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.