Hamilton goes wire-to-wire for third Italian Grand Prix victory

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Lewis Hamilton extended his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship to 53 points by winning Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza in emphatic fashion.

After scoring his 11th pole position of the season on Saturday, Hamilton went lights-to-flag at Monza to lead home Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 25 seconds.

Mercedes’ weekend was far from perfect, though, as championship contender Nico Rosberg suffered an engine failure with three laps remaining, resigning the German to his first retirement of the 2015 season.

At the start of the race, Kimi Raikkonen bogged down in first gear from second place to fall to the very back of the pack as the rest of the field streamed past. Hamilton managed to defend his lead from Vettel before opening up a gap over the first few laps, whilst Rosberg dropped down to P6 to leave himself with a mountain to climb.

Raikkonen began his fightback in the laps that would follow, rising into the top ten after five laps thanks to clean moves on the Red Bull and McLaren drivers. He also gained positions when the two Lotus drivers retired after just one lap, bringing an early end to a difficult weekend for the British team.

At the front, Hamilton began to open up a gap to Vettel behind as Rosberg bid to make up for his poor start. The German driver made a good move to pass Sergio Perez for fifth place before latching onto the back of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. However, he was told to be careful with his brakes due to excessive wear, causing him to drop back again.

Rosberg was forced into pitted early on lap 18 in the bid to get the undercut on the Williams drivers ahead, moving onto the medium tire that would last him to the end of the race. Before stopping, the German driver had already fallen over 20 seconds behind Hamilton at the front, who in turn was over 12 seconds clear of the field.

The undercut worked well for Rosberg as he got the jump on Felipe Massa, who had been running P3 before stopping. Williams opted to keep Bottas out for a few more laps before stopping, leaving the Finn to come out behind Rosberg and Massa.

Hamilton was the last of the leaders to pit on lap 26, moving onto the medium compound tire. Vettel had pitted just one lap earlier, but remain some 18 seconds behind in second place after the pit cycle, giving Hamilton plenty of breathing room up front.

Rosberg’s fightback continued at the expense of Raikkonen, who had worked his way up to third place with a long first stint. His starting tires were beginning to fade, though, allowing Rosberg to take P3 before Ferrari brought the Finn in for his solitary pit stop at the end of lap 28. He emerged back out on track in P10 behind Marcus Ericsson, having narrowly avoided being hit by Roberto Merhi at pit entry.

As Hamilton’s lead rose to over 20 seconds at the front, Mercedes turned attention to Rosberg in third place in a bid to score another one-two finish. The German driver ran five seconds behind Vettel after both had pitted, but with his tires some seven laps older, it would be a big challenge for Rosberg to leapfrog his compatriot in the second half of the race.

Further back, Raikkonen continued his charge by passing both Ericsson and Nico Hulkenberg soon after pitting, moving himself up into seventh place with 15 laps remaining. In the battle to make the points, Daniel Ricciardo’s long first stint had launched him up into tenth position, giving Red Bull some solace after a trying weekend.

With three laps remaining, the championship race took a huge twist as Rosberg’s engine began to exude smoke before eventually failing at the Roggia chicane, forcing him to pull over and retire from the race.

At the head of the field though, Hamilton was given a late scare when Mercedes told him to pull out a gap at the front of the field and push hard, telling him that they would explain after the race. He managed to remain in the lead until the flag, completing a lights-to-flag victory.

Some 25 seconds later, Vettel crossed the line in second after coming under heavy pressure from Rosberg in the closing stages. Traffic had caused trouble for both drivers, but it was Vettel who managed to stay ahead and give the loyal Ferrari fans at Monza something to cheer for.

Lucking in from Rosberg’s failure was Felipe Massa, who crossed the line just three-tenths of a second clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas to finish third for Williams. Kimi Raikkonen’s fightback finished with him in P5 ahead of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, whilst Daniel Ricciardo finished eighth. Marcus Ericsson and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.

Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen fought well for Toro Rosso to finish 11th and 12th, whilst Felipe Nasr followed them home in 13th. Jenson Button finished P14 ahead of Manor drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi. Fernando Alonso retired from the race late on, ending a tough weekend for McLaren.

In the moments following the checkered flag, the stewards issued a statement calling for both Hamilton and Rosberg due to a supposed issue with their tire pressures before the start of the race, reasoning Mercedes’ call for Hamilton to push in the closing stages.

For the time being though, Hamilton remains the winner of the Italian Grand Prix, and now enjoys a 53-point lead over Rosberg in the drivers’ championship heading to the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

Ryan Norman returns to Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport in 2019

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Ryan Norman will return to Andretti Autosport for their third season together in 2019 after scoring his first win and first pole with that organization in 2018.

I’m really excited to finally make it official that I’ll be returning to Andretti Autosport for my third season competing in Indy Lights,” said Norman in a press release. “We’ve built a solid foundation over the past two years and I’m ready to fight for wins, podiums and ultimately the championship, with such a great group of people who have become like a family to me.”

Norman finished 2018 fourth in the championship, earning his first career win in race 15 of the 17-race schedule at Gateway Motorsports Park in August.

Norman’s first pole came in the finale at Portland International Raceway in September, but he crashed on the first lap and finished last (8th).

“We’re very happy that Ryan is rejoining us for his third season of Indy Lights,” said Andretti Autosport President, JF Thormann. “We were pleased with his performance this past season, and his potential as a driver began to really shine after his win at Gateway. He’s right on track with his progression plan put together by his engineering team, and we feel strongly that he has what it takes to be a contender for the 2019 championship.”

Norman will essentially replace teammates Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who will race for Rookie of the Year honors in IndyCar next season.  O’Ward finished first in the Indy Lights standings last year; Herta finished second.

Norman’s 2019 campaign will begin on the streets of St. Petersburgh, Florida March 9, 2019. That will be the first of a double-header with Race 2 running the following day.