Grand Prix Review: Italy

After Spa Ferrari looked to be the team to beat heading to their homeland. There was a lot of expectation on the Maranello based team as this was their best chance of scoring a home win since 2010 and have a chance of winning the title this year.

Ferrari certainly showed promising pace on Friday practice but Mercedes looked to be close throughout. Lando Norris once again took the reins of the MCL33 in a rain-soaked FP1 as McLaren looks to develop the Brit while it assesses it’s driver options for next season. We saw a huge crash from Marcus Ericsson when his DRS failed braking into turn one, he flipped over several times before coming to a stop after crashing into the left hand side barrier but thankfully was unhurt and even able to get out of the car unaided.

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Copyright: Formula One

Qualifying was set to be a thriller with Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen looking close all weekend, getting the tow would be crucial for any team with margins looking so small. It was so close in qualifying that Sergio Perez will miss out of Q2 by 0.001 seconds; with 3 cars separated by 0.002 seconds. With Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg set to start at the back of the gird due to penalties neither took part in Q2 meaning more Q3 positions were up for grabs. Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen found themselves in a brawl in the closing stages of Q2, Kevin Magnussen overtook Alonso heading into the parbollica but with this leading into the start/finish straight Alonso could not afford to back off or he would risk ruining his final qualifying lap. Alonso kept his foot to the floor and used Magnussen’s slip stream but caught him quickly, he had two options; back out and bail on his lap guaranteeing himself to miss out on Q3 or try to overtake Magnussen, he chose the latter. Alonso attempted the overtake on the outside but ended up ruining both their laps when Magnussen refused to yield. After Qualifying Magnussen had a few words to say about the incident.

“Obviously he got a perfect slipstream and thought he could overtake into Turn 1 – but I’d rather hang myself.”

When Magnussen was asked if they he heard Fernando’s opinion on the matter he came up with another classic quote.

“He literally thinks he’s a god. It’s pretty amusing. I can’t wait for him to retire.”

With all of the drama in Q2 sorted we turned to the pole position shootout, Lance Stroll made Williams’ debut in Q3 this season with a car that looks to be improving and suited to Monza. Hamilton took provisional pole in the teams first runs but the qualifying was due to heat up, Hamilton improved on his time at the end of Q3 followed quickly by Vettel who snatched pole from the Brit but Kimi Raikkonen at the last moment went even faster scoring his first pole position since Monaco 2017.

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Copyright: Ferrari

Ferrari had locked out the front row of the grid in front of their tifosi, the pressure was on, Vettel needed to reduce the points deficit he had to Hamilton and was desperate to score Ferrari’s first home win in eight years. There was much anticipation for the start and when the lights went out both Ferrari’s made a fantastic start and led into the first chicane, poor Brendon Hartley was unable to even make it to turn one however as he was pincered by Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson; the Kiwi would pull over to the side of the road with suspension damage. Hamilton had a fantastic run on 2nd placed Vettel heading into the boggia chicane, he went to overtake Vettel on the outside but the two would collide causing Vettel to spin and falling to last place.

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Copyright: Formula One

With Hartley parked in a dangerous location race control deployed the safety car, some runners elected to make a pit stop with the ambition to take those tyres to the end including Sebastian Vettel. On the restart Hamilton overtook Raikkonen into turn one but this would be short-lived with Raikkonen retaking the lead two corners later. These two would remain close on track until the pitstops, while the fight for the lead stabilised Vettel and Ricciardo were scything their way through the field, the latter however struggled to overtake Pierre Gasly costing him plenty of time and damaging his car in the process, it would all be in vein however as he retired later on with clutch failure.

Raikkonen would be the first to make his stop with an impressive 2.2 second pit stop, Raikkonen would rejoin 4th, Hamilton would then push to extend his gap so that he would rejoin ahead of the Finn. By the time Hamilton made his stop Raikkonen had found plenty of grip in his tyres and would be ahead of Hamilton after his stop. Both cars would be behind Hamiltons teammate Bottas who was yet to stop, Mercedes elected to leave him out in order to back Raikkonen up into Hamilton compromising his own race against Max Verstappen. Bottas would eventually pit putting Raikkonen into the lead but with Hamilton within 1 second of Raikkonen the race was setup to be a thriller. Hamilton was in relentless pursuit of Raikkonen, constantly putting the Iceman under pressure. Raikkonen was struggling for grip courtesy of blisters forming on his tyres, with only a handful of laps to go Hamilton made a bold overtake on the outside of Raikkonen into turn one for the lead of the race.

Meanwhile Bottas and Verstappen squabbled for the final spot on the podium, the Finn would try to pass Verstappen on the outside of turn one but Verstappen moved under breaking causing Bottas to take evasive action. Verstappen would receive a five-second penalty for his actions but refused to surrender to Bottas when he closed back up. The Red Bull driver was furious about the penalty and didn’t care that he was losing time Vettel who was close to being within five seconds of Verstappen. In the end no-one could catch Hamilton, he sailed away after passing Raikkonen and would claim his 5th win in Monza in one of his finest drives to date.

After the race, Romain Grosjean was found to have a floor which did not comply to within the regulations and was disqualified from the Grand Prix leaving the top ten as follows:

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
  3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  6. Esteban Ocon (Force India)
  7. Sergio Perez (Force India)
  8. Carlos Sainz (Renault)
  9. Lance Stroll (Williams)
  10. Sergey Sirotkin (Williams)

Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton

Copyright: Mercedes

Kimi Raikkonen put in a solid performance this weekend and was needed with his future at Ferrari in doubt but I personally believe Hamilton was the driver of the day, he made a risky move to overtake Vettel on lap one, kept within one second of Raikkonen throughout most of the race and managed his tyres well to eventually take the lead of the race. Today we saw Hamilton at his best and will be tough to beat for the remainder of the season, Vettel will have to win in Singapore if he wants to regain the momentum in the championship.

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