Partisan Monza crowd inspired Hamilton to ‘most exciting victory’
After a Ferrari front row lock-out in Monza on Saturday, the Tifosi were licking their lips for a first win for the Scuderia since 2010. But although there were boos as Lewis Hamilton collected his winner's trophy on the podium, the British driver maintains that he channelled any negativity there might have been into his outstanding race performance in Italy...
Hamilton sealed his 68th career victory with a clinical move around Kimi Raikkonen into Turn 1, having reeled him in with a succession of scintillating laps as Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas backed Raikkonen into the reigning champion's grasp.
And as he pulled into parc ferme, a visibly emotional Hamilton buried his face in his hands – and steeled himself to face a sea of red.
"I want to give it up to Ferrari who put up a great challenge and gave us a great fight,” said Hamilton after the race. “There's been a lot of negativity but there were a lot of British flags out there today. They know who they are. In future I only want to turn to a negative to a positive.”
Hamilton later elaborated on the emotions he’d felt when faced with a wall of Ferrari fans. “It is easy in the arena that we’re in, it is very, very easy to allow it to get to you, to allow it to have an impact on your life and think about it. But it is also quite easy to harness it and use it. That gave me so much motivation today I welcome it, they can continue to do that, it just empowers me."
Another race-defining moment for Hamilton came on Lap 1, when he clashed with his title rival Sebastian Vettel going into Monza’s second chicane. While Vettel was spun around and had to come in to change his nose – before going on to finish P4 – Hamilton was able to continue in second place, just behind Raikkonen. A frustrated Vettel was straight onto his team radio, meanwhile, telling his engineer: “That was silly. Where did he expect me to go?”
“It was intense,” was Hamilton’s own view of the scrap. “Powering down to [Turn] 4, I was a bit surprised that Sebastian chose the inside rather than the outside of Kimi. I had an opportunity, and I stuck it down the outside and made sure I was far enough alongside. I remember I had the experience a few years ago where I was on the inside and that didn't come off very well. But I thought there was enough space between us.
“But I’m sure it’s a comment that was done in the heat of the moment, and it’s never a great moment when you spin and the cars are coming the other way and then you have to come through. So I don't take anything from it and I know how it is to be in that emotion, and I'm sure he didn't mean too much by it.”
Following the Safety Car caused by the incident, Hamilton and Raikkonen then enjoyed an almost identical battle, with Raikkonen, having been passed in Turn 1, going around the outside of Hamilton into Turn 4 – although this time, no contact was made…
“The restart was obviously really good and then straight after that, Kimi came back past me, and while it’s never good losing a positon, it was a great move from him. I left him room.
“I was just hopeful that later no I would have the opportunity to continue the fight.”
Hamilton went on to pay tribute to yesterday’s pole-sitter Raikkonen, saying that it was “a real honour to race against a great Finn such as him.
“I was just telling him that he did a fantastic race,” said Hamilton, “[he] drove incredibly fairly. I respect him so much and I really enjoy racing with him.”
Hamilton’s fifth win at Monza also equalled the record of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. And while none of Hamilton’s wins has ever been for the team in red, as all of Schumacher's were, the Mercedes driver was still humbled by his matching of the German’s achievement.
“That’s cool,” said Hamilton when told of the stat. “I have such a bad memory that I didn’t really realise I’d had that many here. It feels like the first, if I'm really honest, with the way the race went.
"It was one of the most exciting victories that I’ve had that I can remember and it's such a great place to win. But to know that I'm up there with Michael, it’s always a real privilege and an honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as a great like him.”