Despite having won the last three races, Lewis Hamilton has warned the McLaren team that it needs to keep on its toes over the remainder of the 2012 F1 season if it is to challenge for the world championship.
The Briton followed up his victory in Hungary and team-mate Jenson Button's success last weekend in Belgium with a comfortable run from lights to flag at Monza, moving himself back into second place in the championship standings in the process. However, with Fernando Alonso finishing on the podium, the Ferrari driver has again extended his advantage over his nearest pursuer, and Hamilton believes that the Spaniard would have been more of a threat on Sunday had he not been hobbled by a poor grid position.
The pair had traded fastest times throughout free practice at the Italian round but, while Hamilton took pole with what he described as 'a half-decent lap', his rival was unable to take advantage of Ferrari's decision to try and engineer a tow from team-mate Felipe Massa when a rear rollbar failed on the #5 machine.
"I think Ferrari were as quick as us this weekend," Hamilton insisted after the race, "At least
as quick as us this weekend. I think, if Fernando had had better qualifying, I'm sure he would have been up there with me and made the race perhaps a little bit harder than it was. I think Ferrari seem like they're very, very quick and we need to stay on it to try to continue to compete with them."
McLaren wasn't without its own problems, with Jenson Button being forced into his first official DNF while running second to Hamilton, but the race winner insists that he had no concerns - even when Sauber's Sergio Perez charged through to second place after passing both Ferraris.
"It was very, very unfortunate for Jenson, as we were running 1-2 at the time and it would have been fantastic for the team to have won here and have first and second," Hamilton admitted, "I don't really know what went on with his car, but it was very unfortunate. [On the other hand], it was pretty trouble-free [for me] – I don't think I had any problems throughout the race and the guys did a great job through the pit-stop. I got a good start for once too, so I'm very, very happy with that.
"I was cruising [in] the last 20 laps. I had a 14-second gap and, at the time, Felipe [Massa] was behind and he, even though I was cruising, was going slower than me. Then I heard that Fernando had overtook [sic
], and it was Fernando who began to catch me, so I pulled out a little bit more time and matched his times just to keep it relaxed. Then, this guy here [Perez] started catching me at a second a lap so, probably for the last four laps, I started to push a little bit more, just to maintain a little bit more of the gap."
The victory was Hamilton's first at Monza, and he made a point of indicating his latest helmet design, which incorporated the tricolore
specifically for the event. Despite being booed on the podium - as has become traditional for every non-Ferrari winner, the Briton insisted that he still enjoyed coming to Monza.
"It's an incredible experience for me to come to Italy, a place that I love a lot, [and win]," he admitted, "I've come here for many, many years, since I was 13, met lots of great people here, and I really do genuinely love the people, the culture, the food and the country itself.
"I put the flag on my helmet just as a sign of respect. This is a very historic circuit and, when I was driving, I was thinking that all of the greats have won here, so to finally get a win here is just the icing on the cake, and I hope that this is the start of something good in the future. I've not had the best results in the past, so hopefully, in the future, we will have a little bit more support here..."