The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Italy: Ferrari Struggle At Home

06-09-2017

By Jack Target

Lewis Hamilton eased his way to victory and the lead in the drivers championship as Mercedes dampened the spirits of the Tifosi in Monza.

The weekend was much anticipated for Ferrari fans with hope of a first win since 2010 but not only were they outpaced by their rivals, they were quite poor for their own high standards. 

Hamilton is in good form now, taking the championship lead on an historic weekend in which he become the driver to have the most pole positions in Formula 1 history. 

The weekend started off with many a big wig going in and out of McLaren and Renault’s offices as it looks like talks have stepped up a notch. McLaren know that either Honda need to improve or they will look elsewhere for an engine and it looks like the French manufacturers have a real interest in supplying engines for their rivals.

Conditions were pretty terrible on Saturday leaving the prospect of a mixed grid for qualifying. We were already guaranteed this anyway due to the amount of grid penalties handed out. Then Romain Grosjean was added to that list after he spun in the wet conditions (wet is almost an understatement). The rain then picked up further and we were delayed for a couple of hours. If you had no plans on Saturday you were ok. It was a little dull though and just as some calls of postponing qualifying till Sunday morning were getting louder, the cars were finally back out.

Typically after all that rain it didn’t take very long for the track to dry out a bit as most of the cars went back out on inters, except the two Mercedes. Lance Stroll, who has had his fair share of criticism was impressive when he put his Williams in 5th in Q2. Little were we to know it would get much better for the young Canadian.

For all of McLaren’s problems Stoffel Vandoorne put his car in to Q3, but would start near the back after another engine penalty. 

The Ferraris were really struggling in the rain as hopes of home celebrations were drifting away. They would be helped by the penalties of the two Red Bulls but they couldn’t even take advantage of that. In fact Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were the ones who looked like they could challenge for pole.

Behind Hamilton and the Red Bulls it wasn’t the famous red prancing horses making the charge, it was the pink of Esteban Ocon’s Force India and unbelievably Lance Stroll. As I said earlier, things got a whole lot better for Williams driver who put his car in 4th on the day, to start 2nd come Sunday. He became the youngest driver to start on the front row in F1 history. 

But the story of the day came from the other history maker as Hamilton took pole to become the stand alone leader of most pole positions in Formula 1 history. After equaling the great Michael Schumacher at Spa last week, the Brit notched up pole 69. To do it at Monza seemed fitting, with the connections Schumacher has with Ferrari but it was a huge blow to Ferrari’s current German driver. Vettel had to start in 6th and would need a massive turnaround to keep his championship lead.

The sun came out on Sunday for race day as the tifosi once again turned up in full force, knowing they would be needed if Ferrari were going to have a decent anniversary celebration when the checkered flag flies. 

It was a Ferrari who was involved in one of the early battles from the start with Kimi Raikkonen and Bottas going wheel to wheel, but it was the Mercedes driver who would win the Finnish fight this time. 

At the front Hamilton held off Stroll and was away. Stroll was then overtaken by Ocon. Despite those two cars being higher than expected, they were still there as the Ferrari’s stayed disappointingly in 5th and 6th. Things got worse for them as Bottas breezed past firstly the Williams and then Force India, who both run on Mercedes engines. The suggestion of whether there was more at play was mentioned, as the two teams were not given their upgrades from Mercedes in time for this race, however it was more likely a convenient accident.

Vettel managed to get past his teammate about a third of the way through, but would need to do a lot to redeem something from this weekend. 

Further down Red Bull fans, overtaking fans and the population of the Netherlands had their head in their hands again as Verstappen was caught up in an incident with Felipe Massa through the first chicane, leaving him with a punctured tyre. Thankfully he could continue but he was way down the grid. 

His teammate was having a fine race however moving up to 9th from 16th before impressing further with a fine overtaking move past Ocon in to 6th and would be in front of the home team cars. 

The on going, strange feud continued between Jolyon Palmer and Fernando Alonso, with the Spaniard passing the Renault driver through a chicane. Palmer went off the track but tried to regain his place when he should have given it up. He was given a 5 second penalty but that wasn’t making Alonso happy. Multiple times he was on the team radio calling the decision a joke before making everyone chuckle when he found out Palmer had to retire his car, Fernando responded with one word. Karma.

Back to Ocon, who was still having a successful race and stayed in front of Stroll. He was hoping to hold him off after the Canadian went in to the pits but the Williams had an uncharacteristically poor pit stop, letting Kimi move up a place. The Finn was able to take advantage, taking the Frenchman round the outside of turn one to join his teammate in 5th.

Ferrari’s weekend was getting worse. With just over ten laps to go Ricciardo was catching Kimi and was being told on the radio to try and make the move. Before the message could be finished he pulled out a brilliant move, breaking very late in to the first chicane and cut in the inside to take 4th. Vettel was up ahead and he had the tyres to try and catch him.

Meanwhile Max Verstappen was doing Max Verstappen things and strolling past everyone on the track. After having to start near the back and then being forced in to last place, the Dutchmen was in the points with five laps to go. K-Mag was not happy with the pass and almost went in to the back of the Red Bull but it was another quality pass that he could hardly argue with. 

Before the end Alonso was forced to retire the car, meaning a double retirement for McLaren. Just what Honda needed! Stroll finished ahead of his teammate in 7th, finishing off a pretty decent weekend for the youngster as he continues to chip away at the skepticism that surrounded him early on in his F1 career.  

Ricciardo was pulling out some very quick laps but it was just not enough to catch Vettel and get on the podium. At least the Tifosi would have some joy from the weekend and could maybe look to the future at what might be if Ricciardo ends up driving for them. 

In the end Hamilton took the win and the lead in the championship. For all the hope that Ferrari had going in to this special weekend, the podium place was not enough to cover up what was a poor and disappointing weekend. You could tell how far this team had come as Vettel sounded quite unhappy on the team radio after the finish. When he moved from Red Bull to Ferrari the team were a bit of a mess. When he took 2nd at Monza in his first season, he was jubilant. However the stakes have been raised. To lose the championship lead on their own patch in their 70th year will be a bitter pill to swallow.