The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX : Monza : Did Nico Fall or Was He Pushed?

22-09-2014

Report by Alan Brown

Monza is all about emotion. Constructed in 1922, just 15 km north east of Milan,  the ‘Autodromo’ was one of only three permanent motor racing venues at that time, the other two being Brooklands and Indianapolis. All the greats have raced here – Nazzaro, Nuvolari, Varzi, Ascari, Fangio, Moss, Clark, Stewart, Senna and Schumacher.

Despite all this history and passion displayed year after year by the tifosi, if Bernie has his way the staging of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza will terminate at the end of the current contract period which expires next year. To lose Monza from the calendar would be a sad day indeed for F1, denying us one of the few circuits where the current breed of F1 race car can really stretch their engines and exceed 350Kmh and also a track where it is possible to engage a normally redundant 8th gear. It always appears strange to me that F1 racing at classic well attended tracks like Spa, Silverstone and Monza seem somehow unable to yield the desired investment returns for the sport’s masters?

Despite such threats we still had the 2014 race to look forward to in a season dominated by high emotions in the Mercedes camp. If there was any consolation for Lewis after the events in Belgium two weeks ago, Nico has a dismal record at Monza. He has never managed a podium place here, and in 2011 failed even to navigate the first chicane.

At Ferrari rumours circulated again over Alonso’s future and the possibility of the Spaniard being lured over to McLaren when Honda power returns in 2016. Also could Ross Brawn return to Maranello from his ‘fly fishing’ exploits? As a fellow Mancunian and a big Ross supporter, I would certainly endorse that appointment were it to happen.

Down to business in Friday first practice session, Jensen excelled, splitting the two Mercedes for once and laying the foundations for a solid qualifying performance. Lewis topped the time sheets in FP1 with his team mate third. Ferrari typically turned in their strong Friday times. Fernando 4th quickest in FP1 and Kimi 7th improving to 3rd in FP2 as the Finn for once leap frogged his team mate. Lewis sat out most of FP2 with electronic maladies but still managed second quickest, a fraction of a second shy of Rosberg. The mood in the tifosi camp would have been further lifted after FP3, with Fernando posting second quickest in a session where Rosberg failed to record a time.
These raised expectations soon deflated as the serious business of qualifying commenced.

Those not blessed with Mercedes power again struggled to keep pace and upfront Lewis dominated all three sessions taking his first pole since May. Rosberg ended up within a quarter of a second of Lewis on the front row, with the next four places taken by the two Williams and the two McLarens. Fernando did manage to outpace the Red Bulls for 7th. Kimi could not repeat his Spa form, losing precious time on two occasions exiting the second chicane leaving him down in 12th. With Kvyat taking a 10 place grid penalty for another engine change the second Ferrari started 11th alongside Vergne.

With the two Mercedes drivers under no illusion there would be zero tolerance of any further contact as happened on Lap 2 at Spa, they lined up at the head of the grid for the race start. As the five lights went out Lewis struggled to get away as his launch aid failed and Rosberg streaked off into the distance. The whole grid managed to navigate the first tight chicane without incident but Lewis had already dropped to 4th and most of the traffic immediately on his tail also got held up by the Brit’s tardy start, noticeably Bottas who somehow fell back to 11th before staging a brilliant recovery.

The two Ferraris were well down the pack surrounded by the likes of Jenson and ‘Chico’. The Mexican was giving Fernando a hard time after he had already conceded a place to Vettel. The race was always going to be a one stopper for all and most pitted towards the halfway point. The Red Bulls hedged their bets with Vettel in early after 19 laps and his team mate the last of the stoppers on Lap 27. Sadly for the Tifosi it was on this same lap that Fernando’s race was cut short with ERS problems, amazingly his first DNF since 2009. Kimi tried to uphold Prancing Horse honours but P9 would eventually be the best he could manage in a car down on speed and grip. Meanwhile the two Mercedes upfront were posting similar lap times. The gap reduced dramatically on Lap 9 as Nico went straight on at the first chicane and then repeated the ‘error’ again on Lap 28, this time handing the lead to Lewis who had been closing him down in the preceding laps.

Throughout the race there was some great dicing elsewhere to savour notably between Jenson and Sergio. Bottas and Ricciardo also made up ground in racy fashion after slow starts to finish 4th and 5th respectively. These two just seem to get better and better.

Lewis held on to the lead he inherited from Nico with just 3 seconds splitting them at the chequered flag. Massa secured his first Williams podium ahead of Bottas then the two Red Bulls. Much speculation ensued in the paddock over whether Nico fell or ‘was he pushed’? The German maintained he was trying to avoid square tyres but to commit the same error twice does look suspicious as retribution for his Spa misjudgement. On balance perhaps we should accept Rosberg’s take on the situation and the Team’s assertion that their drivers are free to race.

A poor race result for Ferrari then who have now slipped back into 4th place, 15 points behind Williams in the Constructor’s Championship. Italian media seem convinced Presidente Di Montezemolo will soon be announcing his departure and maybe there are big changes ahead at Maranello to try and recover the rightful place of the prancing horses. We hope so.