Race Report: Hamilton’s win deflates Ferrari’s hopes at Italian GP

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After a win in Belgium, the Spec 3 engine of Ferrari seemed to have the measure of Mercedes and their Spec 3 and on a power circuit no less. That’s why most fans believed that the Italian Grand Prix, another power circuit, would favor Ferrari and in many ways it did. Pole position, fast times all weekend long meant Mercedes would have to dig deep to claw out a win and most believed it would be a case of damage limitation at best.

As it turns out, Ferrari made a decision several weeks ago that may have put a nail in the coffin of an Italian Grand Prix win with regards to tire allocation. Ferrari did have the pace, did have the power advantage but what it didn’t have was in-depth understanding of how their red cars would fare on the yellow soft tires.

Lewis Hamilton entered the weekend on the back foot and yet he stepped back, worked with the Mercedes strategists (who a few weeks ago fans were calling for their heads) and deployed patience and aggression in equal measure to completely deflate Ferrari’s grand weekend at home.

Win

A huge win for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes by beating Ferrari on a power circuit, neutering the Scuderia’s power advantage and doing in front of throngs of Tifosi. Lewis had the points lead in the championship and perhaps that afforded him some aggression at the chicane where he forced an error from Sebastian Vettel. This neutralized the championship challenge and allowed Lewis to then hunt his prey in the form of Kimi Raikkonen.

A win for Valtteri Bottas to finish third despite being used as a tail gunner for Lewis Hamilton and having been punted off track by Max Verstappen. It’s not always fun being used as a road block but Valtteri also found patience to remain calm and finish on the podium.

A big win for Mercedes who admit they may be down on power but if they can beat Ferrari on their home, power-hungry circuit, then they can face Singapore, Sochi and Japan with positivity and confidence.

Another win for Force India who are saddled with the stark reality of having no points mid-season and desperate to claw back what they lost through the administration process. A seventh and eighth place finishes was a terrific result even if Sergio Perez had a bit of a dodgy race.

A win for Haas F1 and Romain Grosjean who finished 6th and in doing so, moved the team ahead of Renault in the constructor’s championship. The Haas F1 team have quietly taken the fight for 4th in the championship and stepped into that place this weekend on the back of two good races back to back.

A win for Williams F1 who managed to score points and finish 10th and 11th on a power circuit that allowed them to take advantage of their Mercedes shove. Stroll in 10th had a good qualifying session and converted that into a good run on Sunday for a point giving the team five points in the championship.

Fail

A fail for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel who managed to lose their home grand prix and convert their power advantage into a bumbling mess on the first lap which was then compounded by a lack of soft tires which, as it turned out, didn’t like their chassis at all. Ferrari dropped the ball by not getting Seb out in front of Kim in qualifying and putting him in the clutches if his rival. Kimi needed to be the tail gunner just as Bottas was but Ferrari made the mistake and with the championship on the line, you can’t make these errors.

For Sebastian, he had some room into the chicane but unlike Kimi, he didn’t find the patience to let Lewis’s move unfold and then re-take him on the following straight or fight him later in the race. That’s easier said than done when you are in the seat and driving for a title but in the end, the spin—whether a racing incident, Vettel’s fault or Lewis’s fault—meant that he has lost more points and as we’ve been saying this year, the title may come down to simple mistakes such is the competitiveness of Ferrari and Mercedes. Right now, Lewis and Mercedes aren’t making them but Ferrari and Seb are.

A fail for Kimi who had pole but couldn’t find the win due to a lack of soft tire running and blisters on his tires. As Sky Sports F1 pointed out, he had conserved his tires earlier this season and made hay with that strategy but when you’re leading a race and going for the win, conserving tires against a strong Mercedes isn’t as easy as it sounds. Kimi ceded the position fairly, as is his nature, but in the end, Mercedes just played the waiting game and then pounced on fresher tires.

A fail for Red Bull who suffered another DNF with Daniel Ricciardo and then got to see a 5s penalty for Max Verstappen moving him off the podium. Max says he left enough room but the stewards felt Max caused an incident and this led to Christian Horner suggesting the incident was no different than Hamilton and Vettel and that had no penalty associate with it.

A fail for Renault who had Nico Hulkenberg starting at the back and Carlos Sainz reaching no better than 9th and in doing so, they lost the 4th place in the constructor’s championship.

WTH

I’m not sure how Toro Rosso lost so much pace given the Honda’s performance in Belgium. Brendon Hartley was pincered at the start and his race was ruined by Vandoorne and Ericsson so it wasn’t his fault but Pierre Gasly couldn’t manage better than 15th and I’ll have to check the team’s notes on why that was.

I am not sure what is happening at McLaren but they are now being soundly beaten by everyone including Williams and Alonso’s DNF coupled with Vandoorne’s 13th means this team has to hope for better day in Singapore. If I were a betting man, I would suggest they’ve already given up on this year’s car and are focusing their resources on next year.

I am not sure why Ferrari sent Vettel out ahead of Raikkonen in qualifying knowing what is at stake. I am also not sure why they didn’t allow Seb to pass Kimi at the start. If Paul di Resta is right and Ferrari are replacing Kimi next year with Charles Leclerc, the telling Kimi to move over shouldn’t be a big ask. The title is on the line here and Seb winning at home with Kimi as a tail gunner and possibly keeping Hamilton in third would have been huge but they lost it with no Yellow soft tires running, qualifying track position and the second chicane.

At the time of this writing, Renault have lodged a complaint about the legality of the Haas F1 car of Romain Grosjean so that could get interesting.

Italian GP results

POS DRIVER CAR LAPS GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1h16m54.484s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 53 8.705s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 14.066s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 16.151s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 53 18.208s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 53 57.761s
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 53 58.678s
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 53 1m18.140s
9 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 52 1 Lap
10 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 52 1 Lap
11 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 52 1 Lap
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 52 1 Lap
14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 52 1 Lap
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 53 Disqualified
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 23 Clutch
Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 9 Electrical
Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 0 Collision

Driver’s Championship

Pos Driver Points
1 Lewis Hamilton 256
2 Sebastian Vettel 226
3 Kimi Raikkonen 164
4 Valtteri Bottas 159
5 Max Verstappen 130
6 Daniel Ricciardo 118
7 Nico Hulkenberg 52
8 Kevin Magnussen 49
9 Sergio Perez 44
10 Fernando Alonso 44
11 Esteban Ocon 43
12 Romain Grosjean 35
13 Carlos Sainz 32
14 Pierre Gasly 28
15 Charles Leclerc 13
16 Stoffel Vandoorne 8
17 Marcus Ericsson 6
18 Lance Stroll 5
19 Brendon Hartley 2
20 Sergey Sirotkin 0

Constructor’s Championship

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 415
2 Ferrari 390
3 Red Bull/Renault 248
4 Haas/Ferrari 84
5 Renault 84
6 McLaren/Renault 52
7 Toro Rosso/Honda 30
8 Force India/Mercedes 28
9 Sauber/Ferrari 19
10 Williams/Mercedes 5

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Andrew M Pappas
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Andrew M Pappas

I prefer racing hard. Vettel didn’t give room and he paid the price. I’d rather last an incident like max squeezing Bottas go by, but the taking the shorter line over some bumps giving an obvious advantage is something that shouldn’t be allowed. I wonder if the combination of a lack of discipline on Max’s part led to the penalty. As far as Ferrari planning, the big mistake was pulling Kimi in as early as they did. For Lewis to put in multiple max laps on the end of his first tires forcing Kimi to put unnecessary wear early on… Read more »

jtr
Member
jtr

I was surprised Ferrari never considered getting on the medium tire for either driver. With Seb forced to pit after the first lap to fix his wing damage, it seemed like a no brainer to put him on the mediums and see if he could finish the race on them, like Ricciardo was going to attempt after his repairs at Spa last week. And Kimi went in relatively early for his first stop, he may have gotten to the end with some pace left. He would have conceded some pace in the middle of the race, but may have had… Read more »

MIE
Editor

Haas have been excluded, see FIA report:

https://www.fia.com/file/72438/download?token=tISsFCi-

There are disadvantages to the Haas approach of being a ‘constructor’ when deadlines have to be met.

Peter Riva
Member
Peter Riva

An open letter to Mercedes: You are in the business of selling cars and trucks. Your F1 Team seems only to be in the business of winning at any cost, including aggressive quasi-dangerous driving and team “strategy” which cannot be seen as honorable. Why would anyone buy a car from a company that cheats or is dishonorable? Loading your mechanics for a fake pit stop into pit lane to “cost Kimi 1 to 1.2 seconds entering the box” (DiResta & Brundle commentary) is strategy and planned cheating. Having a driver like Hamilton who’s ego must win at any cost, including… Read more »

Nige
Guest

I hope this is satire because everything written here is hysterical!!!

Fabio
Member
Fabio

Talk about being humiliated. I don’t know who was worse.
The Ferrari stratagist, Seb for a stupid and clumsy block or Kimi for just being to God damn slow.
What a waste of a race for Ferrari.

Peter Riva
Member
Peter Riva

From my son… 3000 miles away…
“And Bot for Mercedes’s is an asshole for taking Kimi’s race win away. Great job “blocking” wow that’s what racing is then glad I’m not part of it.”
Fans are disgusted.

MIE
Editor

It is a team sport. If they had wanted to maximize the points difference Mercedes could have asked Bottas to slow down in front of Vettel, so that he finished more than five seconds behind Verstappen. I am not a fan of team orders that require one driver to pull over to let his team-mate pass, but I understand why they are used, particularly in the later stages of the season. This however didn’t actually penalise Bottas’ finishing position (he wasn’t going to get ahead of Raikkonen at that stage), so I see nothing wrong with it. For balance, I… Read more »