Nico Rosberg cut Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead to just two points with victory in the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton lost what had looked set to be a certain win with a poor start after he had taken pole position with a scintillating performance on Saturday.
The world champion dropped to sixth at the first corner and despite fighting back to second and closing on Rosberg he could not challenge for the win.
Hamilton told his Mercedes team the poor start was his own fault.
How did Hamilton throw it away?
Hamilton had been on pole position by nearly 0.5 seconds – a massive margin on a track with relatively few corners and his dominance left Rosberg curt in his media exchanges afterwards.
But the race fell into the German’s lap when Hamilton stuttered away from the line and was swamped by the cars behind him, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel moving into second ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
As Rosberg streaked away into a race of his own at the front, Hamilton started his recovery, passing Ricciardo at the second chicane on lap two and Bottas into Turn One on lap 11 before the Ferraris pitted out of his way on their two-stop strategy.
Hamilton, like Rosberg on a one-stop plan, was 15 seconds behind his team-mate by the time he was into second place on lap 17.
He closed that to 12.2secs on lap 23 before Rosberg made his single stop the next time around, Hamilton following him in a lap later.
After the stops, Hamilton reduced the gap to 9.1secs by lap 31, with 22 to go, before Rosberg responded and it became clear that Hamilton did not have enough pace while keeping his tyres in shape to catch up before the end of the race.
Ricciardo’s amazing overtake
Mercedes’ superiority was underlined by the fact that they were in a race of their own despite running what every other team believed was a slower strategy.
All the other leading teams were on a two-stop and while there was excitement with some battles here and there, it was a largely mundane race.
The Ferraris were comfortably quicker than anyone else in the chasing group, and the excitement in the closing laps was around a battle for fifth between Bottas and Ricciardo.
Ricciardo, choosing super-soft tyres for the final stint rather than the softs on the Williams, closed in after their final stops and pulled a brilliant overtaking move from a long way back into Turn One at the start of lap 47 to take the place.
Behind them, Ricciardo’s team-mate Max Verstappen was also on a charge and he grabbed seventh from Force India’s Sergio Perez with five laps to go.
A you sure you want to stop, Jenson?
Outside the top 10 points positions, Jenson Button put in a superb performance a day after announcing that he would not be racing in F1 next season.
Button has signed a new two-year contract with McLaren but is to take a break from F1 in 2017. The team have an option on him for a return in 2018, but the deal may well end up being a precursor to a full retirement.
Button started 14th, two places behind team-mate Fernando Alonso, but a terrible start left him 20th on the first lap, while the Spaniard moved up to ninth.Despite that, Button had caught Alonso by lap 43, passing him into the first chicane for 12th place at the start of lap 44.
Alonso tried to come back at Button, but the Englishman had too much pace and pulled away.
Button managed to close on Alonso by running longer on his soft tyres after his first stop, which allowed him to fit the super-softs for his final stint while Alonso had the softs.
He caught Haas driver Romain Grosjean with two laps to go but the Frenchman was able to hold him off.
Button will come to some races in 2017, do simulator work and keep himself current while Alonso and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne race for McLaren.
Alonso’s contract is up at the end of 2017 and he has said he will decide next year whether to extend his career beyond that.
What they said on the podium
“It was all down to the start,” said Rosberg. “I had an awesome start and that made the win.”
Referring to the championship, in which there are seven races remaining, Rosberg said: “The race is on. It’s always going to be a great battle and I look forward to what is to come.”
Hamilton said: “It was the start. I knew my engineers would be worried and nervous of how the start went.
“I don’t really know what happened. I will try to understand later. It’s hard to overtake here. Live to fight another day.”