Hamilton closes on his third title with Monza win

06/09/2015
NEWS STORY

OK, call us cynical, but there's this nagging feeling that the legendary Turk Thrust could be involved in today's proceedings.

Long-standing readers will remember that Turk, a confidante of Mike Lawrence, was (is?) part of the Formula One Script Unit (FOSU), the mysterious outfit discovered to be responsible for so many curious little happenings in the sport over the years.

With the 2015 title 'fight' flagging, just a little, have Turk and his pals at FOSU been recruited to add some spice?

Lewis Hamilton, alone, has the benefit of a new upgraded engine, but what if it should follow the example of teammate Nico Rosberg's and spring a leak.

And as Bernie Ecclestone continues his financial demands of the promoters, what if Ferrari should score a sensational 1-2, especially as the team had nothing to celebrate at its 900th appearance.

And what if, courtesy of those penalties, the Manors should find themselves in the points.

Fairy tales do happen in F1, like in any other sport, but other sports don't have the likes of Turk Thrust working behind the scenes.

Remember 1988, weeks after Enzo Ferrari's death, Gerhard Berger leading Michele Alboreto home, thereby wrecking McLaren's hopes of winning every round of the championship. Ever wonder who put forward Jean-Louis Schlesser's name to Williams as a one-off replacement for an unwell Nigel Mansell?

And 1998, four days after editor Balfe got married at the magnificent Villa Reale next door to the circuit, who pulled a few strings in order to ensure Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine scored their second 1-2 of the year, a sort of belated wedding president.

Whether Turk is involved or not, a Ferrari 1-2 would put a smile on the face of F1, at a time all the talk is of tyre safety, Mercedes dominance, teams in financial trouble, Monza being dropped, penalties, Lewis Hamilton's hair and McLaren's downfall.

If ever F1 needed FOSU, today is that day.

On the other hand, should Turk not have been contracted, we can expect a stroll in the (Royal) park for Hamilton. Though the Ferraris were superb yesterday, they cannot match the sheer power of the Mercedes, especially the upgraded package.

The numerous penalties, combined with the power deficiency of the Honda and Renault engines means we can effectively rule out six drivers from today's proceedings - unless Turk has other ideas. Indeed, Marcus Ericsson's grid penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg means that eight of the first ten cars on the grid are Mercedes powered... though only Lewis has the super-duper version.

Other than engines, gearboxes and tyres, the other issue here, and one that has already caused problems for Hamilton and Vettel, is brakes. Though Monza is not a car-breaker, not in the same way as some other tracks, it is a hard, unforgiving track.

As is the case with most tracks, the first corner (chicane) can often mean your race is over before its barely started, whilst the second chicane comes up on the drivers as they are still sorting themselves out into some semblance of order.

Romain Grosjean, despite his team's much-publicised problems is confident of a good result today, whilst, other than Hulkenberg's problem in Q3, the Force Indias have looked strong. Williams too appears quietly confidant.

In many ways, contemporary Monza is a bit of a let down. Today's race will probably be over in less than eighty minutes. However, those parts of the circuit that haven't been emasculated to within an inch of their lives - and what is it with those lime green strips by the side of the track - remain awesome, as does the sheer speed... and lets not forget the atmosphere, the history, the ghosts...

Tyres today are medium (prime) and soft (option) as at Spa. The quickest strategy for the 53-lap race is theoretically a one-stopper, although the teams are likely to take a flexible approach, depending on individual tyre degradation and race circumstances.

The ideal one-stop strategy is: start on soft tyre, switch to medium on lap 21. A two-stop strategy is theoretically just 1.63 seconds slower.

The best two-stopper is: start on soft, soft again on lap 19, medium on lap 36. There is also a different one-stop possible: start on medium and pit for soft at lap 24.

The two DRS zones are on the main pit straight and on the run from the second Lesmo down to Ascari.

Around two hours before the start of the race, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi arrived, not only in the hope of witnessing a Ferrari win, but to apply a little pressure on Bernie Ecclestone in keeping the race here.

One of his first duties on arrival was to join the drivers for a minute's silence in honour of Justin Wilson.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out in to the sunshine, accompanied by the cheers of the crowd.

Starting from the back of the grid, having been demoted 30 places and not even posted a time in qualifying, Verstappen is reporting that his seat is loose. He had a similar problem yesterday. To add to his woes, following that exploding bodywork issue yesterday, the teenager has to serve a drive-through during the first three laps.

As the drivers gather for the national anthem, the air temperature is 22 degrees C, and the track temperature is 38 degrees. It is bright and quite glorious.

As the field prepares to head off on the warm-up lap, Raikkonen is told that though the wind is low, there's a tailwind in to T1.

All are on the soft rubber, bar Alonso, Sainz, Kvyat and Ricciardo, who start on the prime.

As they head off on the warm-up lap, Kvyat reveals that his drink bottle is leaking.

The grid forms.

They're away. Disaster for Kimi who doesn't get away, leaving Hamilton leading his teammate Vettel into T1. The field somehow winds its way around the stranded Ferrari, Hamilton leading the pack - running four even five abreast towards the first chicane.

In the first chicane there's a little hanky-panky, Maldonado having to run over the sausage kerbs after being given a helping hand, Verstappen ad Merhi follow suit. Nasr and Button also appear to touch.

No such problems in T2, as Hamilton leads Vettel, Massa, Bottas, Perez and Rosberg, Raikkonen down in eighteenth.

At the end of lap 1, Hamilton leads by 1.5s, as Nasr and Verstappen pit, the Toro Rosso driver to serve his penalty while the Sauber driver has a puncture following his earlier clash with Button. On track, Rosberg passes Perez to take fifth.

Game over for Grosjean, who has pulled to the side of the track. Maldonado is also out, the Venezuelan having driven straight into his garage.

Raikkonen is now up to 14th, hard on the heels of Ricciardo. The Finn challenges the Red Bull driver at Ascari but the door is firmly closed in his face.

Great opening phase from Sainz also, the Spaniard already up to tenth. Behind the Toro Rosso driver, Raikkonen has passed Ricciardo.

On lap 3, Bottas goes quickest in S2, as he shadows his teammate.

Raikkonen takes tenth from Sainz, but cuts the (2nd) chicane in the process and will probably have to give the place back. Indeed, he does.

After 5 laps, Hamilton leads Vettel by 2.8s, Massa is third, ahead of Bottas, Rosberg, Perez, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Button and Raikkonen, who finally gets past Sainz cleanly.

As Raikkonen nails Button at Ascari with an absolutely stunning move, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (27.804).

Sainz and Button battle, the two banging wheels. As the Spaniard barges past and heads off into the distance, Ricciardo also nails the hapless McLaren driver.

"Why does overtake not work?" asks Rosberg, only to be told that it does.

Kvyat is the latest driver to embarrass Button in the McLaren, the Briton now down to 13th.

Rosberg is told to look after his front brakes, his team concerned at the temperatures.

After 8 laps, Vettel is now 5.1s down on Hamilton, the German missing the assistance he should have got from his teammate, who is currently ninth, 5.4s down on eighth-placed Ericsson.

Sainz and Ricciardo are in a great scrap for tenth, however, the Spaniard is handed a 5s penalty for gaining an advantage after leaving the track. He serves his penalty in the pits before his crew get to work. "Why, why?" he says of the penalty.

Rosberg continues to shadow Bottas, his team still concerned at his brake temperature.

Verstappen leaves Button for dead on the pit straight, the Dutch teenager now up to 13th.

Down in ninth, Raikkonen's chased appears to have slowed, he is making little impression on Ericsson.

Hulkenberg, currently seventh, complains of a "strange noise on the exhaust". "Not good," he adds.

With aid of DRS Rosberg is unable to nail Bottas at T1. The battle continues through the Curva Grande and to the second chicane. The Finn is not prepared to yield to the Mercedes, and why should he?

Unsurprisingly, Rosberg is warned his brakes are "hot, very hot".

Verstappen passes Button on the inside at Parabolica. The Briton fights back, all the way down the pit straight and into the first chicane, but the Honda is no match for the Renault.

After 16 laps it's Hamilton, Vettel (9s behind), Masa (10.2s), Bottas (1.3s), Rosberg (1s), Perez (4.8s) and Hulkenberg (7.3s).

Alonso, having a quiet afternoon, is demoted to 15th by Nasr.

As Rosberg is the first of the big guns to pit, Vettel reveals that he is "losing the rears a little bit". Hulkenberg also pits.

Next time around Massa pits as Raikkonen finally passes Ericsson.

Masa exits the pits behind Rosberg, which leaves Williams, which has yet to pit Bottas, with a quandary.

Ericsson pits at the end of lap 20, the Swede rejoining in 11th.

After 21 laps, Hamilton leads Vettel, Bottas, Perez and Raikkonen, all of whom have yet to stop. Rosberg, in sixth, is the first of the drivers who have pitted, ahead of Massa.

At the end of lap 22, Bottas pits. He rejoins in seventh, behind Rosberg and Massa, Mercedes strategy for the German clearly having worked.

On fresh prime rubber, Massa goes quickest in S2. Elsewhere, Sainz and Nasr in a rare old scrap for 13th.

Perez pits at the end of lap 23, the Mexican rejoining in eighth.

Following the stops, Raikkonen is now up to third, albeit 26s down on the leader.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 25, the German rejoining still in second, as Rosberg posts a new fastest lap (27.771).

Next time around it's the turn of the race leader to stop, the Briton returning to the track 24.3s later still comfortably in the lead. Button also stopped.

Though he didn't complete the first lap, the F1 timing app has Grosjean in seventh.

"It's important to get past Kimi," Rosberg is told. He duly obliges, passing the finn on the main straight to take third.

Ricciardo makes a bold plunge to pass Perez at the second chicane, the Red Bull driver up to seventh.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 28 as does Merhi, who almost runs in to the back of the Ferrari. Elsewhere, Vettel posts a new fastest lap (27.548).

A lap later and Perez re-takes seventh, at the first chicane.

Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 30, the Red Bull driver rejoining in 10th.

Sainz is told to pit again after complaining that his "tyres are dying".

After 32 laps, Hamilton leads Vettel by 19.2s with Rosberg only 4.8s behind the Ferrari. Massa is fourth, Bottas, Perez and Raikkonen who has passed Hulkenberg into the first chicane.

Verstappen makes his third visit to the pits, rejoining in 14th, as Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (27.349).

Rosberg is told that "P2 is possible", the German advised that Vettel's first set of tyres went off earlier than anyone else's and that his current set should be the same. The German is currently 4.7s down on the Ferrari. Meanwhile, another fastest lap for Hamilton (27.125).

A 26.890s from Hamilton, as the world champion extends his lead to 21.7s.

As Verstappen hunts down Nasa for 13th, going around the outside in the first chicane, all up to 12th placed Sainz have been lapped.

As Vettel closes in on Nasr and Verstappen he calls for the blue flags to be shown. He is aware that Rosberg is just 4.2s behind.

Ericsson is closing on Hulkenberg, the Force India driver clearly struggling.

"It's like last year," complains Hulkenberg, "it's not working at the back, no traction, no grip, nothing."

Meanwhile, Hamilton, 22.4s clear of Vettel, says he wants to turn his engine power down in order to save it. Groan.

Hamilton is assured that everything is fine when he asks if his front brakes are OK.

After 44 laps, with 9 to go, Hamilton leads Vettel by 22s with Rosberg only 2.8s behind. Massa is fourth, ahead of Bottas, Perez Raikkonen and the Hulkenberg/Ericsson battle.

Raikkonen closes to within 1.5s of Perez.

Further down the field, Alonso is all over the back of his teammate as they scrap for 15th.

"We need to pull a gap," Hamilton is told, "don't ask questions, we need to pull a gap." In the garage Toto Wolff looks extremely worried.

"We need some good lap times, some Hammer-times," the Briton is told, "don't ask questions, we'll tell you at the end."
Hamilton responds with some strong sector times, but the question remains, what is the problem?

"What do I need to do, I've not got a lot of pace in me" says Hamilton. "You're doing fine Lewis," comes the response.

As Raikkonen hounds Perez, Alonso drives into his garage to become the third retirement of the afternoon.

Raikkonen passes Perez at T1 but the Mexican fights back, albeit to no avail.

It's all over for Rosberg, a cloud of smoke and flames pour from the rear of the Mercedes as the German stops at the second chicane. The crowd cheers.

Meanwhile, Hamilton goes quickest in S1, his lead over Vettel now up to 25.3s.

"No need to take any risks," Hamilton is told, "just keep doing what you are doing." The Briton admits that he'd like to go a little slower.

Bottas is on the tail of his Williams teammate, but is unable to make use of the first DRS zone.

As Hamilton takes the flag, Bottas continues to harry his teammate, but is unable to pass the Brazilian.

Hamilton wins, ahead of Vettel, Massa, Bottas, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Ericsson and Kvyat.

Sainz is eleventh, ahead of Verstappen, Nasr, Button, Stevens and Merhi.

"OK Lewis, thanks for that, I'll explain everything when I see you."

"I have to say Bono, those last few laps were not cool," replies Hamilton.

"OK, talk mode zero," comes the response. Bernie couldn't have put it better himself.

As Vettel is told to enjoy the podium, Massa admits: "My god, I'm too old for that, too old."

Unless his task was to bring the title fight to an early conclusion, hence Rosberg's late detonation, at first Turk didn't appear to have had a hand in things after all today, and then came the news that Mercedes had been called before the stewards over an irregularity involving the tyre pressures on both its cars.

For a couple of hours, Lewis and his team were made to sweat, before the stewards finally decided that no further action was necessary and the result stood.

You almost had us going there Turk, you old devil.

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Published: 06/09/2015
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