Lewis Hamilton has won the Italian Grand Prix after taking the overall championship lead from Sebastian Vettel just as the Italian fans’ seven-year wait for a Ferrari victory at Monza continues.
Vettel has led the championship since beating Hamilton in the first race of the season in Australia back in March.
With the conditions a far cry from yesterday’s wet and blustery qualifying rounds, it was a bad day for the Italian “tifosi” who, in truth, had very little to cheer on a day of Ferrari struggles.
Conversely, it was a veritable stroll in the park for Mercedes, the speed of both vehicles leading Hamilton to declare “the car was perfect today” in the drivers’ room post-race.
Mind games with Vettel, perhaps, with the Brit also all too happy to announce he was “cruising” for large parts of the race.
The crowd below the podium — a vast swathe of red shirts, flags and flares — were all too delighted to make their feelings known as Hamilton began to speak into the microphone.
“Mercedes power is definitely better than Ferrari power,” he declared with a wry smile, enticing another cacophony of boos from the baying crowd below.
“I love it here in Italy and I love the passion of the fans. They’re fantastic. I’m happy, we did a great job, the team did an exceptional job. We owe it all to them.
“It’s been a great day and result for us.”
Vettel has never lost a championship which he has lead at any stage, but he will need to come from behind to continue that record with Hamilton opening up a three point lead.
It also marked Hamilton’s fourth win at Monza, putting him just one behind another of Michael Schumacher’s records.
Hamilton’s race got off to a perfect start, defending his record 69th pole position under intense pressure from Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll.
Bottas quickly set about moving up the field, taking very little time to pass three cars and eventually tuck in behind his teammate.
Hamilton suffered a minor scare on lap 20, going a little too hard on the throttle, oversteering and dipping his left front wing into the gravel.
Though that was the only incident on an otherwise quiet and straightforward afternoon, of which there surely won’t be many more for the remainder of the calendar.
Vettel, meanwhile, struggled for pace from the start but did still manage to climb from sixth to third — a position he held onto till the end.
The podium finish for the German will come as some consolation, though finishing 36 seconds behind Hamilton gives an indication of the struggles Ferrari faced.
“It was entertaining,” Vettel said on the podium. “My start was not so good and it took a while for me to trust the car. After that we were a bit isolated, we didn’t have the pace of the leading two drivers.
“Even if this race has been difficult, I know we have a strong car and will have a strong end to the season.”
By the time lap 20 came around, Hamilton’s lap times were almost a second faster than Vettel’s, which also put the German in danger of being caught by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
As he did last week, the Aussie put in a sensational drive, climbing 13 places inside the opening 15 laps to end lap 36 in third.
Vettel eventually regained the final podium place after Ricciardo’s pit stop, but that didn’t stop him from trying to wrestle it back.
“Your lap time is one second faster than Vettel,” was the information given to Ricciardo through his radio on lap 43. “He’s 11 (seconds) up the road, let’s get after him.”
In the end, however, the race was just one lap too short for him to regain third.
Despite barely breaking a sweat, Hamilton remained cautious when asked if taking the championship lead for the first time in 2017 now gave him the edge.
“The last two races have been incredibly strong. We’ve just gone from strength to strength,” he said, after recording the first back-to-back wins of any driver this season.
“It’s still close and a long way to go. Ferrari should be quick at the next circuit … so the fight continues.”