By Alan Baldwin
A red-hot Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix to take a 53-point lead in the Formula One championship on Sunday after Mercedes team mate and closest rival Nico Rosberg retired with his car in flames.
However the Briton faced a post-race stewards enquiry for low tyre pressures at the start, with the possibility of a time penalty being imposed.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took second place, 25 seconds behind the reigning world champion, to give local fans something to cheer as they flooded the track in a wave of red for the podium ceremony.
Brazilian Felipe Massa took third for Williams, crossing the line 0.3 of a second ahead of his Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas.
The win was the 40th of Hamilton’s career, one less than the career tally of his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, and seventh of the season as well as his third in Monza.
“This weekend’s been just fantastic, a perfect weekend for me,” said the Briton, who dominated practice, started from pole position, led from the first corner and set the fastest lap.
“I don’t know if I have ever had a weekend like this. This circuit is such a special one for me…when you stand on top of that podium you feel an incredible pride, incredibly proud to be amongst the greats who have stood there.
“The sea of fans is just unlike anything I’ve seen.”
If his race was untroubled, there were concerned faces afterwards at Mercedes when stewards reported that the left rear tyre on Hamilton’s car was 0.3 PSI below the minimum starting pressure specified by Pirelli.
A team representative was summoned to the stewards, with fears he could face a penalty that might wipe out his advantage over Vettel, and possibly more.
“I’ve no idea what that might be,” Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff, whose team had ordered Hamilton to push in the closing laps to increase his lead, told the BBC.
Rosberg’s tyre had even less pressure but the German was past caring, his hopes literally going up in flames when the German pulled over two laps from the end with smoke and flames billowing out from the rear of his car while in third place.
A pre-qualifying problem had forced Rosberg to start the race with an engine that had previously done five races, while Hamilton had a fresh one with upgrades for the fastest circuit on the calendar.
The German had started fourth but lost places taking evasive action when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, on the front row with Hamilton, struggled to get away with cars swerving around on either side.
The Finn was last into the first corner but fought back to take fifth place.
Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were sixth and seventh with Australian Daniel Ricciardo eighth for Red Bull.
Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson was ninth for Sauber and Russian Daniil Kvyat 10th for Red Bull.
Formula One 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 Huelkenberg (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-Mercedes 188
4. RedBull – Renault 113
5. Force India – Mercedes 63
6. Lotus – Mercedes 50
7. Toro Rosso – Renault 35
8. Sauber – Ferrari 25
9. McLaren 17
10. Marussia – Ferrari 0