The dream of a Ferrari 1-2 at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza disappeared by turn 3 on lap one when Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton made contact going into the Variante della Roggia chicane. Later, things got worse for Ferrari with Kimi Raikkonen becoming the meat in a silver arrows sandwich.
Polesitter Raikkonen made an excellent start, while Vettel tucked in behind, before getting alongside into the first Variante, only to back out of it. This compromised his exit from the chicane, which allowed Hamilton to get a run on him through Curva Grande to be alongside the Ferrari going into the second Variante and the two made contact as Hamilton squeezed and Vettel understeered wide. The net result, Vettel was tipped into a spin, dropping back to 18th, while Hamilton continued on unhindered.
This incident, coupled with STR’s Brendan Hartley and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson making contact off the line brought out the safety car, which helped Vettel as he could make a stop for running repairs and join the back of the snake. The restart produced some overtaking for the lead, not one, but two; Hamilton got a run on race leader, Raikkonen down the main straight to take the lead into the turn 1 chicane, only for Raikkonen to come back at him through the turn 3 sweeper to reclaim the lead into the turn 4 chicane.
It was a disappointing day for Daniel Ricciardo, who ground to a halt on lap 25 with smoke pouring out the back of his Red Bull, which we obviously thought was a power unit failure, but, it was later revealed that it was a clutch issue, not engine related. Which, I guess is some consolation, as the Aussie took the new C spec Renault power unit for the Italian Grand Prix while suffering a significant grid penalty, starting near the back. Daniel has not had much luck recently, retiring from four of the last six Grand Prix.
Vettel was making a great recovery drive after his clash with Hamilton on lap 1, the German making up 12 places, running in sixth place. Meanwhile, Mercedes duped Ferrari into pitting Raikkonen to cover a non-existent Mercedes stop, clearly, Mercedes came out into the pits to fool Ferrari into making a stop, and it worked a treat as the Ferrari driver came out behind Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas who had not stopped. Clearly, the plan was for Bottas to back Raikkonen into the clutches of Hamilton.
The Mercedes strategy worked perfectly, Bottas and his very wide Mercedes forced Raikkonen to take more life out of his soft tires than he would have liked, trying to pass his fellow Finn. Bottas stayed out for 16 extra laps before stopping for fresh rubber, allowing for Hamilton to pit on lap 29 and slot in behind Raikkonen, at one point, there were just 1 1/2 seconds between Bottas, Raikkonen, and Hamilton. By this time, Raikkonen was struggling with his blistered tires, succumbing to Hamilton’s pressure on lap 45.
Max Verstappen’s petulant side reared its ugly head again, after colliding with Bottas as the Finn attempted to pass the Dutchman. Verstappen clearly moved across on Bottas as the Finn was alongside, not giving Bottas enough space, the Finnish driver was on the white line delineating the track limits when the two banged wheels. Verstappen refused to acknowledge his mistake, to his own detriment, continuing to lose time by fighting Bottas, demoting him from 3rd to 5th after his 5 second time penalty.
HAAS’ Romain Grosjean, who took the chequered flag in sixth place was disqualified for running with an illegal floor, which promoted Sergey Sirotkin into the top 10, which meant a double points score for the struggling Williams F1 team, it’s only 9th and 10th, but for Williams, that must feel like a win, the British team had only scored two points from the first 13 races, both points scored by Canadian Lance Stroll.
Some talking points; the Mercedes dummy pit-stop, my understanding is that it is against the sporting regulations to be in the pit lane unless a pit stop is imminent. I’m no expert on the rules, but, I have heard that the rule is sufficiently vague to allow teams to fake a stop and not ‘technically’ be in breach of the rules. Mercedes have used this tactic a number of times, with zero accountability or punishment, so that either suggests that Mercedes is being given a pass or have managed to stay within the grey area.
Second thing, Mercedes use of Bottas, the clear #2 driver at Mercedes, being used to deliberately back the Ferrari into the clutches of Hamilton. It is against the rules to deliberately block an opponent, however, Bottas was going fast enough to not allow Raikkonen to pass, but slow enough to allow Hamilton to cruise up to the back of the Ferrari. I’m sure Ferrari fans will be livid with Mercedes actions, but it’s all within the rules and I’m sure that Ferrari would have done the same if the roles were reversed.
Finally, Verstappen, he really is his own worse enemy, to be clear, I don’t think he deliberately collided with Bottas, I think he misjudged the space. But, his attitude when the somewhat lenient 5 second time penalty was handed down was frankly, childlike, costing himself and Red Bull two valuable points. The sensible thing to do was to allow Bottas to pass, then hang onto the back of the Finn, trying to keep five seconds between himself and Vettel’s Ferrari, which would be very doable as Bottas was much faster.
This result allowed Briton, Hamilton to extend his lead to 30 points over Vettel, while Mercedes constructors title lead has been extended to 25 points, I really hope that Ferrari can bounce back and keep the fight alive and not fade away like they did during the 2017 season gifting Mercedes both titles.
Italian Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:16:54.484
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +8.705
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +14.066
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +16.151
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +18.208
|6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +57.761
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +58.678
8. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +78.140
9. Lance Stroll (Williams) +1 LAP
10. Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) +1 LAP