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.
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.
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.
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
|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|
|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|
|–||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||23||Clutch|
|–||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||0||Collision|