F1 @ Monza: Italian Grand Prix Review
The chequered flag on Sunday marked the end of the European races for this Formula One season and they have been absolutely fantastic! The Italian Grand Prix had some similarities with Spa last weekend; a dominant McLaren, lots of overtaking and world champions forced to retire through no fault of their own. The driver may have been different but the car was the same, McLaren led from the front once again and were perhaps even more dominant in that a one-two finish was likely had Jenson not had a fuel problem. Lewis was able to put all the extra media coverage (following his antics last weekend and an article by Eddie Jordan) to the back of his mind and just produce on the track. He qualified in pole position, led into the first corner and led the entire race bar a few laps when he pit stopped and Perez took the lead. Lewis quickly passed Perez after that and led all the way to his third win of the season.
Sergio Perez had an astonishing race and finished second; with a long first stint on the hard tyres he was able to end the race on the quicker medium tyres and easily overtake the Ferrari’s of Massa and Alonso who were struggling a little bit on tyre wear. Perez was also catching Hamilton quickly (around a second a lap) but this was mainly due to Lewis cruising to victory and not wanting to push his car after Button retired earlier. Had there been more laps left in the race, I am confident that Lewis could have switched back on at any point to prevent himself being caught. After the race Peter Sauber claimed that Perez was in the fastest car this weekend, I’m not sure how he came to this conclusion, he didn’t win or post the fastest lap of the race, and Perez himself said they didn’t have raw 1 lap speed. Kobayashi started ninth in the other Sauber and finished ninth using the same tyre strategy as the front runners so it would seem more strategy than car which made Perez quick in the latter stages. Even so, starting twelfth and finishing second must be commended and will have teams expecting an open driver slot next season on alert including Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso produced once again in front of hordes of fans, starting tenth after a roll bar problem in Q3 he was able to get his customary good start and push himself up to fifth place within a few laps. The Ferrari really does seem special off the start this season with Alonso not having lost a place and Massa jumping Jenson Button this time out. After a very close call between Vettel and Alonso in the pit stops where they travelled side by side on the way out, Vettel remained in front even though the Ferrari was certainly quicker on the harder tyres. After several close attempts to pass Vettel, we saw an almost mirror image of last year with Vettel pushing Alonso off the track in Curva Grande and although Alonso did well to hold it together he didn’t complete the pass. Alonso was quickly on the radio to say that Vettel was not driving fairly and deserved a penalty. Shortly afterwards Alonso finally made the pass stick and Vettel was also then given a drive through penalty for that earlier incident. I think the penalty was fair as Vettel didn’t leave enough room for Alonso to stay on track with any part of the car, and also didn’t move over when he realised that Alonso was off the track. It was a tight call and I’m sure the fact a Ferrari had been pushed off the track in Italy might have added extra weight when deciding on a penalty… The off road action from Alonso actually caused a broken rear damper, hole in the floor and missing diffuser part for the Spaniard, yet he disguised those beautifully during remaining laps of the race with no-one picking up on it until later. The next man up ahead was the Ferrari teammate Massa and it was only a matter of time before Alonso was allowed to pass, coupled with Button’s retirement this gifted Alonso second place until Perez was able to overtake. Despite one of the main title rivals winning and Alonso finishing third he was still able to extend his championship lead and with Vettel retiring later, with the second alternator fail of weekend. It made the result even sweeter for the Spainard. The retirement of Button from second also effectively cut down the chasing pack by another driver. Only Hamilton and Raikkonen scored points and with Raikkonen finishing behind Alonso only Hamilton made up ground.
With Hamilton winning two of of the last three races, and Button the other, the momentum is very much with McLaren and they are finally making use of having the fastest car.
Here are the results from the Italian Grand Prix:
- 1st Lewis Hamilton
- 2nd Sergio Perez
- 3rd Fernando Alonso
- 4th Felipe Massa
- 5th Kimi Raikkonen
- Fastest lap Nico Rosberg
I am fairly happy with my predictions once again, picking three of the top five with one correct position. Picking the winner makes it slightly better and without Button’s retirement my McLaren one two prediction would have been spot on! Again the two drivers I had down wrong were retirements and not something you can really predict.
Another fantastic race and yet more evidence that Lewis Hamilton is at the right team if he wants to win races and championships. A special moment winning the Italian Grand Prix for the first time was marred by the Ferrari fans in the crowd who actually booed when Lewis was receiving his trophy. I am not sure why Ferrari / Alonso fans have this attitude towards Hamilton because the two drivers now have the upmost respect for each other. Even if there was a problem, booing someone that has fairly won a race that day really isn’t acceptable and is very petty. The same sort of thing happened when the Spanish crowd in Valencia cheered wildly when Lewis was taken out by Maldonado. Lewis said afterwards that he doesn’t really care and is just happy he won and I’m sure the best way to quieten those fans will be to carry on and knock Alonso off the top of the championship. There was also another hint or two that Lewis may be staying with McLaren as he was disappointed not to get the one two finish and said there is always next year.
A final little word on Red Bull, The Italian Grand Prix was the first race since 2008 where Red Bull did not take home any points. Vettel retired with his recurring alternator problem and Webber decided to retire after spinning and badly flat spotting his tyres. This is a worrying time for Red Bull as they don’t have the dominant car of the last few seasons, Webber is generally fighting for the lower points finishes and Vettel seems susceptible to mistakes when put under pressure. There is no doubt that if Vettel has a quick package he can generate a good lead very quickly and he is accomplished at overtaking in a quick car. But it seems he is more of a front runner, and isn’t as calm under pressure like Alonso, who can assess the situation and make decisions with a clear head. An example of this was when Perez was chasing down Alonso, he knew that Perez was a lot quicker than him and also that he was not a championship threat. He could have tried to make his car as wide as possible and held him up for a few laps but that could have meant Perez taking them both off the track or taking too much out of his tyres that finishing the race became difficult. On the other hand, Vettel when under pressure from Alonso pushed him off the track and received a penalty when Alonso would have soon overtaken him anyway. Instead he should have played fair, stayed close to Alonso once he had passed and waited to see how tyre degradation played out near the end of the race. Had Alonso not recovered, you can be sure that if pushing him off the track resulted in retirement, the penalty would have been much harsher than a drive through. McLaren are now only twenty-nine points behind Red Bull in the constructor’s championship, and it won’t be long before they catch up…
The next race is Singapore 21st-23rd September which should be amazing, the fact it’s a night race on a street circuit just adds to the excitement. The Sky Sports trailer for it after the race Sunday was outstanding and I already can’t wait! I’ll put up a preview and predictions during the race week!