F1: Second place is the icing on the cake for Hamilton

By Andy Darley

CalendarTuesday, September 11th, 2007

 
 

Lewis Hamilton started the Italian Grand Prix second and finished it second – but no-one could accuse him of not offering value for money in between.

A torrid first couple of corners saw him start poorly on the dirty side of the track and have to fight for his place against the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, while still nursing hopes of sneaking past team-mate Fernando Alonso.

The safety car period following David Coulthard’s accident gave him another immediate chance at seizing the lead, but the Spaniard was too sharp to be caught napping.

Later in the race Hamilton was overtaken during the pitstops by the other Scuderia driver, Kimi Raikkonen, who was stopping only once compared with the McLarens’ twice.

But he was able to take the place back by blasting through while his tyres were at their best, after which the Finn had no realistic option but to settle for third and cruise to the finish.

Hamilton said: “Obviously I didn’t get the best getaway and Felipe managed to shoot past me. I outbraked both him and Fernando into Turn One, and I almost thought I was going to get past, but then Felipe clipped me and sent me over the second chicane.

“And then I had a second opportunity at the restart but Fernando did a great job to make sure he pulled a good enough gap on the exit of turn eleven – the last corner – and there was nothing I could do about it.”

He chose an early first pit stop as he had flat-spotted a tyre and feared a repeat of the Turkish race, where he suffered a complete tyre failure: “I wasn’t sure that that vibration wasn’t going to be something like Turkey, so I thought I would play it safe and just bag the points,” he said.

He knew he was likely to emerge from his second stop behind Raikkonen, but was determined to fight as hard as possible for a McLaren 1-2 at Ferrari’s home circuit.

“The key was just to try and optimise my pit entry, my pit exit and my out and in laps and I came out and I thought, shoot, Kimi is too far ahead.

“I probably had two laps maximum out of the tyres before they would go off and he was on the harder tyre which was a little bit better – but I managed to pull out a couple of really good laps and so I just took the opportunity when I caught him up.

“It was really important for me to get that place back, not only for my position in the Championship, but also for all the team. We had the 1-2 in qualifying yesterday, and to maintain this in the race was the icing on the cake. They have all done a fantastic job.”

McLaren principal Ron Dennis welcomed the respite from the troubles swirling around his team: “We always want to win and to have McLaren’s first 1-2 at Monza today is really special. The entire team has done a fantastic job both on and off track in difficult circumstances, and our dominance this weekend is a just reward for all their efforts.

“Fernando and Lewis put in excellent performances and controlled the race from the front. Lewis’ overtaking manoeuvre to reclaim second place showed his determination.”

And Mercedes-Benz Motorsport VP Norbert Haug felt the team had done its talking in the right forum: “This race was a classic and the right answer on the race track.

“Lewis did a great job, and it was excellent how he first passed Felipe into the first corner and, towards the end, Kimi after his second pit stop to secure the fourth 1-2 win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes since the team’s first one this year in Malaysia.”

* On the Friday before the race Hamilton proved he had at least some fans in Italy, despite the row with Ferrari, when he won a prestigious Italian award as best driver for 2007. Previous winners include Fernando Alonso, Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher.

This is the 25th year of the award, which is voted for by a panel of the great and the good in Italian motorsport on behalf of the Confartigianato Motori, a half-million member organisation of Italian automotive and motorsport businesspeople.

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