Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza for the first time to boost his Formula One title chances, overcoming speculation in the race leadup about his future at McLaren.
Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, finished ahead of Sergio Perez and series leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari yesterday to give McLaren its third straight victory this year. It was the team’s first hat trick of wins since his title-winning season.
“Since I started in Formula One, Monza has been one of the races I always wanted to win at,” Hamilton said in a McLaren team statement. “It’s such an incredible, historic circuit and all the great racing drivers have won here. To finally put my name on that list makes me feel extremely proud.”
Hamilton’s victory lifted him into second in the drivers’ standings with 142 points, 37 behind Alonso and one ahead of Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, seeking his third straight title, has 140 points in fourth place.
Eddie Jordan, a former team owner who is now a television analyst for the British Broadcasting Corp., said this week that Hamilton, 27, is set to join Mercedes for next season when his contract expires. Hamilton has said his management remains in talks with McLaren.
“If Lewis is absolutely committed to winning, then he can win in a McLaren,” Ron Dennis, McLaren Group chairman, told Sky Sports after the race.
The team was on course for a one-two finish yesterday before Jenson Button, the winner in Belgium a week earlier, pulled up on the 34th of 53 laps while in second place because of a fuel system problem.
McLaren Front Row
Hamilton started the race on pole position, with Button completing an all-McLaren front row.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made a quick start from the second row and passed Button before getting in the tow from Hamilton’s car, though was unable to take another place.
Alonso, starting in 10th, managed to gain four spots over the opening two laps at his team’s home circuit. Hamilton was starting to build his lead at the front.
Williams driver Bruno Senna was forced off the track twice within eight laps after incidents involving Nico Rosberg of Mercedes and Force India’s Paul di Resta.
The first retirement came on lap nine when Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso spun and bumped across the curb after his car appeared to suffer a mechanical failure.
Button managed to regain second spot on lap 19 and Massa entered the pits on the next lap. A flurry of leading drivers began to make their stops, with Button making his on lap 23 and managing to stay ahead of the Brazilian.
Hamilton lost the lead for four laps to Perez after his stop on the following lap, although his Mexican rival had yet to pit. Perez finally made his stop on lap 31.
Alonso moved ahead of his teammate Massa with 13 laps remaining to take second, with Perez chasing down both Ferraris. Perez, who started down in 12th position, got past them both and began to cut into Hamilton’s lead.
Vettel’s race ended with four laps to go, while teammate Mark Webber also failed to finish after damaging his tires when he slid off the track.
Hamilton held on to beat Perez by 4.3 seconds, with Alonso more than 16 seconds further back. Massa finished fourth, ahead of Raikkonen, Mercedes drivers Michael Schumacher and Rosberg, and Force India’s Di Resta. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Senna of Williams were the other drivers to score points.
Hamilton, Perez and Alonso had all retired on the first lap in Belgium on Sept. 2 following a crash sparked by Romain Grosjean, which had earned the Lotus driver a ban for yesterday’s race. Grosjean’s replacement, Jerome d’Ambrosio of Belgium, was 13th yesterday.
The series continues in two weeks on Sept. 23 in Singapore.
“This championship is proving to be so unpredictable,” Hamilton said. “We’re in the fight. We’ve got seven more races on the calendar. This victory is just one step.”
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