Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 30° Track 38° Humidity 45% Wind 2.6 m/s
The winds of change howled through the paddock at Monza, screaming for the heads of those in charge. Blash gone. Whiting going. Connect the dots and Bernie winds up in the crosshairs, especially as the Liberty Media deal has suddenly become all but done, which will be confirmed Tuesday when the first money changes hands. Oh, and barring regulatory approval. There’s rather a lot to unpack, but suffice it to say there’s still more than a few hurdles for any buyer with the stomach to have a go, especially with the Bianchi lawsuit in the offing as well as the EC review. Though Bernie threw his friend Sylt under the bus quite firmly when asked on Sky to confirm the sale was happening, saying such things were “good for the press”, while implying firmly that it was all hat and no cattle, to give you all something to Google. Hilariously, the Mercedes both swanned by during the interview, with Lewis giving a wave to Mr E. and Rosberg furiously motioning him out of the way. Make of that what you will.
Button followed on the heels of Massa’s announcement by taking a year off to be a McLaren “Ambassador” while the blindingly quick Stoffel Van Doorne will be warming his seat. Button reserved the possibility to return in 2018, should van Doorne make Alonso’s life as miserable as another GP2 rookie did just a few years ago at Macca.
Ocon’s Manor was still suffering mysterious problems, as he looked to outdo the ever unlucky Quick Nick Heidfeld. Will be a big ask for Force India to keep Williams (or at least Bottas) in the rear view mirror on pace, but the legendary tyre struggles of the team from Grove.
Strategy wise, it’s looked to be 1 versus 2 stop and with Softs on the line and a fresh set of Mediums the strategy for Mercedes would seem to be rather obvious, barring the ever entertaining SC or red flag scenario. 2 stop might wind up being quicker, but irrelevant for the first 2 spots on the grid such is the Death Star’s pace advantage.
Ferrari and the rest had slightly more leeway starting on the SuperSoft to go 2 stop but really the track has mainly exposed the exact power striations of the grid as 2×2 basically defines the teams for the top 10. Wehrlein was on for a point and as they rocked up to the grid Rosberg reported a big hesitation with his practice start. But with Hamilton’s lead down to just 9 points, there is plenty of motivation to get to T1 first from both Mercedes’ men.
Such is racing.
Lights Out!!!! And off they went with a blinding start from Rosberg and he snatches the lead from Lewis into T1, as Hamilton reacted well but his car went nowhere. Lewis dropped like a stone through the order and found himself staring at Ricciardo’s gearbox in P6 as they flashed round.
Into the 2nd chicane on lap 2 Hamilton reclaimed P5 from Ricciardo and lined up Bottas immediately ahead of him. At the back Palmer and Nasr came together, with Nasr being taken out and Palmer suffering extensive damage, including a loss of his Front Wing.
Going into lap 4 Hamilton began to close up on Bottas but the grunt of the Williams kept Valterri ahead. 2 laps later Raikkonen radioed in a big vibration on braking, not what you want at the start of a race like Monza.
Button took a sweet move by Ericsson and Gutierrez, though it was for P17, with Gutierrez sneaking past the Swede to claim P18. Slightly further up Alonso had a dig at Verstappen for P9, but the Honda as yet lacks the firepower to take it right to the Red Bull, as Max confirmed his pass and took the
Lap 9 saw Lewis creep up again and Bottas have a bit of a moment into the first chicane, but Hamilton could still not get close enough.
The battle continued the following lap as Bottas made a serious move to block off Hamilton late on the inside down the start/finish. Despite the entreaties of his engineers to save his tyres, Lewis kept his foot in it and the following lap stuck the knife firmly in, but at the cost of his rears, according to his radio message.
Further back Wehrlein was hanging on to P13 but with Sainz behind him on a message and getting perilously close to DRS as Bottas decided to come in lap 14 to stop the undercut. Alonso and Verstappen were in as well and both out on Softs.
Nasr was dinged for a 10 second penalty for banging into Palmer. Hulkenberg was in lap 14 while up in P6 Perz continued round. Bottas rocked past Sainz and Button in the Curve Grande with his new tyres as Ferrari opted to toss Raikkonen back out on the SuperSofts lap 16. Perez trailed him in and was back out in P11.
Vettel was in the following lap and it was a scruffy stop (front left) for Ferrari and he barely made it out in front of Raikkonen. Ricciardo was in as well for Softs and Alonso suffered the ultimate indignity of his traffic light not turning green when his stop was done. His radio message was full of entertainment as he pulled out of his pitbox.
Lap 20 saw that in addition to the Mercedes only Grosjean, Sainz and Ocon had yet to pit as Lewis worked to get Vettel out of his pit window. Rosberg getting stuck into traffic didn’t help his laptimes as he fell into the 1:28’s nearly a full second slower than Hamilton and brought Vettel back into play for his pit window as well.
Palmer was retired to virtually no fanfare due to his earlier contact. Perez nabbed P7 from Grosjean as their differing strategies collided and it was easy pickings for the Force India driver.
Alonso nailed Sainz for P12 as all those yet to stop began to bleed time to their rivals. Ferrari was eating about 0.5s a lap 23, which went up to 1.5s the following lap as Rosberg got stuck behind Gutierrez. And into the pits he went and right back out on the Mediums, about 5 seconds up on Vettel.
The next lap Hamilton was in and while he was being fitted with a set of Mediums both Ferraris flashed by, with Lewis being told to match their pace until they came back in.
Rosberg banged a fastest lap in the following lap, lap 27 0.5s faster than the Ferraris and that was a bitter pill indeed for Lewis as he would make no progress on his rival with his strategy.
Lap 28 and Wehrlein was urgently told to stop the car and switch off, bringing out the yellows, as shame as he was having a great effort and was well placed for Manor when the end came.
It was all tightening at the top as Ferrari lifted the pace and Rosberg was well into traffic. Grosjean finally came in for his stop and the HAAS driver emerged P14 right behind his teammate. Bottas was in lap 30 for his final stop promoting Massa to P7 and coming out P9 himself, keeping both Force Indias behind.
Lap 32 and Perez closed onto Alonso and down the straight into T1 easily passed the Spaniard. Slightly further up, Bottas took Hulkenberg for P8 as Nico was still awaiting his second stop. Mad activity in the Ferrari pits as Vettel rocked in for a set of Softs lap 34. Hulkenberg was in at the same time as the last turn of the race began to be set.
Raikkonen followed in the next lap and was back out with Softs as well, but Verstappen with a pit stop yet to make, wound up between Vettel and Raikkonen. Ricciardo too was only on his first stop with Vettel 5s astern.
Up at the front it was a straight shot from Hamilton to Rosberg, but with an 11 second gap it was going to take something extraordinary to give Lewis a shot.
Verstappen was in and out behind Perez for P9 while his teammate continued to stay out. Massa didn’t however and was in lap 37 for a set of Supersofts. Kvyat got dinged for speeding in the pits, 5s and it was lap 38 that saw Ricciardo into the pits and out behind Bottas.
To add injury to insult, Kvyat was then retired with unexplained damage and Sky piled on with a rumour that this might be the end for the Russian.
To give the chatterati something to say Button finally came in, after his 2nd stint was extended to take advantage of his rivals being lapped to get them out of his pit window. Hulkenberg running P10 was given permission to push to the end and Ricciardo too promised some fun running the Supers behind Bottas on the Softs.
Lewis locked up and ran through the second chicane and that was the end of his effort, with the gap running back out to 12 seconds with 10 laps to go. Verstappen got a warning to not explore the track’s edge on the main strait due to marbles and Raikkonen banged in a fast lap.
Sainz knocked off a nice overtake of Ericsson for P15. Ricciardo closed up to within 2 seconds as Button had a go at Alonso and rocked by into T1 for P12. But it was not done and dusted as Alonso kept his nose right on Button’s gearbox.
Lap 47 saw Danny Ric into the DRS of Bottas into Parabolica, but even with DRS it looked not to be done as they approached the first chicane. At least until Ricciardo chucked it up the inside at the last minute, braking phenomenally late and generally surprising the hell out of Bottas as the Red Bull exited the chicane ahead of him.
Verstappen extended Red Bull’s late passing strategy by nailing Perez for P7, leaving just Button with the possibility to overtake Grosjean in the waning laps of the race.
Lap 51 saw Alonso in for new tyres as a fast lap battle looked like it might be brewing between the former teammates. The rest of the field continued to mark time, awaiting the checquers or an unexpected mistake from their rivals.
Last lap and Button was all over Grosjean. Alonso rocked a 1:25.340 to grab fastest lap in the meantime, small victory for Macca. Into the Parabolica and BOOM! Rosberg flashed across the line and Button proved unable to get round the tight defense of the Frenchman. No points for HAAS though as another frustrating P11 was the best they could do on the day, Gutierrez having lost out into the first chicane, shuffled back to P20. Not a good thing for Esteban as HAAS evaluate their options for next year.
A serene win for Rosberg, who has now closed the championship race to just 2 points, a stellar and clean drive from beginning to end. P2 for Hamilton, whose race went sideways in the first 2 seconds, after which he had no chance at all to overhaul his teammate. Mercedes continue to look dodgy off the start, and despite Lewis blaming himself for the poor get away, Toto Wolff said they would be having a look at it.
Ferrari got back on terms with Red Bull claiming 3rd and 4th, with the Universe back to normal and Vettel ahead of Raikkonen, but it might’ve been different had Kimi had a proper go at Vettel when Seb had his poor stop. With Marchionne in attendance, however, perhaps discretion was the better part of valor as they fulfilled precisely his expections for the team.
Bottas did well to split the Red Bull’s with Ricciardo’s pass for P5 the move of the day. With Massa splitting Force India further down the field it was an important result for Williams who will certainly struggle at some of the upcoming circuits.
Verstappen had a very uneventful race despite his big words, but at the end of the day if next season’s regs have their intended effect of dragging Mercedes back to the rest of the field we will be in for some stellar racing indeed.
Things hotting up in the WDC with Force India kicked back down to 5th by the merest of margins (3 points), Williams’ second seat up for grabs and plenty going on to keep everyone busy till the next race!!
Thanks, as always, for stopping by.
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