GRAND PRIX : Italy : Hamilton Survives the Stewards and Wins

Posted on September 15, 2015.

Seb was very happy to be back on the podium in front of the tifosi
Kimi qualified well for once, but then fluffed the start badly
First lap, and Hamilton disappears up the road

Report by Paul Robinson

It’s the race that every Ferrari fan hopes to see, one of its drivers standing in the famous red overalls on the top step of the best podium in the world.

However, with Mercedes’ continued dominance at the front, Ferrari will have to be on top of their game in all aspects to achieve this objective. This will be the first time Vettel will be able to experience what it is like to drive a ‘prancing horse’ in front of the passionate Ferrari fans. In 2008, in the rain, against all odds, he showed the world he was a future world champion in the making when he won in Monza for the other Italian based team, Scuderia Toro Rosso.

There are major concerns that 2016 could possibly be the last Grand Prix at Monza. The circuit management is struggling to raise the money needed to extend its contract. It has also been reported that an option is to share the Grand Prix with the Imola circuit. If we were to lose this circuit from the calendar it would be devastating to the heritage and roots of F1 as, apart from 1980 when it was held in Imola, (due to the circuit been refurbished), Monza has been on the calendar since the inaugural 1950 World championship.

Before any rubber had even touched the tarmac there had been a record number of grid penalties, 168 places in total. The McLaren, Toro Rosso and Red Bull teams all contributed to this record. These teams felt that it was best to compromise their race at a track that doesn’t suit their Honda and Renault power units, preferring instead to maximise their potential to gain points with the next race being Singapore, where they will hope to be more competitive around the twists and turns of the circuit. The FIA will have the difficult job of working out the grid for Sunday after qualifying has finished. The penalty process imposed for this season is confusing and is certainly not helping the enjoyment of the sport for the teams, drivers and especially its fans.

Qualifying saw Hamilton sporting a new, blond hairstyle whilst taking pole for the seventh successive time. Impressively, he had been fastest in all six sessions. The only way to beat him this weekend seemed to be to get ahead of him on the first corner, or hope that he would have a car failure. To the delight of the Tifosi, Raikkonen would be starting second and Vettel third. The Ferrari looks much closer in pace to Mercedes at this track with its engine update. Rosberg could only manage fourth, as he had to revert back to the engine that he had used before at Spa, after experiencing problems with the new one in practice.

The only other major highlight of qualifying was Verstappen losing his engine bodywork on the run to Curva Grande as he went out on an installation lap in Q1. Investigations uncovered that the team had been in a rush and had only secured 50 per cent of the bolts on the engine cover. Needless to say in this modern world, they were also penalised.

The excitement of race day is here and the anticipation of one of the Ferraris being able to leapfrog Hamilton’s Mercedes on the first corner is tangible. The dream of starting on the front row became a terrible nightmare for Raikkonen, as his Ferrari went into anti-stall leaving him stranded on the grid. He managed to get going, but at the back of the pack. Both Lotus cars retired on the first lap due to separate incidents. Another tough weekend for the cash-strapped Enstone team, semi-permanently on the verge of being sent into bankruptcy by their various angry creditors.

Raikkonen exploited plenty of overtaking opportunities and pushed through the pack. It would be another frustrating day for McLaren as Alonso had to retire near the end of the race with car trouble. Rosberg’s title hopes could well be in jeopardy, as he retired his Mercedes with flames emerging from the rear. This was a stroke of luck for Vettel, as Rosberg was at the time catching the Ferrari for second place.

It looked like the perfect weekend for the championship leader, Hamilton, who had a comfortable race at the front. However, confusing times lay ahead as Hamilton was informed over the radio by his team to push hard, without any reason being given, leading to speculation over why he needs to push with a twenty second lead. It is thought that he might need to stop again or that he could face a possible time-penalty implemented after the race.

Hamilton once again took the chequered flag, with the Ferrari of Vettel in second. Massa was able to keep his team-mate Bottas narrowly behind him to take the third place. Raikkonen battled from the back to finish a respectable fifth. Perez has had another good race, finishing sixth, with team mate, Hulkenberg, holding onto seventh. Ricciardo charged past Ericsson on the final lap to beat him to eighth place, with his team mate, Kvyat, fighting from the back of the grid to take the final championship point in tenth.

Whilst Hamilton is celebrating on the top step of the podium, the investigating stewards have discovered that his rear tyre pressure was under Pirelli’s new minimum requirements. It has also been revealed that Rosberg’s rear tyres were even lower than Hamilton’s! This would have given them a significant grip and durability advantage. The obvious implication was exclusion from the results.

After a lengthy post-race meeting with Mercedes representatives, the stewards decided that there would be no penalties for Hamilton and his championship advantage over Rosberg has now increased to 53 points, and moved him even further away from Vettel.

Ferrari was closer to Mercedes this weekend. Let’s hope this battle continues under the lights of Singapore in two weeks time, with the ‘prancing horse’ galloping to finish ahead of the competition.

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