Ros­berg cuts Hamil­ton lead

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

NICO ROS­BERG cut Lewis Hamil­ton’s cham­pi­onship lead to just two points with vic­tory in the Ital­ian Grand Prix.

Hamil­ton threw away what had looked set to be a cer­tain win with a poor start af­ter he had taken pole po­si­tion with a scin­til­lat­ing per­for­mance on Satur­day.

The world cham­pion dropped to sixth at the first cor­ner and de­spite fight­ing back to sec­ond and clos­ing on Ros­berg he could not chal­lenge for the win. Hamil­ton told his Mercedes team the poor start was his own fault. Hamil­ton had been on pole po­si­tion by nearly 0.5 se­conds - a mas­sive mar­gin on a track with rel­a­tively few cor­ners and his dom­i­nance left Ros­berg curt in his me­dia ex­changes af­ter­wards. But the race fell into the Ger­man’s lap when Hamil­ton stut­tered away from the line and was swamped by the cars be­hind him, with Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel mov­ing into sec­ond ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikko­nen, Wil­liams’ Valt­teri Bot­tas and Red Bull’s Daniel Ric­cia­rdo. As Ros­berg streaked away into a race of his own at the front, Hamil­ton started his re­cov­ery, pass­ing Ric­cia­rdo at the sec­ond chi­cane on lap two and Bot­tas into Turn One on lap 11 be­fore the Fer­raris pit­ted out of his way on their two-stop strat­egy. Hamil­ton, like Ros­berg on a one-stop plan, was 15 se­conds be­hind his team­mate by the time he was into sec­ond place on lap 17. He closed that to 12.2secs on lap 23 be­fore Ros­berg made his sin­gle stop the next time around, Hamil­ton fol­low­ing him in a lap later. Af­ter the stops, Hamil­ton re­duced the gap to 9.1secs by lap 31, with 22 to go, be­fore Ros­berg re­sponded and it be­came clear that Hamil­ton did not have enough pace while keep­ing his tyres in shape to catch up be­fore the end of the race. Mercedes’ su­pe­ri­or­ity was un­der­lined by the fact that they were in a race of their own de­spite run­ning what ev­ery other team be­lieved was a slower strat­egy. All the other lead­ing teams were on a two-stop and while there was ex­cite­ment with some bat­tles here and there, it was a largely mun­dane race.

The Fer­raris were com­fort­ably quicker than any­one else in the chas­ing group, and the ex­cite­ment in the clos­ing laps was around a bat­tle for fifth be­tween Bot­tas and Ric­cia­rdo.

Ric­cia­rdo, choos­ing su­per-soft tyres for the fi­nal stint rather than the softs on the Wil­liams, closed in af­ter their fi­nal stops and pulled a brilliant over­tak­ing move from a long way back into Turn One at the start of lap 47 to take the place.

Be­hind them, Ric­cia­rdo’s team-mate Max Ver­stap­pen was also on a charge and he grabbed sev­enth from Force In­dia’s Ser­gio Perez with five laps to go.

Out­side the top 10 points po­si­tions, Jen­son But­ton put in a su­perb per­for­mance a day af­ter an­nounc­ing that he would not be racing in F1 next sea­son.

But­ton has signed a new two-year con­tract with McLaren but is to take a break from F1 in 2017. The team have an op­tion on him for a re­turn in 2018, but the deal may well end up be­ing a pre­cur­sor to a full re­tire­ment.

But­ton started 14th, two places be­hind team-mate Fer­nando Alonso, but a ter­ri­ble start left him 20th on the first lap, while the Spa­niard moved up to ninth.

De­spite that, But­ton had caught Alonso by lap 43, pass­ing him into the first chi­cane for 12th place at the start of lap 44.

Alonso tried to come back at But­ton, but the English­man had too much pace and pulled away.

He caught Haas driver Ro­main Gros­jean with two laps to go but the French­man was able to hold him off.

But­ton will come to some races in 2017, do sim­u­la­tor work and keep him­self cur­rent while Alonso and Bel­gian Stof­fel Van­doorne race for McLaren.

Alonso’s con­tract is up at the end of 2017 and he has said he will de­cide next year whether to ex­tend his ca­reer be­yond that. — BBC Sport

Nico Ros­berg

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