Hamilton snatches victory at Monza
WHAT a difference a day can make. On Saturday the Tifosi were in raptures as Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid with Kimi Raikkonen setting the fastest lap, in terms of average speed, in Formula 1 history.
While it was a relatively clean start for polesitter Kimi Raikkonen, the other Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel got caught up with Lewis Hamilton into the second chicane. Vettel and Hamilton came together with the Ferrari driver coming off worse for wear and with a broken front wing which dropped him to plumb last.
The move by Hamilton was deemed a racing incident and rightly so. Though Vettel may want to believe that the Merc driver didn’t leave him enough space, it simply isn’t the case.
Instead Vettel could benefit from some serious self-reflection. The old adage goes that you cannot win a race in the first corner but you can certainly lose it. Vettel should have kept calm and bided his time.
But in the moment, as has happened before, he failed to see the bigger picture. This result could have serious ramifications for Vettel and his bid for a fifth driver’s title.
Hamilton had briefly taken the lead but Raikkonen brilliantly regained it with a move around the outside of the Mercedes driver into the Della Roggia chicane.
The safety car was deployed to recover the stricken Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley, but Raikkonen handled the restart easily and maintained the lead of the race. From there Raikkonen kept his Ferrari ahead albeit by a scant second.
The speed of racing around Monza meant the pit stop phase was upon the drivers quickly.
Mercedes sent out a pit crew into the pitlane suggesting that they would call in Hamilton.
However, no pit stop eventuated and the mechanics trundled back into the garage.
Subsequently, the FIA has clarified that mock pit stops are illegal and will be policed more strictly going forward.
Raikkonen set a blistering pace immediately after his pit stop that left him with a six second gap over Hamilton. But Mercedes played the perfect strategic hand by using Valtteri Bottas to back Raikkonen into Hamilton.
Though the Ferrari driver was able to hold off Hamilton for quite some time with a handful of laps to go, it was clear that his rear tyres were in a critical state. Hamilton, on slightly fresher tyres, was able to take the lead of the race and ultimately the victory.
In fact, Raikkonen’s rear tyres were in such a critical state it’s a bit of a surprise that he managed to get to the chequered flag. This too could be viewed as a strategic error by Ferrari but one committed long before they even got to the Italian GP.
Ferrari paid the soft tyre next to no mind when it came time to select the compounds for the race. It eventually meant that the team, and Raikkonen, had little to no data and understanding as to how the compound would react and wear in long runs. Hence, they were unable to predict tyre life and likely made their pit stop too early.
Much further adrift, Max Verstappen finished third on the road for Red Bull but had five seconds added to his race time for banging wheels with Bottas going into turn one.
This promoted Bottas to third while Vettel was ultimately able to recover to fourth. It left Verstappen in fifth while his Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, failed to reach the chequered flag with a clutch failure.
Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean finished sixth on the road but his car was subsequently disqualified as the FIA deemed the leading edge of the floor to be illegal. The American team has since lodged an appeal. Grosjean’s disqualification promoted Esteban Ocon to sixth with his Force India teammate Sergio Perez in seventh. Carlos Sainz was eighth for Renault, the team that lodged the complaint against Haas, while Williams’ Lance Stroll was ninth and Sergey Sirotkin scored the first point of his F1 career in tenth.
Hamilton’s win gives him a 30 point lead over Vettel heading to Singapore in two weeks’ time.