STRONG DRIVE: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton led from the start to win the Italian GP at Monza, but the victory could be revoked after Mercedes were summoned by stewards for running lower tyre pressures. Image: AFP/ Olivier Morino
MONZA, Italy - Lewis Hamilton extended his lead, at least provisionally, in the 2015 drivers' world championship to 53 points on Sunday when he drove to a flawless and consummate victory in a typically dramatic Italian Grand Prix.
As nearest rival and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg retired with a blown engine with two laps to go, Hamilton took full advantage on a day when his perfect drive ended amid chaotic scenes and reports that his car had raced with illegal tyre pressures.
LED FROM POLE POSITION
Hamilton led from pole position to the chequered flag, leading all the way and surviving a nervous period during the final laps when, warned by his team, he became aware of possible performance problems.
His points advantage, with seven 'flyaway' races remaining after the last European race of the season, makes him a clear favourite to defend his crown and claim his third world title.
The newly-blond defending two-time world champion came home 25 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari with former local hero Felipe Massa finishing third for Williams, repeating his podium of 2015.
Hamilton's win if confirmed was his second in succession at the Autodromo Nazionale, his third in all at the famous old circuit, his seventh of the season and 40th of his career.
"Those last few laps were not cool man," Hamilton told his engineer over the team radio, after being asked to push harder and not ask questions. "Not cool."
Behind Massa, Valtteri Bottas came home fourth in the second Williams ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Sergio Perez of Force India.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in the second Force India ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Swede Marcus Ericsson of Sauber and Russian Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull.
As the race ended, it became clear that the result was under scrutiny and expected to remain unconfirmed until the outcome of a stewards' inquiry into the starting pressures and temperatures of the Mercedes cars.
Bizzarely, this postscript unfolded as the Star Wars film director George Lucas conducted the post-race podium interviews.
Lucas asked Hamilton: "Do blondes have more fun?" The driver had dyed his hair before arriving in Italy. Hamilton replied: "I hope so.
Hamilton, not knowing what else had happened, went on to praise his team: "Look at this crowd, it's incredible, this team is remarkable. What we've achieved together is so special....
"I'm incredibly grateful to them. They've done a great job all year."
RAIKKONEN'S DISASTROUS START
Asked about his allegedly irregular tyre pressures, Hamilton said he knew nothing about it. "I didn't know a thing," he said.
In his 50th race since joining Mercedes, Hamilton had made a perfect start as, behind him, Raikkonen stalled and, with cars weaving around him, Vettel powered into second place in pursuit of the championship leader.
Raikkonen's misfortune gave the two Williams a chance to take third and fourth with Massa leading Bottas behind Vettel, the top five stretched out by Hamilton's early speed as he opened a lead of 5.9 seconds by lap 10.
Rosberg, in a car fitted with an older Mercedes engine following a coolant leak on his updated new unit on Saturday (September 5) morning, passed Perez for fifth, but found it more difficult to overhaul Bottas as the race order settled.
There was first lap despair for the Lotus drivers with both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado both forced into retirement with mechanical problems.
2015 Italian GP classification
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:18:00.688
2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari +00:25.042
3. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 00:47.635
4. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 00:47.996
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 01:08.860
6. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 01:12.783
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 1 lap
8. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull 1 lap
9. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 1 lap
10. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) RedBull 1 lap
11. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 1 lap
12. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 1 lap
13. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber 1 lap
14. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1 lap
15. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia 2 laps
16. Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia 2 laps
17. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 3 laps (retired)
18. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 6 laps (retired)
Pastor Maldonado. (Venezuela) Lotus 52 laps (retired)
Romain Grosjean. (France) Lotus 52 laps (retired)
Driver and constructor standings
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 252
2. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 199
3. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 178
4. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 97
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 92
6. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 91
7. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull 58
8. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 55
9. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 38
10. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 33
11. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 30
12. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 26
13. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber 16
14. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus 12
15. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 11
16. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 9
17. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 9
18. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 6
19. Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia 0
20. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia 0
1. Mercedes 451
2. Ferrari 270
3. Williams 188
4. RedBull 113
5. Force India 63
6. Lotus 50
7. Toro Rosso 35
8. Sauber 25
9. McLaren 17