Lewis Hamilton given huge boost at Italian GP thanks to Max Verstappen | F1 | Sport

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might not be favourite to win the race at the Italian Grand Prix, but his chances of winning a sixth World Championship has increased thanks to .

Despite coming second in last weekends Belgian GP at Spa, Hamilton managed to increase his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 65 points.

As Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took his first victory from pole position, Hamilton’s closest rival, Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, finished in third and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished fourth.

Verstappen, who is currently in third place in the driver standings and 87 points behind Hamilton, had a race to forget in Belgium as he crashed out in the opening lap at Spa, which saw the gap to the British driver increase.

And to make matters worse for the young Dutch driver, Red Bull have been forced into making an engine change and the resulting penalty will see Verstappen demoted to the back of the grid.

However, Red Bull’s engine supplier Honda believe the team can still have a strong performance at Monza, despite the engine penalty.

“We believe they can still race strongly on Sunday,” said Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 technical director.

“We gathered useful data in Spa, which we have used to make changes to power-unit settings and calibration in preparation for this race.

“We will try to maximise the potential of Spec Four and hope to get another positive result, maintaining the momentum we gained in Spa.”

The possibility of taking an engine penalty at Monza was put to Verstappen after his crash at the Belgian GP and the 21-year-old didn’t see the prospect of starting at the back of the grid in Italy as defiantly writing off his chances to gain some points.

“I think it can be all right to overtake,” Verstappen said.

“Even if you start from the back I don’t think it’s a big deal.

“We all know Ferrari is going to be really quick there, and if you start from the back you probably won’t catch the top four.

“Everything behind that I think it’s possible to catch up with.”

And Verstappen’s predictions about Ferrari’s expected pace this weekend was echoed by Hamilton.

“It’s all straights, so it’s going to be a happy weekend for Ferrari, most likely in that respect,” Hamilton said.

“In the next few days we’ve got to make some drastic improvements to our straight speed, somehow.

“I don’t know if that’s possible – but if anyone can do it, it’s our team. So, we’ll do our best.

“We’ve got slightly better degradation than them and it’s a longer race, so hopefully we can have another close race like we’ve had this weekend.”



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