It was job done for Lewis Hamilton in Spa as he resisted late pressure from Sebastian Vettel to secure the win that puts him within striking range at the top of the championship, but Ferrari will take heart from taking a close second place on a track which on paper looked like their worst track of the second half of the season.
Vettel may have been Ferrari powered for his first Grand Prix victory here in 2008, but is still awaiting his first Monza victory driving for Ferrari – a win this weekend would certainly give hope that Sebastian can end Ferrari’s long wait for a World Driver’s Championship – but while Vettel has always gone well at Monza, it has been a Mercedes playground in the PU era. We look at the form of the leading contenders around the Cathedral of Speed.
Lewis Hamilton – Starts 10, Pole Positions 5, Wins 3
Monza had been strangely a frustrating venue for Lewis, but since the switch to the engine regulations in 2014 Mercedes have bossed this track, and Lewis has enjoyed great success here of late. Overall, his head to head qualifying record against his team-mates stands at 6-4, while in the races themselves a number of issues mean Lewis record stands at an amazing 3-7 against his team-mates (1-5 when both cars finished), although he has taken pole every year in the PU era and won 2 of the 3 races, so he is certainly the form driver in recent years! His first visit here in 2007 saw him outdone by teammate Alonso, who took pole and the win, but Lewis did well to take second after he lost time with a puncture. The following year he was caught out in qualifying, going out on the wrong tyre initially in the wet conditions and being stranded in P15 on the grid, leaving him with a tough race to limit damage against title rival Massa, with Massa’s tentative driving meaning Lewis would only lose a single point after charging through to 7th place. In 2009 Lewis took his first Monza pole, but fell behind the one stopping Brawn’s, and crashed out of 3rd place on the last lap as he attempted to pressurize Button. 2010 brought further disappointment, with Lewis being outqualified by team-mate Button, and crashing out on the opening lap as he tangled with old foe Massa. 2011 saw Lewis get the upper hand on Button in qualifying, but lose out in the race as he suffered behind the mobile road block that was Mercedes Michael Schumacher, with Button able to pass both as the great Schumi held up Lewis. In 2012, at the 6th attempt, the Italian Grand Prix finally yielded to Lewis, who won with a controlled drive from pole for McLaren (the only time he won here not driving for Mercedes). In his first race here for Mercedes in 2013 he was outqualified by Rosberg and struggled in the race after picking up another Monza puncture. In 2014, Mercedes looked dominant, and Hamilton took pole. In the race itself, a poor start looked to give Rosberg the chance for the win, but a charging Lewis hauled him in and applied the pressure that forced Rosberg to crack and run off the track at the first chicane, allowing Lewis through to take an easy win. Pole and victory followed again in 2015, although the win was not without a bit of drama, Lewis being asked to push at the end of the race for fear of a time penalty that never materialised over tyre pressure irregularities on the grid. Last year saw Lewis lose out to team-mate Rosberg despite taking pole, another poor start costing him dear, and after a fine move to go around the outside of Ricciardo’s Red Bull any chance of victory was wiped out by the time he spent stuck behind Valtteri Bottas Williams!
Valtteri Bottas – Starts 4, Best Grid Position 3rd, Best Result 4th
No podium as of yet for Valtteri at Monza, and generally disappointment in his visits here. He has drawn qualifying 2-2 with his team-mates, and lost out 1-3 in the races, with the old man Felipe Massa managing to grab a podium position here twice in his time as Bottas team-mate! Pastor Maldonado had the slight edge on rookie Bottas in 2013. In 2014, when Williams looked more competititve, Bottas qualified a fine third place as best of the rest behind the Mercedes, but an awful start ruined his chances, and though he put in a fine recovery drive, he would wind up a disappointed 4th place behind team-mate Massa. 2015 saw Bottas pay the price for being beaten by Massa in qualifying, as he spent the race behind his team-mate, opting to run longer to allow him attack at the end, and although he harried Massa, he would finish right behind him, again in 4th place, off the podium as his team-mate celebrated. Last year Bottas finally finished ahead of his team-mate, after qualifying well in fifth, he got the jump on a slow starting Hamilton and defined his future team-mates race by keeping him behind until lap 10 en route to an eventual 6th place finish – showing the Ferrari duo what awaits if they fall behind him at the start!
Sebastian Vettel – Starts 10, Pole Positions 3, Wins 3
They say the first win is always special, and the manner a young Sebastian Vettel controlled a wet race here from pole position in 2008 for Toro Rosso (courtesy of Ferrari power!) was special indeed. Sebastian has always shone here, from that first memorable win through to his daring overtake on Alonso for the lead in 2011 on the grass. Vettel has a 8-2 qualifying record against his team-mates, and has only come in behind his team-mate twice, on his first appearance for Toro Rosso in 2007 (Liuzzi leading him home), and when a certain Daniel Riccardio bested him for Red Bull in 2014. 2009 was a struggle for Red Bull, a disappointingly uncompetitive race where Vettel could only come home in 8th place, which saw him effectively slip out of contention for the world championship. In 2010 Vettel was disappointed to be outqualified by Webber, but even mid race engine trouble couldn’t keep him from getting the upper hand on his team mate in a solid drive to take fourth place. 2011 saw that dominant win, with Vettel showing once again that he can race with that fine move on Alonso on the outside of the Curva Grande to take control of the race after Alonso had pulled ahead at the start. In 2012, Vettel would retire from the race, but not before picking up a penalty for pushing Alonso that bit wider as Alonso attempted to repay the move around the outside of the Curva Grande from the previous year! 2013 saw a comfortable pole to flag victory for Sebastian, while in 2014 he was outdone by new team-mate Ricciardo as Red Bull struggled. For 2015, now driving for Ferrari, Vettel was surprisingly beaten in qualifying by Raikkonen, but a disasterous start for Kimi allowed Vettel through, and push to take a strong second behind the dominant Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, as Nico Rosberg’s engine gave up in the effort to chase down the number 1 Ferrari. Last year it was again a case of best of the rest for Ferrari, with the Mercedes simply too powerful, Vettel having to settle for third place.
Kimi Raikkonen – Starts 14, Pole Positions 1, Best Result 2nd
Monza has never been too kind to Kimi. He has never managed to win here, and has just one pole position in 14 attempts (although he did qualify fastest in 2005, only for a penalty due to an engine change meaning he had to start 11th). Overall his qualifying record here is 9-5 against his team-mates, but in races where both drivers have finished he trails 3-5. He had a couple of DNFs due to engine failure here in his early years with McLaren, and it was an engine change which cost him in 2005, as that penalty meant his team-mate Montoya would start from pole and cruise to the win while Kimi battled to 4th place despite a tyre issue forcing him to make an unplanned extra stop. In 2006 he got to keep pole position, but was bested in the race by the superior pace of the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, the second place finish the best result Kimi has managed at the track. He managed a podium in 2007 for Ferrari, before he struggled in 2008’s wet race after getting the qualifying wrong. He bagged another podium in 2009 before departing F1 for a few years. Since returning, his luck has not improved much, managed to come home in 5th in 2012 for Lotus, but a first lap collision with Sergio Perez dropped him down the order in 2013. In 2014 he was back at Ferrari, but the team looked woefully off the pace, and he struggled to 9th place at the flag. In 2015, Kimi produced a wonderful front row qualifying performance, but saw his hopes evaporate at the start as his car went into anti stall and he dropped to the back of the field, eventually coming home in fifth place after a fine recovery drive. Last year he looked to be roughly on a par with Vettel pace wise, and drove a steady race to fourth.
Daniel Ricciardo – Starts 6, Best Grid Position 6th , Best Result 5th
There may be no eye catching results to show, but Daniel Ricciardo stands out for never being beaten by his team mate to the chequered flag. He has a 4-2 qualifying record here, leading his teammate 3-0 in races where both cars have finished. His first appearance here was for HRT in 2011, where he did well to outqualify Liuzzi before retiring from the race. In 2012 he did about all he could do for Toro Rosso, which was to outqualify team-mate Jean-Eric Verge. Improved form for Toro Rosso allowed him to shine in 2013 with a highly impressive drive to take 7th place, holding off the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in the process! 2014 saw Ricciardo outqualified by Sebastian Vettel in his first season with Red Bull, but he got the upper hand in the race to finish 5th in a difficult season for the Bulls. 2015 saw technical trouble hit Ricciardo in qualifying, leaving him unable to make a run in Q2, but he came through to pas team mate Kvyat on the way to 8th place in the race. Last year the Bulls again did not have the pace to threaten the top 2 teams, but Ricciardo did what he could, getting the better of Max Verstappen in qualifying and the race en route to another 5th place finish, a tremendous late breaking move on Valtteri Bottas Williams into the first chicane towards the end of the race securing the result.
Max Verstappen – Starts 2, Best Grid Position 7th, Best Result 7th
Max will be hoping it’s third time lucky after a tough two Italian Grand Prix. In his first appearance here for Toro Rosso in 2015 a difficult qualifying session ended with Max unable to set a time after his engine cover flew off the car after the Toro Rosso mechanics rushed to get the car on track following an engine failure! To add insult to injury, Max was hit with a penalty for the incident meaning not only would he have to start from the back, but he was also have to serve a drive through penalty within the first 3 laps of the race! The race was always a write off from there, Max enjoying a relaxed drive and battling with the Sauber of Nasr on his way to 12th place. Last year Max was outqualified by Ricciardo, and a poor start caused by his anti stall kicking in ensured he would be in for a difficult day. He fought his way back up to finish 7th, a nice move on Perez at the Roggia on lap 48 securing 7th place. Red Bull will be hoping they can finally give Max a trouble free drive this weekend so he can demonstrate his ability higher up the field.