Lewis Hamilton captured the Formula 1 championship lead with his victory in the Italian Grand Prix -- becoming the first driver in 2017 to win back-to-back races.
Hamilton fended off Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon into the first chicane and never looked back. He led teammate Valtteri Bottas to a 1-2 Mercedes sweep in a dominant victory.
"It really has come together," said Hamilton. "It’s been fantastic. It was really something quite special driving around after the checkered flag with Valtteri alongside me. To be on Ferrari’s turf and to get a one-two, then drive round together really showed solidarity, which I’m really proud of."
Having been greeted by a less than friendly reception from the Italian crowd, Hamilton returned fire, saying, "Mercedes power is definitely better than Ferrari power so it worked well this weekend. The start was a bit difficult because the grip was quite low but it was a great day and a great result for us."
He was also surprised by the lack of speed by Ferrari as Sebastian Vettel finished third after qualifying seventh.
"I don’t know what times Ferrari were doing but we had lots of time in the bag so they would never have been able to pressure," Hamilton said. "We’ve not done a massive amount of development to the car but we’ve definitely understood and have been able to extract from the package that we have."
Despite finishing second only to Hamilton, Bottas leaves Italy with mixed feelings. There are just seven races remaining in the season and, as he is now 44 points behind Hamilton in the standings, the Finn is highly likely to be told that his championship bid is over and that he is expected to assist Hamilton.
"Like with Lewis, the start was tricky," Bottas said. "I just needed to get my head down and get the places in the first lap. The car was so strong today, it was amazing how quick we were. It was a pure joy to drive. I enjoyed it and it was a perfect result for the team."
If you tuned in late and had only seen the podium, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Sebastian Vettel had won the Grand Prix – the passionate Ferrari fans who surrounded the podium giving the German a heroes reception even if he had finished 36 seconds behind the race winner.
"We lost because of the qualifying position," Vettel said. "In the opening laps it took a while to make progress and, by the time we were behind, I think we were already six, seven, eight seconds behind them.
"From then on we didn’t have the pace. It wasn’t so bad at the end of the stint with the very used tires. It’s not a surprise because we’ve seen it in the past but yeah. It was clear that they were quicker than us today but, despite that, I’m not happy but think that we can accept the result."
Grid penalties for engine changes had knocked the Red Bull drivers down from second and third on the grid to 13th, Max Verstappen, and 16th, Daniel Ricciardo. An early puncture sustained while attempting to defend from Felipe Massa all but ended Verstappen’s challenge but Ricciardo made a supposedly less favorable tire strategy work for him, narrowly missing out on the podium as he hunted down Vettel in the closing laps.
Aside from Ricciardo’s overtaking heroics, the race was one of the more processional Grand Prix of the season but you won’t hear any complaints from Hamilton, who takes the championship lead into the final fly-away races of the season.
Hamilton leads Vettel by three points.
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