September 9, 2012
Hamilton revives F1 title hopes with Italian GP win
By SPORTS NETWORK
MONZA, ITALY - McLaren's Lewis Hamilton gained ground in the Formula One world championship battle by winning Sunday's Italian Grand Prix in dominating fashion at Monza.
Hamilton started on the pole and relinquished the lead briefly during his first pit stop in the 53-lap race. He finished 4.3 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez from Sauber for his third win this season and the 20th of his F1 career. It's also the first time Hamilton has won at this 3.6-mile, 11-turn Italian road course.
"It's been fantastic to win here, and I'm just so happy for my team," Hamilton said. "It's been a fantastic day."
Hamilton's win at Monza came one week after he was involved in a horrifying multi-car wreck during the opening lap of the Belgian Grand Prix. Hamilton hit the rear of Lotus' Romain Grosjean after the two made tire contact. Grosjean then sailed over Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. Perez was also involved in that crash.
Grosjean was suspended for the Italian GP for causing the accident in Belgium. Jerome d' Ambrosio filled-in for him.
Alonso also bounced back in the championship title race. He finished third in Ferrari's home race and improved his points lead to 37 over Hamilton, who moved up from fifth to second in the rankings. During the final round in Saturday's qualifying, Alonso suffered a broken rear sway bar and ended up with a starting position of 10th.
"It was a difficult race starting from 10th, but we knew that maybe we had the quickest car this weekend. We missed pole position yesterday, but today we had the pace to recover from position, so it was good for us."
Perez claimed his third podium of the season and matched his career-best finish. He also placed second in the March 25 Malaysian Grand Prix.
"It was a great race for me and my team," Perez said. "It's unbelievable to have a podium here at Monza. It's really special."
While Hamilton and Alonso fortified their championship hopes, Hamilton's teammate, Jenson Button, as well as Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took a big hit in points with seven grand prix remaining.
Button started on the front row with Hamilton and ran in second for a majority of the race, but Button experienced a fuel pick-up problem and retired on lap 33. He finished 23rd and fell 78 points out of the lead.
"I was never going to challenge (Hamilton) for the win, but it would have been great for the team if we could have finished first and second. But it wasn't to be," Button said.
Vettel, the two-time defending F1 world champion, experienced a mechanical issue that led to his retirement with six laps to go. Shortly before his race ended prematurely, Vettel received a drive-through penalty for pushing Alonso onto the grass while the two were battling for position.
Vettel trails Alonso by 39 points following his 22nd-place result. He started on the pole and won at Monza last year.
"We lost some points today, but we did the best we could," Vettel said. "You could see that our pace was not as strong as the leaders."
Webber damaged his car when he hit the curb in the chicane with a handful of laps left. He finished two laps behind in 20th. Webber is now 47 points behind.
Felipe Massa finished one spot behind his Ferrari teammate, Alonso, in fourth, while Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus took the fifth spot. Raikkonen moved up to third in points (-38).
Mercedes teammates Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg placed sixth and seventh, respectively. Paul di Resta from Force India, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna from Williams completed the top-10.