MONZA, Italy, Spetember 9 – Lewis Hamilton revived his bid for this year’s Formula One world title on Sunday when he swept to a dominant triumph for McLaren to record his first ever win in the Italian Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Briton, starting from pole position, led throughout apart from a brief spell during the mid-race pit-stops to claim his third win this year and the 20th of his career.
It lifted him back into contention for the championship, but his McLaren team-mate and fellow-Briton Jenson Button’s hopes of a second world title disappeared as he was forced to retire with 20 laps remaining.
Button’s demise allowed Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber to gain full reward for a dazzling drive by finishing second 4.3 seconds behind Hamilton, 16.2 ahead of championship leader Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
It was Perez’s third podium finish of the season and endorsed the view of many paddock observers that he could be on the move to replace Massa at Ferrari next year.
Alonso leads the championship with 179 points ahead of Hamilton on 142 and Finland’s former world champion Kimi Raikkonen on 141 – defending champion Sebastian Vettel is on 140 with seven races remaining.
“This is amazing for me and I thank my team for doing an incredible job,” said Hamilton. “It is a great day for everyone.”
“It was very unfortunate for Jenson and for the team because we were running first and second at the time and it would have been fantastic for the team to have a 1-2. I don’t know what happened, but it was very unfortunate.”
Hamilton, who sported the Italian flag on his helmet, congratulated Perez “on cutting through everybody and chasing him all the way to the finish” before adding that his victory felt “very special, very, very special, because Italy is a country I have loved for a long time since I started to come here to race when I was just 13.”
Perez said: “It was a great race for me and my team. It’s unbelievable to have a podium for my team at Monza.
“It’s very special. I went for prime tyres at the start and I decided to stop late and that gave me very fresh tyres at the end. It’s unbelievable!”
Alonso said: “It was a difficult race for me starting from 10th but we knew we had possibly the quickest car this weekend. We had the pace to recover the position so it was a good result for us.”
Vettel struggled through a disappointing race during which he forced Alonso off the track, was handed a drive-through penalty and finally retired his Red Bull due to technical problems.
Hamilton dominated from the start steering his McLaren clear of the field while Massa 20 metres behind him, used the leader’s tow to pull clear and pass Button before the chicane.
After one rebutted effort to pass Hamilton for the lead, Massa defended an attack from Button on approach to the second chicane. Behind them, Alonso moved swiftly from 10th to seventh.
In an intriguing early battle between Germany’s two greatest drivers, Schumacher held fourth and resisted Vettel until lap four when the champion dived past him at the first chicane.
All this left Hamilton in command, leading Massa by more than four seconds by lap 15 when the pit stops began, Button, third, was a further 1.3 seconds adrift and Vettel, fourth, another 1.7 away with Alonso chasing him down.
Vettel’s chances of winning disappeared when he was handed a drive-through penalty for his belligerent aggression, a punishment he took on lap 34, one lap after the luckless Button was forced to retire from second.
Button’s demise lifted Massa to second ahead of Alonso with Perez flying on fresh tyres as the second stops began.
On lap 37, Massa was told to ‘think about your tyres… Fernando is behind.’ It was a coded message and, on lap 40, Alonso coasted by on the straight to take second.
Perez then swept around the outside of Massa to set up a dramatic finale with nine laps remaining and a little later moved up to second with another sensational move, on Alonso but was unable to trouble Hamilton.