LEWIS HAMILTON admitted his Monza mistake could cost him the world championship after Fernando Alonso and Ferrari leapt back into title contention with victory in the Italian Grand Prix.
McLaren star Hamilton crashed out in the very first lap after damaging his car when trying to pass the Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
As a result, Hamilton dropped to second in the championship race with Red Bull’s Mark Webber’s sixth place enough to open up a five-point gap at the top with five races to go.
Alonso moved up to third, in the overall standings, 21 points behind Webber, while Hamilton’s team-mate and defending champion Jenson Button also remains in contention, a further point adrift, after finishing second, ahead of Massa.
Hamilton’s race was run at the second chicane when trying to take advantage of a battle between the two Ferrari drivers, suffering front-suspension damage.
“I only have myself to blame and I am very disappointed in myself,” explained the 2008 world champion. “It’s not over, but it is mistakes like I made today that lose world championships.
“I had a good start and in the realistic world I should perhaps have stayed there for a while. There was nothing I could do. It’s a little bit of a shame and I apologise to my team.”
Of his title hopes, he added: “My eyes aren’t on Mark [Webber]. I really have to collect my thoughts and move on to the next race [in Singapore] to try and help the team collect as many points so either myself or Jenson can win the championship.”
Hamilton’s accident came after an encouraging start for the McLaren team after Button stole a march on pole-setter Alonso at the first chicane. But he failed to pull away from the Spaniard, culminating in the defining moment, which came on laps 36 and 37.
Button pitted first with Alonso coming in next time around. Alonso responded with a brilliant in-lap followed by a pit stop that was 0.8secs quicker than McLaren’s, meaning the Spaniard exited the pits just ahead of Button.
Button wasn’t able to get close enough to challenge and contest the lead, indeed his main concern was holding off the fast-finishing Massa to claim 18 vital championship points, while Ferrari celebrated a first victory in their home grand prix in four years.
ITALIAN GP | RACE STANDINGS
1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1:16:24.572
2. Jenson Button (McLaren) +00:02
3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) +00.04
4. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) +00:28
5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +00:29
STANDINGS | DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 187pts
2. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 182
3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 166
4. Jenson Button (McLaren) 165
5. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 163