Race Report: Hamilton wins in Italy

With six Mercedes-powered cars locking out the front three rows for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, it was a good bet that the name Mercedes would be celebrating a victory. Having won the race in 2012 and coming off of a controversy-filled Belgium Grand Prix with no points, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton looked to reverse his fortunes and begin his march toward the championship title—he did just that at Monza.

Hamilton took the victory after his teammate, Nico Rosberg, made two mistakes heading into turn one by straight-lining the chicane with his mirrors full of Lewis Hamilton. The second missed turn cost him the lead but he minimized the damage by finishing second.

Hamilton won the race with a one-stop strategy, starting on the medium tire and then switching to the Pirelli P Zero Orange hard tire for the rest of the race.

He is now seventh in the all-time list of grand prix winners, surpassing fellow Briton Sir Jackie Stewart and his win represents his second at Monza.

The winning strategy was adopted by the majority of frontrunners, with the top 10 finishers all using similar tactics. At one of the fastest races of the year, with approximately a 24-second time loss in the pit lane, most drivers were able to stop only once—clearly the best way to approach the race although when they chose to stop would signify just how aggressive their race strategy was and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel paid the price for their aggression with his teammate—on 10-lap fresher tires—made the pass on Vettel in the waning laps.

The weather was dry and sunny with the race starting in 84 degrees ambient and 111 degrees of track temperature.

Win

Win

There is no doubt the day was a win for Hamilton who needed a race that could launch some confidence and get his year back inline with his expectations. Having suffered a DNF at Spa, Monza was a welcome site and Lewis ignored team instructions to drop back 2.5 seconds from Rosberg in order to have tires to battle at the end of the race.

Hamilton decided that was nonsense and he found that pressure is Rosberg’s nemesis—he cited Canada as an example—and promptly applied as much pressure as he could. The gambit worked and Hamilton has been labeled “majestic”, “amazing” and “brilliant”. I’d say he just read the race correctly and did what he normally does…drive fast and put pressure on all those he races against.

Regardless how you label Lewis’s drive Sunday, his championship deficit has been shaved down to 22 points so there is a lot of work yet to do and Hamilton knows it saying he has to work very hard to overcome the points delta but I think he can do it…he’s done it before.

After Spa, many were down in the mouth and outraged but I reckoned the season isn’t over and neither is Lewis. Odd that so many felt the season was done and dusted and I—often accused of being a hater when it comes to all things Lewis—still had complete confidence in his abilities and motivation to win and get his championship bid back on track. Apparently this “Lewis-hater” doesn’t underestimate him like some of his most ardent fans do.

The NBC Sports announcers are all but convinced that Rosberg is the mentally weak one and is crumbling under the superior pace and head-scrambling antics of Lewis Hamilton—uh, okay…I guess they missed the 2011 season. David Hobbs said that Rosberg was mentally beaten in Hungary and has not recovered from the mental abuse of Hamilton’s ignoring team orders to make way for Nico who was on a different strategy. I’m not convinced but I am convinced that Nico lost the Italian Grand Prix on his own accord Sunday. Lewis’s ERS handed Rosberg everything he needed to win and he spoiled it.

A big win for Force India’s Sergio Perez who drove brilliantly and had some wonderful battles with former teammate Jenson button to finish 7th. Humorously Button later said that racing like that with Perez wouldn’t have been possible a year ago when they were teammates implying Perez was a bit reckless back then—which, if you think about it, is a sort of backhanded compliment I suppose.

A big win for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who managed to make the most of their strategy passing his teammate for 5th is what was a nice recovery drive. The Australian has only been beaten once on track by his teammate this year.

The other big win is Felipe Mass who secured a podium finish, the first this year, and with it, launched Williams ahead of Ferrari in the Constructor’s Championship. His teammate recovered well from a bad start to finish in 4th.

Another win is for the world feed and their pitlane gantry camera that had terrific shots of the Red Bull cars as they pit.

Fail

Fail

Hamilton, Button and Ricciardo all had issues with their starts and lost valuable places. It was frustrating to see Lewis secure pole only to have his efforts thwarted by software—that sucks! Some part of me loves the technology in F1 but other parts hate to see races ruined by technical software glitches. On the flip side, it did make for good racing while watching their recovery drives.

A big fail for Ferrari who lost Fernando Alonso at turn due to an ERS problem—again, I hate when software ends races—and for a miserable weekend for Kimi Raikkonen who finished 9th. Not the kind of race they wanted for the home grand prix.

After facing a penalty in the Belgian Grand Prix, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen gained yet another penalty for an incident with Valtteri Bottas and to be honest that’s two penalties that I’m not quite convinced were warranted. The stewards have twice penalized Kevin, who is doing a terrific job this year, for racing and that’s a shame.

Marussia’s Max Chilton’s crash qualifies for a fail right? Braking too late in turn 4, hitting the curbs and launching himself into the barrier.

WTH

Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez had an incident where he swerved in front of Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean under braking. He clipped Grosjean’s front wing and it cut Esteban’s tire down in the process. Not the kind of result Sauber need.

NBC Sports has to run commercials in order to pay for the programming. I do understand that. I also know that it is difficult to know when to break for an advert but this weekend they missed nearly all the on-track action with a commercial every time.

They went to commercial break and missed: Chilton’s crash completely and didn’t mention it until half way through the race. Alonso’s retirement at turn 1. Hamilton’s pass for the lead/win of the race. Ricciardo’s passes on Button and then later on Magnussen. Those are the ones I can recall from memory but there were probably more. That was a bad day at the office for the director. He/she missed just about every exciting on-track event of the race.

Lastly, I really do grow tired of the fan jeering at the podium ceremony. Booing Nico is just nonsensical. It is their right to do so but I would suggest that if we’re going to lack any real notion of dignity and respect as a racing audience, then we’ll most likely lose the podium interviews because Formula 1 will probably grow weary of it too. It sheds a poor light on the fans of F1 and a complete lack of decorum and respect.

The podium interviews were meant to bring F1 closer to fans, not give mobocracy a chance to act like goons and cultural malcontents. In this case, F1 tried to do something nice for fans and we’re blowing it by not appreciating it and acting like a bunch of goofballs out there. Color me ancient but I wouldn’t boo Pastor Maldonado because he’s a human and deserves some common decency regardless of what I think of his driving style or performance.

Drivers said…

INFINITI RED BULL RACING

#1 Sebastian Vettel
“I think that was the most we could do today. On the primes we weren’t able to look after the tyres as well as we wanted to. The target is to get back to the front, at the moment the gap is quite big but we will have to work hard to close it again. We have had some difficulties this year, but they can only make us stronger if we learn from them. In terms of strategy we wanted to get the McLarens so we went aggressive with the early stop, but the tyres started going off at the end and all in all that was what we could do today.”

#3 Daniel Ricciardo
“The strategy helped today, it kept the tyres fresh enough to go those extra few laps at the end. I saw the cars in front of me pit and the pace was still good enough, so seeing that we didn’t have great pace when we were out of position then we thought we would try something different and that’s why we went long, which helped towards the end of the race. I was more comfortable with the prime tyre and was able to do some good moves, which kept me smiling. The start wasn’t ideal, it’s one of the longest runs up to Turn One here from the start line and it’s not a place where you want to have a bad one, but I dropped the clutch and didn’t get the traction, so we will have to look at that, but we kept a cool head and picked our way back through the field. I think fifth, even with a good start, was the best we could do.”

MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS

#44 Lewis Hamilton
“Firstly it was amazing to see the straight completely filled with fans from the podium today. You make this race and thank you so much for your support! Big congratulations to the team for our performance this weekend. We said we wanted a one-two and we got it today; this result is important for everyone. It was a difficult race for me though. The launch sequence didn’t engage properly for the formation lap and then again for the start. I tried to pull away as fast as possible, basically I just floored it and hoped for the best! Fortunately I didn’t lose too many places and was able to get past Kevin, then have a good battle with Felipe. When I closed up to Nico, I didn’t want to hold back as the car felt good and I knew from experience that the only chance would be at the start of the stint when the tyres were fresh so I went for it. I’m really pleased with the win, it’s feels like I have some momentum back as we go into the final races.”

#6 Nico Rosberg
“Lewis was quicker this weekend, so he deserved the win. That for sure is very disappointing for me. I had a lock up in Turn One and I decided to go straight to avoid a flat spotted tyre. That cost me the lead. But he was very quick behind me, so I had to push all the time. But I need to see the positive things from today. Second place is still good and I lost only seven points to Lewis, so this could have been much worse. It’s also a great result for the team, the first 1-2 since Austria. So I’m happy for everybody in our team and I have to thank everyone again for this great Silver Arrow. We were the strongest team at this unique circuit. The Tifosi created a great atmosphere for us on the podium; it was all red all the way down the straight. That was great to see. Now I look forward to Singapore, I like the track and I have great memories from last year.”

SCUDERIA FERRARI

#14 Fernando Alonso
“After a long run of trouble-free races, it’s a real shame I had to retire just here in Monza, in front of all our fans. I would have liked to have put on a very different race for them. In the first stint we were competitive, but when you find yourself in a group of cars where everyone is using DRS, overtaking becomes nearly impossible. After the pit stop, I found myself at the back of a train of cars and at that point we changed the strategy, deciding to drop back from the group to conserve the tyres and try and attack at the end of the race. But then came the problem with the ERS system. It’s never nice for the team to have a reliability problem, because the guys work night and day to give us the best car possible. What happened doesn’t change my will to win and in order to try and have that happen soon, we will continue to work as hard as we can, always giving our all.”

#7 Kimi Raikkonen
“We knew this would be a difficult weekend and today in the race, we saw the proof of that. Overall, I was happy with the handling of the car and the balance was good, but we lacked speed down the straight and I didn’t have much grip. As soon as I got close to the cars ahead of me, I lost aerodynamic downforce and the car was sliding all over the place. I think I did the most I could today, even if unfortunately I was unable to get the result I would have wanted for our home race, for the team and all our fans. Now we must think of the upcoming races and continue to work nonstop, because we are coming up to tracks that should better suit the characteristics of our car.”

LOTUS F1 TEAM

#8 Roman Grosjean
“I had a dreadful start and was last by the first corner. I was on the hard tyres for the first stint and this made it difficult to fight back. I’m not sure what happened with Esteban [Gutierrez]. He was overtaking me, but then under braking he moved over on to me. My front wing was where he was trying to be so we touched. Not too much damage for me, but he had a puncture as a result. Certainly, I don’t think the tracks we will visit next will be as challenging for us as this one has been.”

#13 Pastor Maldonado
“I made a good start and a strong first lap which gave me a better position than on the grid as I was able to get past the Saubers. From there I tried to attack the Toro Rosso ahead of me, but their configuration for the straights was too much to overcome. This meant we were running at a consistent pace without any fear from the cars behind, but equally without pace in the right place to attack the cars ahead. It was quite uneventful today but good to get to the finish line.”

McLAREN MERCEDES

#22 Jenson Button
“This wasn’t the result I was after – but the was good fun nonetheless. It’s just a pity that we didn’t quite have the race pace we’d hoped for: when you start fifth and sixth, you’re not just looking for a points finish, you want a bit more than that. If we’d had a clear run, I think we could have done a bit better – but, in the traffic, it was easier for the cars around us to pick us off than it was for us to pick them off. I had an amazing battle with Checo – we took the first Lesmo side by side, which doesn’t happen very often. It’s a pity I couldn’t get past him – I tried so many times – but he was so strong under braking that to match him into the turns I was locking up the fronts and the rears, which left me struggling for position on the exits. But I was really on the limit. It was superb wheel-to-wheel action – I hope it was great entertainment for the spectators and fantastic TV for the fans at home.”

#20 Kevin Magnussen
“I made a great start – I got up to second into the first corner – but I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep that position, and inevitably I fell back. Obviously, it was nice to be up at the front for a while, and disappointing that we couldn’t stay up there, but as I say I knew it wouldn’t last for ever. It’s unfortunate to come away from the weekend having only scored a single point. Okay, we’re not battling for the world championship, but we’re still fighting for crucial positions in the constructors’ championship, and the points we lost today would have been very useful from that point of view. It’s frustrating to get another penalty, of course it is, but we’ll analyse them and see what we can learn. Let’s see if we can do something different next time.”

SAHARA FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM

#27 Nico Hulkenberg
“It wasn’t a very busy race for me. I was racing alone most of the time and just doing my own race: not being towed around or benefiting from DRS made it a bit harder. I had a very good start, especially considering I was on the hard tyre, but I lost contact with the cars ahead of me quite soon because they were on the medium and I didn’t really have the same pace. It was quite difficult to manage the car, especially the rear end: I had some oversteering and it was tricky to drive. I pitted quite early as I wasn’t going anywhere on my hard tyres and we saw a good opportunity to jump people, but we still found it difficult to deal with the balance. We need to look ahead now to Singapore and work to bring more performance to the car. Singapore is a track we all enjoy: everything – the track, the atmosphere, the setup – is special.”

#11 Sergio Perez
“The race was a lot of fun. We were always fighting somebody and always pushing hard. It was great racing and it’s good to score important points for the championship. The most important part of the race was the fight I had with Jenson, which was really nice and reminded me of the old days. I know he is a driver that you can fight really hard and it’s always clean. At the end of the race with Kevin, I knew he had a penalty and there was no need to attack him. It meant I could focus on keeping Jenson behind me, which was not easy.”

SAUBER F1 TEAM

#99 Adrian Sutil
“It was not a spectacular race for me. We were easily able to finish the race with a one stop strategy. Generally we were too slow today, that is why I could not finish better than 15th. The team worked well and we did not make any mistakes. We still have to continue working on the car in order to improve our performance. It was not an easy race, but we finished it without any incidents.”

#21 Esteban Gutierrez
“It was a really tough race. From the beginning on I struggled to get the hard tyres to work. We changed the strategy immediately, and I think that was a good decision. Back on track I was able to overtake a few cars, but that was it. We lost a lot of time with the incident I had towards the end of the race. Now, I need to look forward and concentrate on the next races.”

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

#25 Jean-Eric Vergne
“From the beginning of the weekend our performance was not on the level where we would like to be. Even though we have been working very hard, session after session, to improve the car handling, I have been struggling for the whole race, making it very tough today. We will now have to analyse carefully what went wrong and hopefully we will come back stronger at the next race in Singapore.”

#26 Daniil Kvyat
“I feel disappointed with how my race ended. We had a brake disc failure I think, but I managed to hang on and bring the car home in P11. It’s a shame when you give it your hundred percent and you finish the race outside the points, but I’m very pleased with my race in general. Starting from the
back is never easy, but I managed to overtake a few cars and get close to a points finish. We will now have a look at what exactly happened, before heading to the next race in Singapore.”

WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING

#19 Felipe Massa
“It was a fantastic race for me so I am really happy. I had a good start and passed Magnussen at just the right time. I had to work hard to establish that position, sadly the Mercedes were still a bit quick, so we did the best we could. Monza is a special podium, and to hear the fans sing my name was amazing.”

#77 Valtteri Bottas
“I had a few issues at the start which really effected how my race went. Once the tyres were up to temperature I had a lot of work to do. It was good fun to overtake so many people and we had some good pace as well. As a team we had a really good day and it was good to overtake Ferrari. I’m pleased to see Felipe get his first podium of the season, hopefully we can be up there together
soon.”

MARUSSIA F1 TEAM

#17 Jules Bianchi
“It was a really tough race for us today but I did everything the Team asked of me and nothing more was possible. In the end, we struggled a little with the speed on the straights and we were not able to improve further. Across the whole team we know the areas we need to improve on and everyone is pushing hard to get the most from the package. For now, we just have to put the disappointment this weekend behind us and look ahead to Singapore and a track that is much better suited to our car.”

#4 Max Chilton
“A disappointing premature end to the race for me. Unfortunately it was my mistake; I braked slightly too late and wasn’t able to get round the corner. I hit the sausage kerbs at turn 4, which unexpectedly launched me into the air and I came down hard and ended up in the gravel. It was all the more disappointing as I had just retaken position from Grosjean. We had managed our expectations for this weekend because we knew it would be a challenging track for us and so it has been a frustrating day for us all round. There isn’t much to say beyond putting a difficult race behind us and looking forward to better things in Singapore.”

CATERHAM F1 TEAM

#10 Kamui Kobayashi
“I’m happy with my race. We finished in front of Marussia, which is a good result for us. The new updates that were introduced in Spa are working well and we are definitely improving. Monza is quite a unique track, so let’s see how we get on at other circuits, but I am happy with our result – the team has worked very hard and done a great job, it’s been a very smooth weekend.”

#09 Marcus Ericsson
“Starting from the pit-lane because of yesterday’s penalty wasn’t ideal, but in the end I think it was a decent race. I didn’t do any mistakes and I was very consistent on the lap times. Unfortunately the pace isn’t there to finish higher up, but I feel that I did everything I could today. Now we just need to carry on working as hard as always and prepare for the flyaway races.”

Italian Grand Prix – Race Results

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1:19:10.236 1 25
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 53 +3.1 secs 2 18
3 Felipe Massa Williams 53 +25.0 secs 4 15
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 53 +40.7 secs 3 12
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 53 +50.3 secs 9 10
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 53 +59.9 secs 8 8
7 Sergio Perez Force India 53 +62.5 secs 10 6
8 Jenson Button McLaren 53 +63.0 secs 6 4
9 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 53 +63.5 secs 11 2
10 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 53 +66.1 secs 5 1
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 53 +71.1 secs 21
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 53 +72.6 secs 13
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 53 +73.0 secs 12
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 52 +1 Lap 16
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber 52 +1 Lap 14
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 52 +1 Lap 17
17 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 52 +1 Lap 18
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia 52 +1 Lap 19
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 51 +2 Laps 22
20 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 51 +2 Laps 15
Ret Fernando Alonso Ferrari 28 +25 Laps 7
Ret Max Chilton Marussia 5 Accident 20

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