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Hamilton in 'beast mode' after Monza win gives him F1 lead

MONZA - Lewis Hamilton enjoyed the perfect weekend after taking the lead in the Formula One standings for the first time this season a day after setting a new record of 69 pole positions.

The Mercedes driver could afford to smile and shrug off the booing from the Ferrari fans who gathered after the race in Monza for the podium celebrations.

"Lewis Hamilton embraces 'villain' tag after taking lead in F1 title race," the Guardian said in online headline said. And the Briton was certainly all smiles after a first back-to-back win for a driver this season following his Belgian GP victory.

"It is amazing to have the first back-to-back wins in a long, long time and claim the lead in the championship," Hamilton said.

"But the fight will continue, the Ferraris have been really quick this season, especially on the high-downforce tracks.

"It will continue to be really close between us, so it will be 'beast mode' all the way to the last chequered flag."

Hamilton now appears to have the edge over four-time champions Vettel, but that could change in Singapore in two weeks on a circuit which is expected to favour the Ferraris or Red Bulls.

Team principal Toto Wolff said Singapore would be "more like a case of damage limitation for us" and that Mercedes will approach the race with "healthy scepticism."

Mercedes did win last year on the Marina Bay Street Circuit through Nico Rosberg, and Hamilton was a winner in 2014. But Vettel has enjoyed four victories including two years ago for Ferrari after three with Red Bull.

"I still do believe that there are certain characteristics in a track that suit a car or not – and you can see this year that the slow, twisty circuits have rather suited Red Bull and Ferrari – and lots of high-speed downforce was good for us," Wolff said.

"But I think there is no pattern that you can't break. The more we clock mileage with these new cars, the more we learn about them.

"Having said that, I still believe that Singapore will be one of the more difficult weekends for us, more so than for example Monza, Spa or Silverstone. But we will try to understand the best possible way to be successful there."

Hamilton is now three points ahead of Vettel after trailing by seven, and has bounced back from a 14-point deficit following the Hungarian Grand Prix when he made way for team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the end to finish fourth.

Vettel meanwhile enjoyed the adulation of the Ferrari fans on their home circuit and was not too put out by his third-place finish, behind Hamilton and Mercedes team Valtteri Bottas, after starting eighth on the grid following a rain-hit qualifying.

"Leading the championship is not important as much as winning the championship, it's where you are at the last race that counts," he said.

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