F1: Hamilton outduels Raikkonen to win Italian GP; Vettel finishes fifth after spin

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Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix developed into a thrilling tactical duel between Ferrari and Mercedes, though it started with a literal bang after title combatants Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made contact in the second chicane – the Variante della Roggia – while battling for second behind the pole sitting Kimi Raikkonen.

The contact tipped Vettel into a spin and dropped him to 18th in the running order before a Safety Car was deployed – there was also contact between Brendon Hartley, Marcus Ericsson, and Stoffel Vandoorne that caused damage to Hartley’s Toro Rosso, forcing him to retire and necessitating the Safety Car.

The incident left Hamilton and Raikkonen to fight it out for the win the rest of the way, and Hamilton even briefly overtook Raikkonen when racing resumed on Lap 4 – Hamilton got the slipstream behind Raikkonen and he made an outside pass approaching the first chicane, the Variante del Rettifilio.

However, Raikkonen immediately countered on the run up to the Variante della Roggia to retake the lead with a similar outside move, and they ran 1-2 through the opening stint until Raikkonen made his pit stop on Lap 21.

Mercedes left Hamilton out in hopes of using the overcut to give Hamilton the lead, but Raikkonen was able to bring the gap between them back down to emerge ahead of Hamilton after the Mercedes driver pitted on lap 28.

Mercedes then opted for Plan B, leaving Valtteri Bottas out in hopes that he would hold Raikkonen up enough to allow Hamilton to close back in. And the plan worked to perfection, with Hamilton all over Raikkonen’s gearbox after Bottas pitted on Lap 37.

More crucially, Raikkonen’s tires began to show big signs of wear, especially on the left-rear, hampering his ability to defend against Hamilton. And on Lap 45, Hamilton pounced, sticking an outside pass on Raikkonen entering the Variante del Rettifilio chicane to take the lead for good.

Hamilton led Raikkonen home from there to take his sixth win of the year.

Behind them, Vettel was on the charge to limit the damage from his opening lap spin and subsequent pit stop for a new front wing – he suffered damage in the contact with Hamilton. He was back in the points before the opening round of stops began, but Vettel needed to make another stop on Lap 30 for new tires.

Ultimately, Vettel came back to finish fourth.

Meanwhile, Bottas was engaged in a tense fight for third with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and their fight culminated in contact between them as well. Bottas tried an outside pass on Verstappen entering the Variante del Rettifilio on Lap 43, but Verstappen moved across to block the move and forced Bottas into the runoff area.

Verstappen was handed a five-second time penalty for initiating the contact, and even though he crossed the finish line in third, he was relegated to fifth behind Bottas and Vettel – Bottas ultimately rounded out the podium.

Romain Grosjean finished sixth, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez scoring the second consecutive double-points result for the newly renamed Racing Point Force India squad – they finished seventh and eighth.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished ninth, with Lance Stroll finishing 10th to score the final point.

Results are below. Hamilton now leads Vettel by 30 points in the driver’s championship, and Mercedes increased the gap over Ferrari in the constructor’s championship to 25 points.

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