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Lewis Hamilton takes title lead with easy Monza win

MONZA, Italy -- Lewis Hamilton led home an easy Mercedes one-two at the Italian Grand Prix to take the lead of the championship for the first time in 2017.

Hamilton led every lap bar those immediately after his pit stop, converting his record 69th career pole into a win which takes him three points clear of Vettel in the championship. Teammate Bottas finished second having passed Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon early on, as Mercedes turned in a dominant performance more reminiscent of the first three years of the V6 turbo era. The win also made Hamilton the first driver to claim back-to-back victories in 2017.

Lewis Hamilton. www.sutton-images.com
Sebastian Vettel completed a solid recovery drive from sixth on the grid to claim the final spot on the podium, holding off a late charge from Daniel Ricciardo who started 16th on the grid to finish fourth. Ricciardo took on a set of super-soft tyres late in the race to scythe through the field, making one of the moves of the season on Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1 in the closing laps.

After starting on the front row, Lance Stroll dropped to third behind Esteban Ocon in Turn 1 before slipping further down the order to sixth at the finish. Ocon took a solid fifth place for Force India while Felipe Massa challenged Stroll for sixth at the end but ultimately settled for seventh. Sergio Perez finished ninth ahead of Max Verstappen, who made early contact with Massa on lap three that resulted in a return to the pits to deal with a puncture and front wing damage.

Mercedes unbeatable at Monza

Hamilton made a sluggish getaway from pole, but covered the inside line into Turn 1 to ward off Stroll and claim the apex. Ocon took advantage of the situation by going to the outside of Stroll to take second from the Williams driver while Bottas held off Kimi Raikkonen to keep fourth.

Mercedes' advantage soon became clear as Hamilton disappeared into the distance and Bottas passed Stroll and Ocon by lap four. Vettel passed Raikkonen on lap three by putting his teammate off line into the second chicane and taking advantage on the short run to the first Lesmo to seize the inside line. By lap five Vettel was past Stroll for fourth position and on lap eight he was up to third after passing Ocon.

As he started lap 10, Vettel was less than 10 seconds behind Hamilton but by the midway point of the race that gap had more than doubled to 22 seconds. Bottas kept a five-second margin to Hamilton at all times but never put his teammate under threat, despite Hamilton dipping two wheels in the gravel on the exit of the second chicane on lap 19.

Vettel pitted on lap 31, triggering Hamilton to stop on lap 32 and Bottas on lap 33, but such were the margins that only a major error would result in the race being won or lost in the pit lane.
Ricciardo fights back

However, Ricciardo's charge through the field hinged on strategy and a strong 37-lap stint on the soft tyres saw him emerge on super-softs in a net fifth place ahead of both Ocon and Stroll. By this point, Raikkonen had worked his way back up to fourth, but was caught sleeping on lap 41 allowing Ricciardo to throw his Red Bull up the inside with a late-braking overtaking move.

Ricciardo then started closing the gap to Vettel in third, buoyed by the Ferrari running wide at Turn 1 on lap 42 and losing several seconds to the Red Bull. Vettel said his Ferrari didn't feel the same after the mistake, but went on to set a personal best time and keep Ricciardo 4.0s at bay as they crossed the line.

Advantage Mercedes?

But it will be the 36-second gap to Hamilton that will be of more concern to Ferrari, which has dropped 23 points to Mercedes in the last two races and seen Vettel's 14-point lead in the drivers' championship turned into a three-point deficit. Mercedes, meanwhile, can take pride in another dominant performance on Ferrari's home turf, having led every lap of the V6 turbo era at Monza. Singapore comes next -- a track that is expected to suit Ferrari -- but with 13 of the 20 rounds completed, the advantage is back with Mercedes.

Author: Laurence Edmondson, ESPN UK
Source: http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/20558929/lewis-hamilton-takes-title-lead-easy-monza-win

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