Lewis Hamilton said home crowd “negativity” spurred him on to victory at Sunday’s enthralling Italian Grand Prix.
The Brit overcame both Ferrari drivers and the partisan “tifosi” to clinch his sixth win of the 2018 Formula One season and extend his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel.
“Today was so difficult,” four-time champion Hamilton said in a post-race interview during which som sections of the crowd loudly booed.
“We’ve got a great crowd here and although the negativity is never great, that’s what powered me along.”
“I love being here in Italy,” he continued. “I love the food. The track is incredible, and it’s a such an honor to win here in front of such a great crowd.”
It’s easy the understand the frustrations of the fans who have now endured eight years without a Ferrari win at Monza.
Fernando Alonso’s victory at the 2010 Italian Grand Prix was the last time they took first place on home soil, with Mercedes continuing their recent dominance thanks to a fifth successive win.
“There’s been a lot of negativity but there were a lot of British flags out there today,” Hamilton said. “They know who they are. In future I only want to turn to a negative to a positive.
“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.”
Despite starting second on the grid, Ferrari’s German driver Vettel soon found himself way down in 18th place after colliding with Hamilton as the Briton passed him during the opening lap.
And Hamilton spoiled any hopes of a Ferrari party by passing Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who started in pole position, on lap 45 to take a race-winning lead.
It’s the fifth time Hamilton has won this grand prix in the last seven years, equaling Michael Schumacher’s record number of wins at Monza and boosting his lead in the driver standings to 30 points.
Vettel was forced to settle for a fourth-place finish.
For Raikkonen, it was a 100th career podium finishing in front of Ferrari’s passionate “Tifosi” fans. But the Finn will be frustrated to have not registered a first race win since 2013.
Duel for championship number five
All season, Hamilton and Vettel have been neck and neck in the driver standings as each searches for a fifth world championship.
But, for the first time this season, there is more than a single race victory between them.
With 25 points for a race win, Hamilton’s 30-point lead gives him a firm advantage over Vettel with seven races left on the calendar — culminating with November’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari started the race with a heavy advantage over Mercedes, a front-row lockout — the first at its home race since 2000 — leaving Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas in a tough position off the start.
But while Raikkonen tore away to establish a clean lead from Turn 1, a collision with Hamilton sent Vettel spinning to the back of the pack.
Race control investigated the coming-together, but deemed the move was fair and no further action would be taken against either championship contender, leaving Hamilton free to hunt another win at Monza.
After the safety car ended in lap 4, Hamilton overtook Raikkonen, only for the Finn to move back in front seconds later.
Raikkonen pitted, followed by Hamilton eight laps longer, allowing Bottas to take the lead.
Praised by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff as “the perfect wingman” earlier this season, Bottas held up his fellow Finn Raikkonen to allow Hamilton to close the gap.
And it was Bottas’ staunch defense which ultimately let Hamilton land the decisive blow on Raikkonen with just eight laps to go.
In recent years, Mercedes has enjoyed complete domination at Monza, winning every race since 2013, but Ferrari had strong hopes of bucking the trend.
In qualifying, Raikkonen set the fastest lap in F1 history — breaking Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2004 record — with an average speed of 164 mph, the latest sign of a Ferrari resurgence.
But, as he did in Hungary, in Germany, and countless other times this season, Hamilton proved too good — beating both Ferraris in a slower car and on their home turf.
Red Bull woes continue
It was yet another weekend to forget for Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, forced to retire due to a technical fault for the fourth time in six races.
Despite impressive victories in Shanghai and Monaco, the Australian’s season has been disrupted by problems with the car, leaving him with no podiums other than his two race wins.
From next season, the 29-year-old will race for Renault, with Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly earning a promotion to Red Bull.
Ricciardo’s current teammate Max Verstappen looked to be on course for a sixth podium finish of the season before being handed a five-second penalty for a collision with Bottas.
Although Verstappen was the third driver to cross the line, he was demoted to fifth place behind both Bottas and Vettel.
The young Dutchman was enraged when he was informed of race control’s decision, exclaiming over the team radio: “For what? Honestly, they are killing racing!”
Meanwhile, racing in perhaps his last Italian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso also had to retire. Engine problems once again ending a race this season for the two-time world champion; while Toro Rosso’s Brandon Hartley had his fourth DNF of the season after a first lap collision took him out of the grand prix.