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Hamilton wins Italy GP, Fernando finishes third to extend his overall lead

MONZA, Italy -- McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, and Formula One leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari finished third to extend his overall lead.

Hamilton put speculation about his future and a possible switch to Mercedes behind him to claim his first victory at Monza and the 20th of his career.

“It's a fantastic win in front of the best crowd. I'm happy for the team. It's been the best day,” Hamilton said.

It's unlikely to have much impact on the championship after an impressive race from Alonso, much to the delight of the fans at Ferrari's home track. The Spaniard started from 10th on the grid after he had technical difficulties during qualifying.

Hamilton moved past defending champion Sebastian Vettel to take second place in the drivers' standings, 37 points behind Alonso.

“It was a perfect Sunday for us,” Alonso said. “After the problem yesterday it was not easy to think about victory. So if you are not going to win the podium is the next target.

“All the simulations and predictions said we would never finish on the podium. So it was much better than expected and Jenson was out of the race and so were the two Red Bulls, so the perfect Sunday.”

Vettel had to retire because of a mechanical problem when wisps of white smoke started to emerge from his car with six laps to go. He was joined on the sideline by Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, who retired at the end of the penultimate lap.

Jenson Button was forced out of the race on the 35th lap just when the McLaren driver was looking on course for second place.

Sergio Perez was second on Sunday, 4.3 seconds behind Hamilton after starting 12th. The Mexican finished strongly, moving through the field in the closing stages and cutting into Hamilton's lead.

“That was a great race for me for my team. It's unbelievable to get a podium in Monza. It's really special,” Perez said.

Alonso made up three places on the first lap from 10th, and was up to sixth by the second lap.

A tremendous tussle with Vettel halfway through the race forced Alonso onto the grass adjacent to the track to avoid a collision, with the German later being issued a drive-through penalty.

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa finished fourth after starting third. The Brazilian got off to a strong start, overtaking Button and almost moving past Hamilton on the outside just before the first chicane.

Hamilton managed to hold his old rival at bay, only losing the lead briefly to Perez, who only pit-stopped once.

Button overtook Massa to regain second position shortly before their pit stops and it seemed as if a McLaren 1-2 was on the cards after the team had achieved a record 62nd front-row sweep in qualifying.

One week after giving himself an outside shot at the title with victory at the Belgium GP, however, Button endured a fuel pressure problem and had to quit the race.

That allowed Massa to move into second place but, with Alonso catching him, he allowed his teammate to overtake.

A new threat soon appeared as Perez put in a number of lightning-fast laps. He overtook the Ferrari duo to claim his third podium of the season — and his career.

Alonso finished 20.6 seconds behind Hamilton. Massa was a further 9 seconds behind, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and five-time Monza winner Michael Schumacher.

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 Paula Creamer, Jiyai Shin tied after 8 playoff holes 
McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, left, celebrates on the podium with second-placed Sauber driver Sergio Perez, of Mexico, after winning the Italian Formula One GP, at the Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 9. (AFP)

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