Lewis Hamilton maintains that he could have won Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix had he not fallen foul of the chaotic Ardenne climate again.
The British ace, who sees his championship lead sliced to a mere 1 point after placing seventh, started from fifteenth on the grid having been caught out by rain in qualifying on Saturday.
Ironically, it was a drying track and an absence of the wet stuff that denied him victory one day later.
Having scythed his way through the field to second, emerging as the only real threat to Sebastien Vettel, Hamilton was left praying for rain after putting wet tyres on at his only planned pit-stop on lap 27.
It never came and he was forced to stop for intermediate tyres as the track dried; that dropped him to seventh, behind his championship rival Felipe Massa.
Hamilton is adamant that he would have been able to usurp Vettel had he not had to make the stop for intermediates.
“I felt I drove a really good race and was moving through the field very quickly when the circuit was at its wettest,” he said.
“If it had kept on raining, I feel pretty confident I probably could have even won from 15th grid position; but, as the circuit dried out, my tyres overcooked and I had to defend my position from Mark Webber.”
Hamilton was lucky to walk away from Monza with his championship lead in tact, especially after Mark Webber began to hunt the Englishman down in the closing stages.
“Today was all about damage control: I came away with some points and kept my lead in the world drivers’ championship.”
Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen drove a solid race but was unable to make an impression on Sebastian Vettel after damaging his tyres when the track begun to dry.
“”In today’s tricky weather conditions I struggled to keep temperature in the brakes, and in the opening stages of the race I had problems with my extreme-wet tyres,” explained the Finn.
“First I thought it would improve after a few laps, but it didn’t. Only at the end was I able to match the lap times of Sebastian Vettel in front of me.”
“In today’s conditions he was just too fast for me – congratulations to him for his very first Grand Prix win. I’m happy to have scored eight points, and I look forward to the next race in Singapore.”
While Lewis Hamilton sees his championship lead reduced to a single point, McLaren have consistently out-scored rivals Ferrari in recent races and have closed the Italian team to just five points.
“A good race from Heikki and another 10 points in the constructors’ world championship,” enthused Mercedes-Benz Vice President Norbert Haug.
“Currently, we’ve scored 28 points more than our closest competitor, Ferrari, in the past six races, since Lewis’s win at Silverstone, and now we will concentrate on continuing this trend.
” Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Toro Rosso – a sensational and well-deserved victory.”