Hamilton marches to victory at Monza for Mercedes; Vettel a joyful 2nd for Ferrari and Williams’ Massa joins the party in P3
After eprecisely the fast getaway he was looking for when the lights went out to start the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the only question left for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes seemed to be whether a minuscule post-race tire pressure measurement could keep them from victory. But the stewards determined that the scant 0.3 psi under the regualtions had been caused by the natural cooling of the tires and not deliberately executed by Mercedes for unfair competitive advantage. And so, after some tense and mysterious moments late in the race with Hamilton’s engineer cryptically telling the Englishman to push for time but not ask questions, which naturally led to speculation that there could be a problem with his new 2016-spec engine, all came good for the Drivers’ Championship leader with yet another dominant victory. Better still for Hamilton, his closest pursuer and teammate, Nico Rosberg, suffered catastrophic engine failure in the waning laps after Mercedes had turned up the wick on his well used 2015-spec power plant in an effort to take the fight to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for P2. So the German contender might be forgiven for thinking that the stars were aligned against him in these last several races, as he now finds himself not just 53 points adrift of Hamilton with only seven races remaining but also under pressure from the hyper-competitive Vettel in his rapidly improving SF15-T chassis. At least Rosberg can console himself with some big picture thinking after becoming a new father to a healthy baby girl between Spa & Monza.
Vettel not only celebrated a new family addition of his own with the recent birth of his second daughter but also a well-earned P2 for Ferrari at the Scuderia’s home circuit. While he never really had anything for Hamilton’s Mercedes, the German former 4-time World Champ was definitely the best of the rest. Even if Rosberg’s engine had not blown Vettel did not look likely to relinquish his precious second step on the podium. But his teammate Kimi Raikkonen had yet another day that must have left the tifosi tearing their hair out and wondering why the veteran Finn was retained by Maranello for next season. Raikonnen became the most high profile victim of the new “no clutch coaching” rules when he bogged down on the grid at the start. He almost proved all the warnings about the danger of that sort of stall, as well, when Rosberg and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas nearly ran into his backside. But the two pilots showed excellent car control and got away cleanly from the stationary Ferrari. By the time Riakkonen got it in gear the entire field had passed him and he was forced to battle from behind all day long. He did show good mental toughness in recovering from his self-inflicted wound, using aggressive driving and his car’s superior performance, as well as a superlative pit stop by his crew, to re-pass much of the field and take valuable points with a hard-earned P5.
Williams’ Felipe Massa, the Brazilian veteran and longtime Ferrari driver, held off his rapidly closing teammate to capture an emotional P3 at a track he called home for so many years. The hard-charging Bottas finished right behind Massa in 4th place, making it a tremendous points scoring day for Williams. The ultra-fast Monza circuit rewarded their excellent straightline speed while not punishing their usual lack of downforce. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg finished P6 and P7 respectively for Force India, another fine result for the little team that could, while Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat took P8 and P10 for Red Bull despite starting near the rear after a passel of engine-change grid penalties. Marcus Ericsson of Sauber grabbed a very strong 9th place after after he was also penalized, in his case for impeding Hulkenberg in Saturday qualifying, and dropped to 12th on the grid. The young Swede has quietly put together an excellent second half of the season with points in his last three races and frankly outdriven his more heralded teammate Felipe Nasr.
Aside from Rosberg’s misfortune, the other DNFs in this full course yellow-free Grand Prix were both unlucky Lotuses within the first 4 laps and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, which expired late in the race. For both McLaren and Lotus it seems like the lowest point in a season full of lows. But Lotus should at least be getting a lift for next season with their presumed purchase by French powerhouse Renault. McLaren, on the other hand, have it all to do to regain their competitiveness with a Honda engine that stubbornly refuses to improve some 16 races into the 2015 campaign. Hamilton’s decision to jump the McLaren ship in favor of Mercedes two years ago, largely ridiculed at the time, seems ever more prescient.
Top 10 finishers for the Italian Grand Prix:
|6||SERGIO PEREZ||MEX||FORCE INDIA||+72.783s||8|
|7||NICO HULKENBERG||GER||FORCE INDIA||+1 lap||6|
|8||DANIEL RICCIARDO||AUS||RED BULL RACING||+1 lap||4|
|9||MARCUS ERICSSON||SWE||SAUBER||+1 lap||2|
|10||DANIIL KVYAT||RUS||RED BULL RACING||+1 lap||1|
The next GP is in two weeks, the always spectacular night race through the inner harbor of Singapore. With the season entering its final third something dramatic is going have to happen on that tight Marina Bay street circuit to stop the Hamilton/Mercedes juggernaut. But then it wouldn’t be the first season-changing drama seen in Singapore under the lights. So best to tune in and see for yourself. Hope to catch you then!