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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
0 Comments

Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”