Hamilton wins Italian Grand Prix


Over the last 24-hours, much has been made of the fact that Kimi Raikkonen's 163.7 mph pole-winning lap was the fastest ever lap by a Formula One car since Juan Pablo Montoya's 162.9 mph lap during qualifying at the same track back in 2004.

Ignoring the various claims and whether they refer to official lap records - i.e. those posted during a race under race conditions - qualifying, practice or testing laps, Kimi's was an astounding achievement.

However, at a time F1 aerodynamics have never been more state-of-the art, even more so that those found on Montoya's 2004 Williams, think of the courage and sheer cast-iron balls required by Keke Rosberg at Silverstone in 1985, or those records set by the likes of Pedro Rodriguez back in the very early 70s, when cars were kept on the ground by prayer and blind faith as opposed to wings.

It's right that Kimi's lap was historic, for Monza is a circuit steeped in the stuff. Long before the Formula One World Championship came into existence, many of motorsport's finest raced here... and sadly, all too often perished here.

At a time the accidents involving Sauber drivers Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson have caused many to have an epiphany in terms of the Halo, how ironic that the Swede was able to walk away from a crash as violent and horrendous as that witnessed on Friday, when far more innocuous incidents at this track have led to the deaths of drivers, marshals and spectators.

While the banking - with which the editor of this site has close ties - receives much of the attention when one talks about the history of Monza, though the track and its facilities have been updated like so many of the other 'old' tracks that remain on the calendar, much of the old infrastructure remains in place.

Walk a few yards back from the side of the track and in moments you'll feel that you have travelled back in time.

Do this in the very early morning as the dew drips from the majestic oaks, or the early evening as the sun begins to set, as the breeze rustles through the leaves you can feel it, you can hear it. Monza oozes history.

Whether Kimi or Seb will give the Tifosi a historic win today remains to be seen, however, if, as Nigel Mansell always claimed, the fans are worth a second a lap, the passion of the Tifosi should see the Ferraris lapping the Mercedes by the end of the fourth lap.

As for Kimi, well, if - as according to some - the Finn is now a 'journeyman', that was some performance yesterday, the Finn spoiling the part not only for Lewis Hamilton but his own teammate, who was convinced he'd done enough.

Much as a win for Vettel would spice up the championship, a win for Raikkonen would spice up the sport. Despite the lack of words, The Iceman has always spoken with his driving, and after a couple of unconvincing seasons he appears to have finally found his voice again.

While this could well be the fastest Grand Prix ever, it should also be the least demanding, the Italian Grand Prix rarely matching fellow events in terms of mechanical attrition.

That said, as witnessed on Friday, it is a circuit that punishes, and punishes hard should you fail to respect it. Overenthusiasm and recklessness will cost you dear here.

Like so many other tracks, getting to and through the first corner is vital, and as the cars jostle for position on the opening lap(s) there is the added aspect of slipstreaming.

As we have said so many times before, the race cannot be won at the first corner but it can certainly be lost there. Also, at Monza, while there is the first chicane to worry about, so too the second chicane has seen many drivers come to grief on the opening lap(s).

While we would like to see Raikkonen win today, we are making no predictions, other than to say we want a safe race.

Clearly Ferrari has the edge, but Lewis Hamilton's dogged performance yesterday - the mark of a world champion - is proof that the Briton has no intention of rolling over.

Amidst talk of Valtteri Bottas assuming a 'wingman' role, this is the circuit where Mercedes might have to make the call, though Ferrari might need to follow suit.

As it stands, Max Verstappen will finish fifth, while Daniel Ricciardo's progress from 19th on the grid should be entertaining, especially on a circuit which rewards bravery.

As for 'best of the rest' you might as well pick the names out of a hat, as a glimpse at the grid proves... Stroll starting 10th, Perez 14th and Magnussen just ahead of Alonso?

As a youngster, having seen the film Grand Prix, the editor was given a copy of the record (album) 'The Exciting Sounds of Grand Prix' released at the same time as the movie.

The album featured the on-board sounds of cars as they raced around a number of tracks including Monaco, Brands Hatch, Spa and Monza.

This was the Monza of 1966, before the chicanes, and as he listened to the on-board sound of Mike Parkes Ferrari at Monza, said editor would trace his finger along the black outline of the track on the back of the record cover.

Even back then it was a magical moment at a magical track. So, sit back, make allowances for the fact that you're not hearing the glorious V12 but the Hybrid V6 and enjoy every moment.

As it happens, 1966 saw a 1-2 for Ferrari, with Ludovico Scarfiotti taking his sole Grand Prix win - and what a place to do it - ahead of Parkes. In 1988, Gerhard Berger led another 1-2, while ten years later it was Michael Schumacher's turn.

In terms of strategy, according to Pirelli, the best option is a one-stopper. Start on supersofts for 20-30 laps then one stint on softs to the flag. Second-quickest strategy is also a one-stopper. Start on softs for 25 to 35 laps, then supersofts to the end. There's an alternative strategy too, especially in case temperatures are much warmer for the race and there's blistering on the supersofts. Start on supersofts for 15-20 laps then mediums to the flag.

The pitlane opens and the drivers head out... their cars 'parked', they head to the front of the grid for an emotive rendition of the national anthem, which features the traditional Air Force fly-past as it reaches its crescendo... red, white and green smoke streaks the sky.

Ahead of the warm-up lap, the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30 degrees.

"There may be one or two light spots," Bottas is warned, "but we're not expecting any rain." Hamilton is given a similar message.

They head off on the warm-up lap, all getting away cleanly.

All on supers bar Magnussen, Leclerc, Ericsson and Ricciardo who are on softs.

The grid forms... Piero Ferrari looks on, slightly nervously.

They're away. SA good start for Raikkonen who moves across to cover his teammate, while Hamilton slots in behind Vettel. As they head towards T1, Vettel pulls out to the left of the leading Ferrari while Hamilton goes to the right.

A big lock-up for Raikkonen but he holds the lead as Vettel holds off Hamilton. Further back there is a clash as smoke and a piece of debris fills the air. Magnussen is forced wide and has to head across the grass.

Approaching the second chicane, Vettel and Hamilton are side-by-side, the German has the inside for the first part but the Mercedes driver will be on the inside for the second. They touch, Vettel spins and loses a chunk of his front wing. "Where did he want to go," asks Vettel as he drops to down the order.

In his efforts to get going again, Vettel performs a donut to get him pointing in the right direction, but they are not the celebratory kind the Tifosi was hoping for this afternoon.

The safety car is deployed. "Vettel hit me," claims Hamilton. The Briton is told he has no damage.

At the end of the first lap, Vettel pits for a new nose and soft tyres, as Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Ericsson also pit. The Ferrari driver has dropped to 18th.

Hartley's race is already over, the Kiwi having been involved in an incident, having been hit by Vandoorne on one side and a Sauber on the other.

The Vettel/Hamilton clash is under investigation.

Behind the safety car, after 2 laps, it's: Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Grosjean, Sainz, Ocon, Stroll, Sirotkin and Alonso.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monza, here.

At the re-start, Hamilton nails Raikkonen on the run to T1, but the Finn fights back and retakes the position at the second chicane. In moments the grins of joy in the Mercedes garage have become frowns of frustration.

Next time around Hamilton keeps a respectful distance, aware that Raikkonen is up for the fight. With Vettel down in 16th, the Briton doesn't need to take any unnecessary risks.

Out front, Raikkonen posts a new fastest lap (24.871) as he builds a 0.745s lead.

No further action re the Vettel/Hamilton clash.

Vettel pursues Hulkenberg, with Ricciardo next up as the Ferrari driver's fight-back continues.

Alonso shuts the door on Perez, while Magnussen has dropped to last having pitted.

Vettel is told his front brakes are a bit warm and he need to cool them. "I can see it," he replies.

With Vettel right behind, Ricciardo makes a move on Gasly at the second chicane, the touching lightly causing the Red Bull to run wide.

Vettel nails Ricciardo on the pit straight, as Alonso passes Gasly for 11th.

Vettel slices past Leclerc to take 13th, Gasly the next target.

0.631s down on the leader, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (24.349).

Vettel passes Gasly and sets off after Perez.

Alonso pits at the end of lap 9, but he's heading down the pitlane very slowly. "Same problem," he reports, "no power."

As Gasly and Ricciardo touch (again) at the first chicane, Hulkenberg sweeps by Leclerc for 14th.

Perez reports understeer and also feels he has damage to his car. The Mexican is locked in a furious battle with Sirotkin.

Stroll, currently 8th, goes quickest of all in S2 as her sets about closing the gap to his teammate.

Ricciardo is warned that he has picked up slight damage to his endplate after that clash with Gasly.

Ocon passes Sainz to take 6th, "good job," he is told, "now keep your head down".

Perez passes Stroll as Vettel closes in on the Williams.

Courtesy of the Ferrari's rear grunt, not to mention the tow from the Williams, Vettel passes Stroll for ninth, and sets about closing the 0.8s gap to Perez.

Vandoorne reports blistering on his right-rear tyre.

Vettel passes Perez at the first chicane but runs deep and the Mexican retakes the position.

Next time around Vettel gets it right, and passes Perez at the first chicane for 8th.

"Keep the information coming," Hamilton is told as he reports that his tyres are "still good".

From out of nowhere, Bottas makes a move on Verstappen, but both lock-up and the Dutchman keeps his position.

Sainz is next to fall to Vettel's charge, as the German moves up to 7th and sets about closing the 3.4s gap to Ocon.

At the end of lap 20, Raikkonen pits as Ferrari goes for the undercut. The Finn rejoins in 4th.

With the Mercedes crew in the pitlane also, Hamilton was clearly told to do the opposite of whatever the Finn did. Now leading, the Briton gets the call: "It's Hammer-time!"

The Mercedes crew head out again but Hamilton stays put and posts a new fastest lap (23.611) in the process.

"Hamilton stayed out, Kimi we need to push."

As Bottas attacks Verstappen, Hamilton is told: "Just one more lap". However, the Briton stays out for another lap.

"It's raining a little bit on the back of the circuit," reports Raikkonen as he posts a new fastest lap (23.535).

Grosjean pits from 5th as Vettel passes Ocon for 5th.

As if this wasn't enough there's more drama as Ricciardo's engine detonates. He parks by the side of the track. "I got smoke, I got smoke, I don't know what I did."

The resultant double waved yellows compromise Hamilton as well as Raikkonen.

Still Hamilton stays out... a safety car or VSC would play into his hands... however, neither are called for.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 26promoting Raikkonen to third and Vettel to fourth. The Dutchman rejoins in 6th.

Raikkonen closes in on Bottas, the two, of course, have history.

"Keep Kimi behind you," Bottas is told.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 28, the Briton locking up as he reaches his slot. He rejoins in third, around 5s down on Raikkonen. Bottas now has to back up his countryman.

As Raikkonen posts as new fastest lap (23.515), Verstappen passes Ocon at the first chicane for 5th.

Vettel pits again at the end of lap 29, the German taking on a set of supers. He rejoins in 10th.

As Raikkonen closes to within 0.8s of Bottas, Hamilton is setting a blistering pace just 3.6s behind. Indeed, the Briton posts a new fastest lap (22.497).

In the process of keeping the Ferrari at bay, Bottas posts a PB (23.847), as Vettel moves up to 8th after passing both Williams on successive laps.

"You're doing a really good job," Bottas is told, "you are pulling away from Verstappen."

And all the while Hamilton is closing in. "Raikkonen may have blistering," he is told.

As Raikkonen looks at the rear of the Mercedes, Hamilton closes in on the Ferrari.

"You are on the limit on that rear-left," Hamilton is told.

Vandoorne gets out of the way as the three leaders close in.

Having passed Sainz, Vettel is up to seventh.

After 35 laps, it's: Bottas, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ocon, Perez, Vettel, Sainz, Grosjean and Sirotkin.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 36, the Finn rejoining in 4th behind Verstappen.

Leading by 0.863s, Raikkonen is told there is a vibration in his rear tyres. "Try to keep them alive," he is told. He currently leads Hamilton, who also has issues, by 0.706s.

Lap 37 sees the two leaders post times just 0.001s apart.

Sirotkin pits at the end of lap 37, leaving Ocon, Perez and Sainz as the only drivers still to stop.

As Ocon pits, Vettel passes Perez at Ascari, which moves him up to 5th, 13s down on Bottas. Ocon rejoins in tenth.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monza, here.

Perez pits at the end of lap 39, as does Sainz, the Mexican rejoining in 8th and the Spaniard 9th.

Hulkenberg, who started last, is currently tenth.

As Hamilton stalks his prey, Bottas is just 0.884s down on Verstappen.

Verstappen is warned that according to Charlie Whiting he has used up his Joker at T1. "So be careful," he is told.

Bottas makes a move at the first chicane, as expected, but Verstappen slams the door well and truly shut.

"My tyres are falling off the cliff now," Reports Hulkenberg.

Bottas gets a helping hand from Verstappen at the first chicane and as a result has to wind his way through the maze. He touched me on the left wheel," claims the Red Bull driver. Possibly one for the stewards.

Indeed, the stewards are looking into it.

At the start of lap 45, Hamilton makes his move at the first chicane, and despite his best efforts there is nothing the Iceman can do.

As Hamilton is told "nice work", Verstappen is given a 5s time penalty, which should drop the Dutchman to 4th possibly even 5th..

"Kimi lost the lead at Turn 1," Vettel is told.

"For what? It's **** ****. I gave him space," replies Verstappen when told about the penalty. "They are doing a great job of killing racing, honestly," he adds.

In clear air, Hamilton build a 6.3s lead as Bottas appears to have second thoughts about a further move on Verstappen.

"I know I am losing time to Vettel but I really don't care," says Verstappen who refuses to give way to Bottas.

"Avoid the kerbs as much as possible," Raikkonen is told, "we see a vibration." Indeed, the Finn's left-rear looks really nasty.

Hamilton begins his final lap, the Briton now 9.2s clear of Raikkonen. With that time penalty, Bottas takes third and Hamilton fourth, ahead of Verstappen.

"Get in there Lewis, you are the man," Hamilton is told, "you knocked it out of the park."

"I know how happy you are guys, I know how hard you all work, I really appreciate it," the Briton replies. "Thank you for keeping believing in me."

"Disappointing, but nothing I could do," says Raikkonen.

As if to rub the Tifosi's noses in it, the Mercedes pair complete their slow-down lap side-by-side, not really a 1-2 but the message is clear.

A breathless, Hamilton says: "Firstly, I want to give it up (?) to Ferrari, who put up a great challenge this weekend. They did such an amazing job, and gave us a really great fight. Secondly, I want to say a huge 'thank you' to these guys and everyone back home. Without their support, without their continued efforts, this wouldn't be possible today.

"Also, here there were a lot of negatives, which there are when you're not the home team, but I can see so many British flags out there, they know who they are, they inspired me so much, that is what I was driving for. So, in future, the negative is only a positive thing for me, because I harness it and turn negative to positive. A big thank you to Valtteri also."

"I think we were quick enough," adds Raikkonen, "but our rear tyres went and it was a losing battle after that point. I tried, but it was impossible in the end. It's far from ideal but this is what we got. We did our maximum.

Asked about helping Vettel as the title fight continues, the Finn neatly sidesteps the question, insisting that "we tried", something about "rear tyres" and "we keep fighting".

"I was really trying to do everything I can to get to the podium," says Bottas. "But my mission was to hold up Kimi for a while.

"It was hard racing," he adds, "sometimes not as fair as I was hoping for, but he got a penalty so I'm on the podium.

"As a team we take this result," he adds, "we got more points than Ferrari in their home. They were quicker yesterday in the qualifying so we take it, but hopefully we can be better next time.

In the ante room, though clearly elated, few words are exchanged. Hamilton looks drained, but the Iceman is as cool as ever.

Beneath the podium, a 'Kimi for President' banner is waved... and why not.

As one would expect, Bottas walks out to boos... while Raikkonen is cheered to the rafters. A mixture of cheers and boos for Hamilton also.

The Champagne is sprayed, streamers are fired, smoke bombs are released, and as Felipe Massa steps out to interview Hamilton there is more booing, though not for the popular Brazilian.

Despite Hamilton's best efforts, even to the point of claiming that he "likes Italian food" for the most part he is drowned out.

In the days leading up to this race, it was clear that this was Ferrari's race to lose, and they lost it. Fact is, as we said at the beginning of this report, the race couldn't be won at the first corner, or the second. Vettel did not need to fight Hamilton so hard at the second chicane... he has the quickest car and the likelihood is that he would have won.

Indeed, looking back over the course of the season, be it Azerbaijan, France or Germany, the Ferrari driver has made too many needless mistakes. Indeed, but for the unsafe release in Bahrain and the engine issue in Spain, Raikkonen would have been right up there.

As in 2017, Monza could well prove to be the turning point this year.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monza, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 02/09/2018
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