Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Hot humid air prevailed at the start of the Italian GP as drama of the mechanical kind featured as the clock ticked down to the formation lap. Hamilton’s last minute wing change was the least of his worries as the software gremlins continued at his start. Fine racing through the middle of the pack electrified a race that was decided as much by mistakes at the front as it was fine driving. Total Tragedy for the tifosi as Alonso’s Ferrari failed was tempered by the fact that Raikkonen barely managed to eke into the points and maintain their scoring record. Williams recorded a fantastic 3-4 result despite Bottas’ adventure in backwards driving at the start. Thankfully enough for the fans as Maximum Attack was a one man highlight reel throughout most of the race, ably assisted by Ricciardo near the end shredding his teammate as well as much of the rest of the field with much younger tyres. Force India, too, had a resurgence with Perez fully ensconced in the points battle after a few hard races, whilst Hulkenberg continued to struggle, once again finishing out of the points. McLaren continued to disappoint as they managed to turn a P5-6 start into an eighth and tenth finish thanks to the magic of a dubious 5 second penalty for Magnussen given for getting too entertaining with his defending for a second straight race. Post-race saw Jenson auditioning for Davidson’s job at Sky and clearly hedging his 2015 bets as it was the kind of race that will not improve his standing with Big Ron. Once again Mercedes finished with a 1-2, but it was an odd duck indeed as Lewis suffered a failure with his RS modes at the start and had to make up several positions to catch Nico, who in a reversal from practice, not once but twice missed his braking into turn 1. The second one stung most as it allowed Lewis back into the lead where Mercedes eventually hobbled both drivers claiming to be managing braking issues on both cars. And for those desperate to know the outcome of the verdict of the Grosjean-Gutierrez incident the official steward’s verdict is: Embarrassing. Kudo’s to Lotus for finishing the race with both cars for a change.
25◦C and it’s not the heat but the humidity. AS the Sky boys have a huge Williams feature it’s the clutch temperature that had Smedley most nervous at the start. Over at Mercedes no doubt it was turn 1 that was the focus of Toto and Paddy, at least until an errant piece of equipment derailed Lewis’ front wing requiring a last minute change with time ticking down to the formation lap. Williams looked to be in good shape and as they rolled back to the grid for the start all eyes were looking for the action into the first chicane as the effect of two weeks’ worth of verbal discipline at Mercedes were about to be made manifest. Hulkenberg, Sutil, Guterriez, Grosjean and Kvyat all elected to start on Hards with Kvyat and Hulkenberg being the two with the biggest shot at creating havoc.
Lights out and it was immediate problems for Hamilton as he suffered a failure of his RS mode. As he slid backward to fourth into the first chicane Rosberg wasted no time seizing the lead with Magnussen having the best start at the front slotting into second. Massa took third and Bottas had a start so bad that Williams’ telemetry didn’t actually record it as a start. This caused him to drop out of the top 10 and set the stage for an epic comeback drive that would keep the race entertaining throughout. AS the field rolled into the second lap Hamilton struggled to get on top of the car with his radio announcing everything was “in a muddle” as he continued to cycle the electronics and change his settings.
Up ahead, Massa was already having looks around Magnussen. Alonso was into 7th and at the back Kvyat was already up into 17th. Rosberg was already up the road and out of DRS as it was enabled for the first time. Massa was first to make use of it at the sharp end, passing Magnussen into the first chicane and Hamilton, looking to have sorted his car, surprising Kevin on exit and keeping his car on Massa’s heels. Raikkonen began his push sneaking past Hulkenberg as Bottas continued his recovery having worked his way back to 10th. Hamilton was now running at the same pace as Rosberg as Chilton, overexcited at finding himself ahead of a car that wasn’t a Caterham, missed his braking point and promptly drove straight off the track at Roggia and broke his car.
The jousting continued in the midfield, with Hulkenberg moving past Ricciardo as Hamilton began to line up Massa. He was interrupted by Rosberg, 4 seconds up the road, unexpectedly having an off at the first chicane and giving up 1.2 seconds of his lead. He did it properly, though, cutting round the barriers rather than taking to the grass and continued on. Bottas moved on to P9 keeping the action hot.
Lap 10 saw Lewis make a sweeet pass on Massa into Rettifilo. Those with PTSD from 2011 can be assured that all vestiges have passed as both drivers danced beautifully through the chicane giving each full respect as Hamilton rocketed off in search of Nico’s gearbox. Vettel, Button, Alonso, Perez, Bottas, Raikkonen and Ricciardo were P5-11 and Button, Vettel and Magnussen were all lingering in DRS range of each other. Rosberg turned it up to try and keep Lewis on the outs as Bianchi and Grosjean shared a kiss in Rettifilo, with the Marussia man doing his best to keep RoGro on the defensive. Bottas hit 360 and topped the speed traps as Rosberg and Hamilton continued to trade fast lap back and forth with the pit window fast approaching. Rosberg continued to be heavier on fuel use as Vettel appeared to have the better of his young teammate, with Ricciardo lingering near the back of the midfield while Vettel hung firmly in fifth. AS Lewis closed in, Rosberg requested that gaps no longer be given over radio, presumably because it was doing nothing positive for his concentration.
Lap 18 saw Bottas getting to the meat of it as he hung it out round Button to take his position. Further ahead, Lewis was warned he was hitting Rosberg’s tow, giving him additional speed on the straights but limiting him in the corners. A beautiful shot of the damage caused to Grosjean’s Lotus graced the screen as Lewis edged ever closer to DRS.
Vettel boxed at the very opening of the pit window as Raikkonen pushed past Ricciardo for 8th. Hulkenberg came in, surprisingly as he was on the hard tyre, as Vettel exited and established the pit delta at roughly 25 seconds. Bottas closed up to DRS on Kmag lap 20 as Kimi lined up for his pit stop at the end of the lap, one more than Perez in the Force India. Bottas completed the move on Magnussen as Raikkonen cleared the pits and Alonso moved up to take his turn at piercing the shield of the defensive driving Dane. Both drivers pitted on the subsequent lap and emerged just as Vettel flashed past, trailed by Perez who settled himself between the pair as they worked to get their tyres up to temperature. Rosberg got the call for 2 more laps before his in and Jenson found himself sandwiched between Alonso behind and Perez ahead.
The familiar call of Hammer Time greeted Lewis as Nico took on new tyres but it was only to be for a lap as he came in next time round. Conspiracy fans will be disappointed at the fact Lewis won the pit stop race by a tenth over Rosberg, but it seemed not to matter as Bottas, having emerged from his stop behind Perez, immediately got back to work retaking the spot into the first chicane. Rosberg’s engineer gave him the go slow command to conserve fuel as he had 2.7 seconds on Hamilton. It was a clear Mercedes plan to save the battle for the end as the next lap saw the command echoed by Bonnington as he suggested that Hamilton hang back and save tyres. Lewis, apparently suffering yet another radio failure, continued to close in on Nico, the lure of fresh tyres and a well-balanced car being too much for him to resist.
IT turned out to be a good choice as less than one lap later he was inside Nico’s DRS and going into the Rettifilo on lap 29 Rosberg again missed his braking and this time there was to be no grace as Lewis powered past him as he maneuvered round the barriers. Keeping his foot planted, Hamilton extended his newly found lead as Rosberg rapidly fell 2 seconds adrift of Hamilton. During all the excitement, Ricciardo took a very late pit stop and astute observers would have noted that he was in almost 8 laps later than Vettel and would have the freshest tyres at the end of the race. Most would not have had that thought as on Lap 29 Alonso’s car decided to stop running coming down the start/finish and he parked it on the grass of turn 1, climbing out to buckets of applause from the tifosi. It was his first retirement for a mechanical in 86 races and it crushed his points scoring streak this year, leaving it to Kimi to salvage what he could.
The race continued apace and it was Bottas again motivating the action as he attempted to replicate his earlier pass on Kevin, but it was Magnussen on the defensive forcing Bottas wide in turn 1 as Valtteri couldn’t quite outbrake him. This time, though, the defensive Dane would go under the steward’s microscope and collect a 5 second stop and go which would ultimately be added to his race time as the only pit stop was done, despite being alongside Bottas into the turn and not substantially changing his line. AS the investigation progressed, Button lined up Perez into the corner formerly known as Parabolica, this particular paradise having been paved over and the FIA having put up a parking lot, but was unable to keep up with the Force India and had only closed up onto the Force India gearbox at the end of the straight.
Jenson wasn’t done though and as they flew through the Curve Grande he pulled alongside. In and out of the second chicane both drivers left the track and finally Perez established the advantage into Lesmos after some highly entertaining driving. Hamilton’s 4 second advantage to Rosberg began to dwindle ever so slightly and it was Ricciardo who began to draw attention as he caught up and dispatched Button with alarming ease. Perez got onto the blower to complain about his tete a tete with Button whilst he should have been paying attention to the approaching Ricciardo Express in his mirror. Ricciardo was past him before he even realized what had happened so great was his advantage and that sound you heard was the bell tolling for Jenson’s career as the Colgate kid made it look easy as Button still struggled to reel in the Force India.
Button and Perez again danced into the first chicane and again it was Perez pressing his case on exit and emerging with the advantage as Ricciardo topped the traps at 262 km/h. At some point in the excitement Bottas slipped by Vettel but the real story was about to be Ricciardo as he deftly wove past Magnussen and looked ahead to Vettel only 3 seconds up the road and running tyres that were 8 laps older.
With 7 laps to go it was status quo at the front with Mercedes announcing both cars were managing “issues” but behind them it was anything but as Ricciardo was now lapping 0.8 seconds faster than Vettel and being told over the radio “let’s get him”. Kvyat was giving it everything he had to catch up Hulkenberg for P11. Kimi was already getting the call he was likely to get caught with 2 to go by the flying Russian, but Hulkenberg had no intention of yielding his place easily. Lap 47 saw Danii close the deal however as Nico’s dead tyres simply weren’t up to the task, his early pit stop having shattered the German’s strategy. Further ahead, Riccardo’s plan was bearing the sweetest fruit as he swept easily past Vettel into the 2nd chicane, a last minute lunge and lockup being the only thing that kept it from happening into turn 1.
Lap 48 saw KMag pushing hard to minimize the damage from his penalty, trailed by Perez and Button both of whom were hanging on and trying to keep him from putting any distance on them Kvyat continued to chase down Kimi. As they came round for the following lap Vettel, Magnussen, Perez and Button were all DRS range of each other. Ricciardo was told that Bottas was “pretty fast” translated it meant that the asthmatic leaf blower in the back of his car wasn’t up to the task and he should enjoy the rest of the show. ERS failure was announced as the cause of Alonso’s demise and it was a sad end indeed. Hamilton locked it up big time but seemed not to lose very much to Rosberg whose earlier forward progress had dwindled.
Grosjean and Gutierrez provided the lowlight in an incident that ultimately saw Gutierrez penalized and put to the back post-race and alarming amounts of brake dust were pouring out of Perez’ Force India.
Lap 51 saw Massa in a race of his own, trundling happily along as Vettel, Magnussen, Perez and Button continued to squabble over sixth through ninth with Kvyat closing in on Raikkonen for last lap close action. Coming into the penultimate lap it was Perez having a serious go at Magnussen but Kvyat stealing all the attention as he went flying straight off past Kimi into Rettifilo, onto the grass and barely keeping it out of the Armco, having again suffered a brake failure. His amazing save allowed him to delicately finish the race, but sadly after such a great recovery out of the points.
The final lap was utterly free of drama as Hamilton reclaimed some lost points and a lot of glory followed by Rosberg and Massa to round out the podium, a happy and rare event for the Brazilian. His teammate followed him home for fourth with Ricciardo fifth and clearly in a class by himself with a mature, strategic drive in an underperforming car. Vettel, Perez, Magnussen, Button and Raikkonen finished out the top 10 across the line, a great result for Sergio who needed it and a poor one for Button, who is looking more and more don as the season progresses. The penalty for Magnussen relegated him to tenth and moved the others up, but this is the second straight race in which he has extracted more than his teammate from the car and his willingness to mix it up with the big boys will certainly gain him the advantage within the team.
Once again lots of spectacular racing though the drama at the front was over far too soon, with Ricciardo confirming his status as an elite driver and looking very possible at a spoiler role for this year should the might of Mercedes continue to encounter reliability issues which seem to be intensifying the further we get from the Brawn era. There will be much speculation about the true nature of Mercedes orders and plans, but at the end of the day it was Rosberg under pressure who gave it away to Lewis, though there seemed to be much managing burbling about beneath the surface. Further grist for the mill is the increased importance of FP3 as Lewis missed most of FP2 and Nico all of FP3 and it was Nico who seemed to get the worst of it. The championship battle rolls on thankfully enough and with any luck we’ll finally get a proper battle for first and second again before the season ends.
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:28.588||50.0||1|
|6||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:30.463||59.6||1|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:30.735||62.1||1|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:31.161||70.6||1|
|12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:31.246||72.0||1|
|13||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:31.382||72.4||1|
|14||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||1:30.061||1 lap||1|
|15||Adrian Sutil||Sauber||1:30.253||1 lap||1|
|16||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||1:30.628||1 lap||1|
|17||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||1:31.376||1 lap||1|
|18||Jules Bianchi||Marussia||1:31.904||1 lap||1|
|19||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||1:32.326||2 laps||1|
|20||Esteban Gutierrez*||Sauber||1:29.812||2 laps||2|
*Penalty for causing a collision
World Drivers Championship
World Constructors Championship