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Paddock Postcard from Monza 10 Sep 2006

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) ART Grand Prix on the podium. GP2 Series, Rd 11, Race 1, Monza, Italy, 9 September 2006. World © Capilitan/Sutton

While Monza was aflame last night with the news about Fernando Alonso’s latest penalty, other events quietly cemented McLaren protoge Lewis Hamilton’s role as the newly crowned 2006 GP2 champion.

Saturday afternoon’s race was won by Giorgio Pantano, from title contenders Nelson Piquet Jnr (who signed as a Renault Formula One tester this week) and Hamilton. Pantano set fastest lap, thus depriving Hamilton of the point for that and setting up a dramatic showdown between Piquet and Hamilton this morning.

But then it transpired that Pantano had set that fastest lap while a marshal was (incorrectly, as it transpired) waving a yellow flag. Notwithstanding that, the stewards took the view that the Italian should have slowed, and discounted that lap as a penalty. Pantano kept the win, but Hamilton’s best lap was the next fastest, so the extra point he got for that brought his advantage over Piquet to seven. If Piquet were to win this morning and set fastest lap they would have been equal on points and victories for the year, but the title would still have gone to Hamilton on second place countbacks, so the crown is his regardless of what happens in the upcoming race.

“We are delighted for Lewis,” said McLaren team boss Ron Dennis. “The manner of his many outstanding performances this year, such as those at Silverstone and Turkey, has been phenomenal and he is a deserving champion. Lewis will now focus on this morning's race to end the season on a real high and in due course the team's and Lewis’s plans for 2007 will be announced.”

In the paddock the news has been greeted with widespread pleasure, as the sport looks forward to the prospect of welcoming a talented and charismatic driver into Formula One racing.