Rosberg steps up title tilt after Hamilton is left behind at start
Lewis Hamilton was left at a loss to explain the poor start that cost him any chance of winning a third consecutive Italian Grand Prix.
After plummeting to sixth position off the line, it left the three-time world champion in the wake of his Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton revealed that wheelspin left him unable to keep the chasing pack behind him, and the Mercedes driver reached the first corner down in sixth as Rosberg led the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as well as the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull.
“I don’t know what happened, l did everything as normal,” Hamilton said after battling back to finish in second through a combination of Mercedes’ superior speed and strategy.
“I did the sequence exactly the same. I just got lots of wheelspin.”
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said straight after the race that Hamilton had taken the blame for the poor start, but he went on to retract his self-blame.
“To be honest, I said that to reassure my engineers who I knew would be feeling nervous,” Hamilton continued.
“I could see Nico pulling away and l knew from quite an early stage that winning the race would not be possible. Second was the best l could do after the start l got.”
Rosberg’s victory means Hamilton’s summer-break lead of 19 points has already been eroded to just two after wins for the German in Belgium and Italy, and Hamilton knows it was a case of damage limitation once his team-mate got away.
“Nico was pulling away and having an easy, breezy roll up there — that’s what it’s like when it’s first and you’re behind slower cars,” Hamilton added.
“He did a great job and I just had to get back up to second.”
Second place came about when Ferrari elected to keep to a two-stop strategy, enabling Hamilton to pass while both Vettel and Raikkonen were in the pits. It proved to be a common feature during the race as the top four positions were all decided by strategy, but Ricciardo ensured that fifth position was decided on the track with one of the moves of the season on Bottas.
The likeable Australian hurtled his Red Bull up the inside of Bottas into the turn one chicane, and somehow managed to stop in time to turn in and leave enough room for the Finn to negotiate the corner, albeit losing position in the process.
As Ricciardo exited the corner in fifth, he waved his hand in celebration, with fans clearly able to see his delight.
“I was pretty jacked up after the move, I was a long way back,” said Ricciardo.
Meanwhile, a £6.1bn sale of Formula 1 is set to go through this week after current owners CVC Capital Partners agreed a deal with Liberty Media Corp.
The move, which reports suggest will be completed by Wednesday, will see American media executive Chase Carey — one of Rupert Murdoch’s long-standing lieutenants —named as the new chief executive of F1, with an initial agreement to work alongside current F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.