Hamil­ton win spoils party for Fer­rari fans

THE MO­TOR­SPORT LAP/ Lewis Hamil­ton breaks tifosi hearts with Monza vic­tory, writes De­nis Droppa

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Lewis Hamil­ton broke tifosi hearts and up­set the form books when he came from third on the grid to win Sun­day’s Ital­ian Grand Prix at Monza in his Mercedes.

After sur­viv­ing a first-lap bump with his ti­tle ri­val Se­bas­tian Vettel, which saw the Fer­rari spin and rejoin last, the reign­ing world cham­pion engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with pole-set­ter Kimi Raikko­nen which was ul­ti­mately de­cided by tyre strat­egy — and a lit­tle help from Hamil­ton’s wing­man Valt­teri Bot­tas.

On Satur­day Raikko­nen had set For­mula One’s fastest qual­i­fy­ing lap with an av­er­age speed of 263.5km/h and with Vettel along­side him on the front row it had the Ital­ian fans in a frenzy at the prospect of the first Fer­rari vic­tory at Monza in eight years.

After Hamil­ton had dis­pensed with Vettel at the chi­cane on lap one, it seemed that tifosi hopes would be up­held by Raikko­nen who held a nar­row lead over Hamil­ton in the open­ing part of the race, chased by Bot­tas in third.

The dream was kept alive when Raikko­nen pit­ted for tyres first and then drove like a man pos­sessed, set­ting lap times that would en­sure he kept his lead when Hamil­ton opted for fresh rub­ber.

And so it was, with Hamil­ton emerg­ing from the pits sev­eral sec­onds adrift of Raikko­nen when the Mercedes pit­ted sev­eral laps later.

But the strat­egy un­rav­elled when Bot­tas, now in the lead, ex­tended his stint on his first set of tyres to hold up Raikko­nen and al­low Hamil­ton to close up to the Fer­rari. Raikko­nen’s ear­lier fast laps took their toll on the rear tyres and, with nine laps to go, the Mercedes driver pounced.

With his fresher tyres Hamil­ton pulled away and cruised to vic­tory with a com­fort­able mar­gin of al­most nine sec­onds over Raikko­nen.

While he was booed on the podium by the par­ti­san fans, the reign­ing cham­pion could lux­u­ri­ate in his fifth win at Monza, his 68th ca­reer vic­tory and his sixth of the 2018 sea­son.

More im­por­tantly, the Bri­tish driver ex­tended his lead over Vettel, who re­cov­ered to fin­ish fourth on Sun­day, to 30 points with seven rounds to go. Swe­den’s Jo­han Kristof­fers­son con­tin­ued his win­ning ways in the eighth round of FIA World Ral­ly­cross (WRX) cham­pi­onship in Lo­héac, France, on the week­end. The reign­ing cham­pion took his sev­enth tri­umph in eight races in his VW Polo R Su­per­car, tak­ing vic­tory ahead of An­dreas Bakkerud in an Audi and third-placed Pet­ter Sol­berg in an­other Polo.

In the driver’s stand­ings, Kristof­fers­son (224 points) leads with a 59-point ad­van­tage over Bakkerud (165 points) and Sol­berg (160 points), with four rounds to go in­clud­ing the sea­son-end­ing event in Cape Town on Novem­ber 24 and 25. Fol­low­ing the can­cel­la­tion of the Bri­tish round on Au­gust 26 due to bad weather, round 12 of this year’s MotoGP cham­pi­onship takes place in Misano, Italy this week­end.

Reign­ing cham­pion Marc Mar­quez (Honda) is sit­ting pretty at the top of the stand­ings with 201 points and seems un­catch­able for the ti­tle. How­ever a fas­ci­nat­ing bat­tle for sec­ond place is devel­op­ing be­tween old war horse Valentino Rossi (Honda) on 142 points, and the two Du­catis of Jorge Lorenzo (130) and An­drea Dovizioso (129).

Lorenzo seems to have found a new lease of life since an­nounc­ing he’s quit­ting Du­cati for Honda next sea­son, and took wins in Italy, Spain and Aus­tria, while team-mate Dovizioso was vic­to­ri­ous in Qatar and Czech repub­lic.

Up­hold­ing SA’s hopes in the Moto2 cat­e­gory are Brad Bin­der on a KTM, who is fourth in the ti­tle chase, and Steven Oden­daal on an NTS.

Lewis Hamil­ton cel­e­brates after snatch­ing vic­tory from Fer­rari on their home turf.

Marc Mar­quez looks un­touch­able in MotoGP and the fo­cus is shift­ing to the bat­tle for sec­ond place.

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