Seven days after he took his first victory at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps track, Nico Rosberg did it again at Italy’s 'magical track' - Monza. And, just as he had in Belgium, he dominated the Grand Prix. Beaten soundly on pace by Hamilton in practice and qualifying, he turned the tables when his team mate made his terrible start and from that point on owned the race.
His seventh triumph of the season brought him within two points of the world championship lead once again.
More importantly, it once again gives him clear momentum in the title race. That shouldn’t be underestimated: before the summer break Hamilton won six of seven races. Had he prevailed here and at Spa, his charge would have seemed irresistible. Now, the championship fight looks set to go to the wire.
Red Bull's smiling assassin
Red Bull didn’t have the pace to match either Mercedes or Ferrari this weekend, but they had their sights set on fifth and sixth - a target that became much harder when Williams’ Valtteri Bottas snatched fifth in qualifying.
Step forward Daniel Ricciardo. Already renowned as one of the best overtakers in F1, the Australian added to his highlights reel with a superb Turn1 pass on Bottas in the closing stages of the race. Breathtakingly late, judged to perfection, it was the move of the afternoon, and earned Ricciardo the fifth place he had coveted. In the circumstance, that represented getting the absolute most out of his machinery.
Bottas might have lost fifth place late on, but this was a good Grand Prix for the team in general. Just one week after losing fourth in the constructors’ table to Force India, Williams wrested the advantage back. They were faster than their rivals from the outset on Friday - even if Felipe Massa wasn’t able to show that in qualifying - and outscored them by a big enough margin to carry them back into fourth, four points ahead.
Button’s McLaren masterclass
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Button at the start: ushered onto the gravel at the Lesmos, he dropped from 14th on the grid to last across the line at the end of lap one. Alonso, meanwhile, had made progress from 12th to ninth.
Fourty-three laps later, the positions were reversed, as Button picked off Alonso on the main straight. The Briton’s secret lay in making his soft tyres last longer in the middle stint, allowing him to switch onto the supersofts for a late charge - one that carried him to within half a second of Romain Grosjean’s Haas at the chequered flag.
“After that first lap, I couldn’t have wished for anything better,” he said. “I had a lot of fun out there and pulled off some good overtaking moves, including one around the outside of Parabolica - something that doesn’t happen very often!
“I’m very happy with my performance. To come through and finish 12th isn’t great, but it wasn’t too bad considering the first lap. There’ll always be ifs and buts: if I hadn’t gone off on the first lap, I think we could have got into the points today.”
It was an inspired drive, and - while it didn’t quite yield points - hugely significant for McLaren given Monza is a power track. And the icing on the cake for the team? Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap of the race.
A winner without even being involved in the action, after confirmation that he will line up alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2017. The Belgian driver - reigning GP2 champion and currently the team's reserve - has the CV and talent to merit the promotion - now the real hard work starts.
F1 racing has been spoilt for choice with brilliant crowds this year. After standout scenes at Silverstone and Spa, Monza put in its own bid for best atmosphere of 2016 as the tifosi - as partisan and devout as ever - descended en masse.
Fans of change
Monza brought news that two of the elder statesmen on the grid won't be competing in 2017. In Massa and Button, F1 therefore loses a combined 26 wins, 91 podiums, 24 poles - and of course one world championship crown. But in drivers like Vandoorne, it also ushers in the new generation. Rumours continue to swirl around the second Williams seat, with 17-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll (currently leading the FIA European F3 championship) the latest to be tipped. And speculation continues to link 19-year-old Frenchman and current Manor driver Esteban Ocon to a seat at Renault next year. As F1 racing prepares for a new era of regulations, a new wave of drivers are getting ready to shine.
It all went right in qualifying, as Hamilton - at his brilliant best - claimed pole by almost half a second. And then it all went wrong at the start.
The Briton got too much wheelspin, bogged down, and had plunged to sixth by the time he reached the first corner. He quickly passed Ricciardo, then lost the bulk of his time to Rosberg chasing Bottas for the next 10 laps.
In the end Mercedes’ one-stop strategy got him ahead of the two-stopping Ferraris, but by then Rosberg was 10s up the road, and Hamilton was never able to make inroads into that gap.
Some pointed to Mercedes' clutch being the issue - what happened to Hamilton here was also seen with Rosberg at Hockenheim - but whatever the cause, the consequence was clear: Hamilton’s championship lead is down to two points, while Rosberg has won seven races this year to his team mate's six. Game on.
The slow starters
Hamilton wasn’t the only one struggling to get away cleanly as the lights went out. Max Verstappen made a terrible start from seventh, dropping behind Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein and into 12th as a result. That consigned him to playing catch-up for the rest of the afternoon, and seventh at the chequered flag.
Esteban Gutierrez likewise spoiled a promising grid slot - the Mexican lined up 10th after earning Haas their first participation in Q3. A horrific start saw him complete the first lap in 20th, condemning himself to an afternoon of struggle as he sought to fight his way back up the order. Thirteenth was the sum total of his efforts.
Palmer and Nasr
The 2014 GP2 championship rivals came to blows on the second lap of the race, an incident which effectively eliminated both men. Nasr was officially deemed culpable, and Palmer didn’t hold back in his criticism, but ultimately both men lost out - the latest setback in a season that has not exactly gone to plan for either driver.
Like Red Bull, Force India knew they might struggle on this track, and so it proved. The best that Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg could muster were eighth and 10th places. In isolation that five-point haul wasn’t terrible - but it wasn’t enough to prevent the team slipping back behind Williams in the race for fourth in the constructors’ championship.