F1 calendar having similarly featured in the inaugural 1950 world championship, and a rare survivor through all of the sport's changes over the years – and thereby joining the elite group of just Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Juan-Manuel Fangio, Jody Scheckter and David Coulthard to have won at all four tracks. His best Italian Grand Prix finish to-date has been second, on his maiden appearance in 2007.