Lewis Hamilton fought his way to a crucial victory in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, surviving contact on the opening lap with title rival Sebastian Vettel before passing Kimi Raikkonen for the win nine laps from the finish.

Starting third on the grid, Hamilton managed to recover from a five-second deficit to pole-sitter Raikkonen after the pit stops to take advantage of the Finn’s tyre struggles and snatch victory away, much to the disappointment of the Ferrari fans packing out the grandstands at Monza.

The clash with Vettel at Turn 1 will be remembered as a poignant moment in their battle for the championship, which has been stoked heading into the final seven races of the season. 

After closing on his title rival on the run to the second chicane, Hamilton made a move around the outside to try and take second place, only for Vettel’s right-front tyre to make contact with the side of the Mercedes. Vettel was sent into a spin, causing him to drop to the rear of the field, as well as sustaining damage to his front wing.

A Safety Car called following a clash further back that forced Brendon Hartley to park up and retire gave Vettel the chance to pit for repairs and join the back of the train of cars, but his win hopes had been all but ended. Despite a brief investigation from the stewards, no action was taken, leaving Vettel to fight his way back up the order 

Hamilton managed to tuck into Raikkonen’s slipstream when the race resumed on Lap 5, passing at the end of the main straight into Turn 1 for the lead. However, Raikkonen was able to get a better run into the Roggia Chicane before braking late and swooping around the outside of Hamilton, getting the cutback on exit and reclaiming the lead.

Raikkonen managed to keep Hamilton’s at an arm’s length through the opening stint, the gap hovering at around one second before Ferrari brought the Finn into the pits at the end of Lap 20. Fitted with a fresh set of Soft tyres, Raikkonen emerged back out in clean air, giving him the chance to push without the limitation of traffic.

Mercedes had bluffed a stop on the lap Raikkonen pitted, and decided to keep Hamilton out much longer to try and get the overcut. Raikkonen was able to close the gap gradually using his fresher tyres, meaning Hamilton emerged five seconds behind the Ferrari driver when he eventually came in on Lap 28.

Mercedes still had an ace up its sleeve though in the form of Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas. Staying out longer to try and get the jump on Max Verstappen in the battle for third, Bottas found himself running just ahead of Raikkonen on-track. Mercedes told Bottas in no uncertain terms to keep the Ferrari driver back, hoping it would allow Hamilton to get in range once again.

The plan worked immediately, with Hamilton cutting 1.5 seconds out of Raikkonen on the first lap alone. Raikkonen sat a second back from Bottas for a number of laps, but, even with DRS, could not get close enough to pass. The dirty air from Bottas’ car was also causing Raikkonen’s rear tyres to blister - all while Hamilton had managed to reduce the gap to less than a second.

Wise to Raikkonen’s tyre issues, Mercedes brought Bottas in from the lead at the end of Lap 36. Hamilton’s engineer told him the race would be “won and lost on tyres,” with the Briton still putting pressure on Raikkonen from a second behind entering the final 10 laps of the race.

Hamilton managed to slowly reel Raikkonen in as the pair weaved through traffic before eventually getting close enough to attempt a move on Lap 45. Using DRS, Hamilton got alongside Raikkonen heading into the first chicane, holding to the outside to get the inside line for the exit of the corner, allowing him to move into the lead as they got back up to speed.

Now in front, Hamilton quickly opened the gap up to Raikkonen behind as the Ferrari driver’s tyres continued to fade, the Finn’s hopes going with them.

Hamilton ultimately crossed the line 8.7 seconds clear to take a momentous victory in the title race, marking his fourth Italian Grand Prix win in the last five years, as well as extending his lead in the championship.

Raikkonen was left to settle for second place as Bottas took third for Mercedes after a tense end to the race following a run-in with Max Verstappen.

Attempting a pass on the outside of the first chicane, Bottas was squeezed by Verstappen, resulting in contact between the pair. Bottas was forced to take to the run-off area, dropping back as a result.

The stewards looked dimly on Verstappen’s move, handing the Dutchman a five-second time penalty for the collision. Verstappen angrily said over the team radio that the stewards were “killing racing,” and refused to give up the position to Bottas, who had closed once again.

As a result, Verstappen was ultimately classified fifth with the penalty applied, falling behind the recovering Vettel. Following the collision on the opening lap, Vettel was able to rise back up to fifth place by the chequered flag, having made a second stop for Supersofts mid-way through the race.

The result meant he slipped a further 13 points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, the gap now standing at 30 points heading into the final third of the season.

Romain Grosjean topped the midfield fight for Haas, finishing sixth ahead of the Force India duo of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Carlos Sainz Jr. was left to settle for P9 for Renault, having lost out to Perez through the pit stops.

Lance Stroll clinched Williams' second points finish of the season after crossing the line 10th, marking the team's first score since Baku in April. The Canadian was followed home by Sergey Sirotkin in P11, who scored his best result in F1, even if his wait for his first point continues.

Charles Leclerc finished the race 12th for Sauber ahead of McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne, while Nico Hulkenberg took 14th for Renault after starting at the back of the grid.

Pierre Gasly dropped to 15th at the chequered flag despite being in contention for points early on, finishing ahead of Sauber's Marcus Ericsson. Kevin Magnussen took 17th for Haas as the last classified finisher, having pitted early due to damage that dropped him to the back of the field.

Daniel Ricciardo suffered his third retirement in four races after his engine appeared to fail before half-distance, with plumes of smoke emerging from the rear of his Red Bull car. He joined Fernando Alonso on the sidelines, who parked up in the McLaren garage after just nine laps due to an issue.

 

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