Italian Grand Prix: Hamilton triumphs over Rosberg
LEWIS Hamilton put all his cares behind him with the hardest-won of his six victories this season when he staged a dramatic recovery in the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton systematically dismantled team-mate Nico Rosberg and avenged himself in the best possible way after their acrimonious collision in Belgium.
Hamilton started from his first pole since May, and yet again it all went wrong as his Mercedes bogged down horribly at the off and Rosberg swept majestically into the lead.
But Hamilton was determined to have his day and his fighter's instinct kicked in.
By the 10th lap he had disposed of fast-starting Kevin Magnussen's McLaren, then Felipe Massa's Williams, and the battle was on.
Once he and Rosberg switched from medium to hard-compound Pirelli tyres, it was a straightforward mano a mano contest for the remaining 28 laps.
Hamilton's engineers suggested that he preserve his rubber, ready to attack near the end.
But Hamilton - the man that no less a personality than Fernando Alonso had earlier in the week described as "the best" - followed his heart and his racer's instincts.
He attacked straight away.
From 1.3 seconds on lap 27 he shrank the gap to seven-tenths next time round.
A lap later still, gauging the braking from 200 mph to 50 for the first chicane, Rosberg cracked. He'd already done so with an unforced error on the ninth lap.
Now he went up the first chicane escape road for the second time. When he found his way out of it, Hamilton was long gone.
"I was quite grateful not to lose it and crash in the first corner trying to make up ground," a delighted Hamilton said. "I managed to keep my composure even though it hadn't been a great start, and was just grateful to be able to recover from that.
"After that the car felt good and by lap 28 I was the closest I had been to Nico and I knew that my only chance was to attack early so I took it. Pushing to overtake meant I was able to open up the doors for everything that followed."
For Rosberg the result must have been psychologically crushing, for this was as emphatic a beating as he's had this season, the more so because he was found wanting. But like the professional he is, he took it on the chin.
"It's a pity it didn't work out today, but Lewis drove a great race and he deserves it," he conceded.
Inevitably, some will speculate that he threw the race as some part of his post-Spa intra-team punishment, but it was a lot less arcane than that.
"It was just that Lewis was quick and was coming from behind so I needed to up my pace and I went into mistakes," he said.
"So that was very bad and lost me the lead. But it's a great day for the team, taking a one-two again after the hiatus since Austria, and we're back where we need to be. Of course it's disappointing, but I still have a lot of points so it's not a complete disaster.
"The highest maximum speed of the year makes this one of the hardest races for braking, but I'm not making excuses. Unfortunately I got it wrong twice. Inside I'm very, very disappointed, but not to the point of having my mouth hanging down. The reality is that it's not a disaster."
Hamilton will be delighted to have kept the race devoid of drama at motorsport's cathedral of speed. At the start, however, it seemed that like Nigel Mansell before him, the gods prefer other scenarios.
"There's a button which engages for the launch," Hamilton said of his slow start.
"But it didn't work on the grid formation lap. OK, no problem, I'll reset it for the race. But again it didn't work, which was very, very strange. Then I had a different sequence of lights on the dash than I'd ever seen. I tried to pull away but the rpms were all over place. I'd never had reason to practise for any of that, so I just floored it and hoped for the best, and fortunately I didn't lose too many places."
Not so with Ferrari, however, who mustered only ninth place with Kimi Raikkonen on their home turf as Alonso retired for the first time this year.
Worse still, the excellent performance which saw Massa take the final podium place - his first for Williams - and Valtteri Bottas stage a hugely accomplished recovery for fourth, placed Williams above Ferrari in the constructors' points table.
Red Bull had no answer for the Williams duo this time, and yet again Daniel Ricciardo outclassed Sebastian Vettel. The German had to stop early for tyres on the 18th lap, and fell prey to Bottas later on.
He was also unable to keep Ricciardo behind him; on eight-lap fresher tyres the Australian easily beat him after passing him on the 47th lap.
Jenson Button had a frustrating and unsuccessful battle with Force India's Sergio Perez, and had to settle for eighth, but only after team-mate Magnussen was docked five seconds post-race for pushing Bottas over the kerbs in the first chicane on lap 31.
"We didn't quite have the race pace we'd hoped for," Button said.
"But I had an amazing battle with Perez - we took the first Lesmo [corner] side by side, which doesn't happen very often.
I couldn't get past him - I tried so many times - but he was so strong under braking that to match him into the turns I was locking up the front and the rear wheels, which left me struggling on the corner exits.
I was really on the limit, but it was superb wheel-to-wheel action."