Hamilton: Perez was never a threat

Autosport

Lewis Hamilton reckons his 20th career Formula 1 victory was never in doubt despite a late charge from Sauber's Sergio Perez in Sunday's race at Monza.

Hamilton, who led the Italian Grand Prix from the start, having taken his 23rd pole position during a dominant weekend for the 27-year-old McLaren driver, was only headed by Perez in the pitstop phase mid-race.

But Perez, who started 12th, optimised a late one-stop strategy, having started the race on prime hard tyres to come on strong late in the race, passing both Ferraris and closing to within five seconds of Hamilton by the flag.

Hamilton though, whose future has been the subject of intense speculation all weekend, said he was never worried about the Sauber catching him.

"I was cruising up until that point [that Perez was closing]," said Hamilton. "And then I heard he was catching at a second a lap up until about 14s so then I tried to balance that over a certain number of laps.

"Then with six laps to go he was maybe seven seconds away...

"I can't say there was huge pressure. I think if he was a lot closer to start with then it would have been quite tough, but the last few laps I had to accelerate a little bit more to reduce the amount that he was catching me."

Hamilton added that Perez passing Fernando Alonso for second actually did him a favour.

"When I heard that Fernando had got to second, I thought 'How the hell did he get to second?', and then I thought to myself: 'That's OK, I've just got to try and finish'. So once I had heard that Sergio got past I thought, 'That's great'."

This was Hamilton's first Italian GP victory, having already collected trophies at other classics Silverstone and Monaco, and he said he was glad to add it to his collection.

"It's an incredible feeling," said Hamilton, who became the second driver in 2012 to win three races after Alonso. "It's phenomenal.

"You never know what is going to happen when you come into a race weekend. But I have been so happy that it has just run quite smoothly throughout the weekend and the guys have done a great job with the package.

"I knew that from the previous weekend with Jenson [Button]'s pace, I thought straightaway that means I have got to do the same here and the guys did a great job.

"And this is Monza, this is one of the very historic circuits and one that I have not won at before so it's great to take another stepping stone in my career.

"It's not as special as Silverstone or Monaco, but it is one of those special grands prix, as this is a very historic circuit," he added. "I wish we had a better reception here but I know, and I could hear, the great British fans we had here this weekend, standing in amongst the crowd of Italian Ferrari fans."

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