Hamilton claims the spoils at Monza

Lewis Hamilton took centre stage at Monza on Sunday after a superb victory by the McLaren driver.

Hamilton swept aside any questions about his future with a dominant display that saw him claim pole position and claim his third victory of the season. The Englishman came to Italy amidst a frenzy of speculation that had seen him linked with a move to Mercedes for next season but ultimately he waved off any questions with a subtle “no comment” while concentrating on the job at hand.

The foundations of his victory were laid on Saturday with Hamilton leading his team-mate, Jenson Button, by just over one tenth of a second in the pole position shoot-out. The McLaren duo had a dominant car this weekend that was clearly the fastest. In the race Hamilton was able to put his to great use with what would eventually be a comfortable race win whereas Button had a very different race.

The 2009 world champion lost second on the run to the first corner after a fast starting Felipe Massa was able to move past him. The Brazilian held the position throughout the opening stint but after the first cycle of pit stops Button emerged ahead and seemed well placed to give McLaren their first one-two of the year.

A fuel pump error put paid to his chances however at half distance Button was left stranded trackside thinking of what might have been. His title chances ground to a halt at the same time and it is likely that he will now have to focus his attention on supporting Hamilton for the remainder of the year.

For Massa this was a great opportunity to finally have a strong race. Qualifying third gave him a realistic chance of claiming his first podium in two years but even a strong race was not enough to finally stand on the rostrum again. Being asked to cede second to Fernando Alonso must have hurt the Brazilian but it ultimately had little effect on his race result.

Alonso started tenth after a problem with his rear anti roll-bar left him off the pace. He made a quick start and took advantage of problems that affected those in front of him to move through the field. Comfortably faster than Massa there was little doubt that he would be eased in front of his team-mate and the focus immediately on the Ferrari pitwall was shifted to the Sauber of Sergio Perez.

The Mexican, driving for Sauber, has had numerous strong races this year but the way in which he moved through the midfield was stunning. Taking advantage of a clear tyre advantage Perez was consistently the fastest driver in the final third of the race. Setting a series of blistering laps he was able to lap over a second a lap faster than the Ferrari’s in the closing stages.

Massa was his first victim and after easily slipstreaming past the Brazilian he eased towards Alonso. Again he was able to close the gap to Alonso quickly and with his thoughts on the championship there was no chance that Alonso would defend too rigorously. When Perez got alongside on the pit-straight Alonso left more than enough room and ceded the position.

Perez was second and while he was unable to catch Hamilton he certainly put himself on the shopping list of most of the major teams in the paddock.

Alonso’s championship lead now stands at 37 points and even after a difficult week-that saw him fail to finish in Belgium and have lots of mechanical problems at Monza-he has once again established a comfortable buffer to the rest of the championship contenders.

Italy was most costly for Sebastian Vettel. The reigning champion endured a miserable race that included a harsh drive through penalty and ended with a retirement after an alternator failure. The drive through penalty came after a clash with Alonso that saw the Ferrari driver pushed onto the grass at turn three.

The incident was remarkably similar to last year, when Vettel took the lead in the opening laps around the outside of Curve Grande, but with the race stewards clearly looking to punish any signs of dangerous driving following the Belgium crash it was clear they looked to set a precedent on Sunday.

Vettel’s retirement leaves Hamilton as Alonso’s closest challenger with Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen hot on his heels. Alonso is in the ascendency but it would be unwise to view the championship as won with seven races remaining.

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