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Hamilton dominates Italian GP for fourth Monza win, leading Mercedes 1-2

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Lewis Hamilton moved into the lead of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship for the first time this season on Sunday by claiming his fourth Italian Grand Prix victory, heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes at Monza.

On Ferrari home soil, Mercedes delivered its most dominant performance of the season to date as Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas ran P1 and P2 for all but three of the 53 laps, finishing over 30 seconds clear of Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel was left to settle for P3, fending off a charging Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages to ensure Hamilton’s lead only stands at three points heading into the flyaway races.

A slick getaway from Hamilton allowed him to retain his lead off the line as Esteban Ocon jumped ahead of Lance Stroll, while Kimi Raikkonen managed to get the jump on Bottas in the second Mercedes for fourth place.

Bottas refused to back down, quickly putting the superior straight-line speed of his Mercedes to re-pass Raikkonen, before easily disposing of Stroll and Ocon on consecutive laps to put the German marque one-two early on at Monza.

With his championship lead looking precarious, Vettel struggled to make up ground in the opening laps, eventually slipping ahead of Raikkonen before also jumping Stroll. Ocon put up more of a fight, but was powerless to keep the faster Ferrari back, with Vettel completing the move on Lap 8.

Further back, Max Verstappen’s rollercoaster season took another twist when he suffered damage following a clash with Felipe Massa at Turn 1, having made up five places on the first lap to run inside the points. The Red Bull driver was forced to pit for repairs, causing him to drop to the very back of the field, almost going a lap down.

Ocon and Stroll may have been unable to hold the leading trio back, but they were able to keep Raikkonen in the second Ferrari at bay, the Finn struggling to get close enough to pass. Ferrari opted to try and get the undercut by bringing Raikkonen in on Lap 16, also acting to give the team some information on his tires that may help Vettel.

Ocon responded one lap later, retaining his advantage thanks to a slick stop from Force India, but Stroll was less fortunate, dropping behind Raikkonen following a slow turnaround by the usually-sharp Williams team.

The fight between F1’s oldest driver and two of its youngest resumed not long after the stops, with Raikkonen eventually getting a tow and using DRS down the main straight to slip past Ocon for P6 on Lap 26, with the leading five drivers still yet to pit.

Vettel was the first of the front-runners to blink, coming in for a fresh set of soft Pirellis at the end of Lap 31. However, the gap to Hamilton in the lead had swelled to over 20 seconds by the time he had come in, giving him no advantage for the undercut.

Mercedes reacted all the same, bringing Hamilton and Bottas in on the following two laps. Swift work from the Silver Arrows’ pit crew ensured the cars remained P1 and P2, with the gap to Vettel only growing.

Ferrari’s concern soon became the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, who from P16 on the grid had perfected a reverse strategy to run into the top five on fresh super-soft tires after a long first stint.

Ricciardo quickly caught Raikkonen before pulling off a stunning divebomb move at Turn 1 on the Ferrari driver, boldly taking fourth away before getting his head down and setting off in pursuit of Vettel, gaining at a rate of one second per lap, setting up a tight finish.

With 53 laps in the book, Hamilton crossed the line 4.4 seconds clear of Bottas to become the first back-to-back winner in F1 this year, seizing the lead of the drivers’ championship in the process.

Vettel gave Ferrari something to cheer for at its home race by taking third place, seeing off Ricciardo’s late charge. Fourth place for the Red Bull racer nevertheless marked a stunning turnaround for the Australian, continuing his excellent form this season.

Kimi Raikkonen wound up a lonely fifth for Ferrari, putting 10 seconds between himself and Esteban Ocon at the checkered flag. Ocon’s run to sixth was impressive all the same, as was Stroll holding on to P7 for Williams ahead of teammate Felipe Massa despite a late scrap.

Sergio Perez recovered from his grid penalty for a gearbox change to take ninth for Force India, finishing ahead of Verstappen, who recovered to P10 despite the early clash with Massa.

More to follow.

Ka-boom! NHRA Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon blows up brand new car body

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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Former NHRA Funny Car champ Cruz Pedregon was a happy man coming into Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Morrison, Colorado (a suburb of Denver).

The reason Pedregon was feeling good was he had a brand new Toyota Camry body atop his Funny Car chassis. It was state of the art, it looked fast and it was prepared to run fast.

And everything really looked good as soon as Pedregon hit the gas in his qualifying run vs. Tim Wilkerson.

Well, for a few seconds, that is.

As the two drivers hurtled down the 1,000-foot drag strip, Pedregon’s brand new body was destroyed in a massive explosion.

Fortunately, Pedregon was uninjured.

Check out the big ka-boom: