The Italian GP wasn’t one that was ever going to set your heart aflutter but it delivered its fair share of drama.
The Saturday qualifying session delivered a dream result that elated Ferrari’s fanatical tifosi. Kimi Raikkonen delivered a stunning lap just two tenths shy of pole position to line up his scarlet Ferrari in second place while teammate Sebastian Vettel completed the top three.
It was Lewis Hamilton however who ran the show on Sunday much like he did on Saturday to secure a staggering seventh consecutive pole position. Most were drooling about a possible Italian GP battle between the Ferrari’s and Lewis Hamilton’s number 44 Mercedes. Alas, a disastrous start for Raikkonen and all-round lack of pace for Vettel meant Hamilton could stroll through the 53 laps to eventual victory.
As the red lights extinguished so did Raikkonen’s chances as he remained achingly motionless in his grid slot. As it were, Raikkonen reported that when he released the clutch nothing happened after which the car engaged the anti-stall function. It dropped the Finn to dead last but a dogged drive through the field netted the 2007 champ fifth place.
The simplicity of Hamilton’s task in the lead of the race was evident as he increased his pace at will. He built a substantial gap over Vettel which could’ve been considerably bigger if he had wished it so. Yet, the sister Mercedes wasn’t enjoying as easy a weekend. A failure in free practice three forced Rosberg to take an older engine onboard which landed him only fourth in qualifying. It looked to be going slightly better in the race as the championship runner-up was able to leapfrog Williams on strategy. The German was even able to take the fight to second-placed Vettel and was set to launch an attack on the Ferrari. However, a spectacular engine failure brought a fiery end to Rosberg’s ItalianGP and most probably his championship aspirations.
A spicy fight between Williams’ drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas highlighted the closing stages of the race. Despite significant pressure from behind Massa was able to resist his Finnish teammate and secure third much to the delight of deputy team principal Claire Williams.
The Pirelli tyres seemed to be, mostly, out of the spotlight when compared to the aftermath of the Belgian grand prix. But a suspected breach in tyre pressure regulation, by Mercedes, was noted by the Italian tyre supplier. Both Hamilton and Rosberg’s cars were found to be below the specified tyre pressure and were subsequently referred to the stewards.
In hindsight the instruction given to Hamilton to increase the gap to Vettel makes sense. At the time however not even the driver was sure what to make of the message coming from the pitwall. It is clear now that Mercedes were trying to avoid losing the Italian GP victory should a time penalty be imposed. As it turns out the stewards, after meeting with Mercedes personnel chose to take no further action.
While some might term this a lucky escape for Mercedes the details as to how and when tyre pressures are measured remain a tad sketchy. If the pressure were measured at different times it could turn out that Mercedes could well have been within the regulations. There is likely to be clarification on the measuring of tyre pressures in the near future.
As the newly blonde Lewis Hamilton looked out at the fervent Monza crowd there seemed to be a moment of realisation for the Brit. A comprehension of the very special moment he is experiencing in his glittering career. Are we seeing a soon-to-be three-time world champion in the form of his life? A 53 point gap to second place seems to suggest it.
All photos by courtesy Pirelli