L&T Motorsport

Hamilton storms into Championship lead at Monza

The Tifosi’s dreams of a Ferrari victory on home turf at Monza were crushed on Sunday afternoon, as Mercedes dominated the Italian GP, with Lewis Hamilton leading home Valtteri Bottas for a 1-2 finish. Crucially, the result gives Hamilton the lead of the championship for the first time in 2017, with former leader Sebastian Vettel back in 3rd for Ferrari.

The race itself was something of a non-event, with a fairly dramatic first lap being followed by a lacklustre race as the leading Mercedes cars drove off into the distance. At the first corner, Esteban Ocon, starting from 3rd, moved around the outside of Lance Stroll’s Williams, who was starting from a career-best 2nd on the grid. Further back, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas battled over 4th, with the Ferrari man – who this week extended his Scuderia contract for a further year – initially getting the upper hand, but the power of Bottas’ Mercedes was too much for Raikkonen as they headed down into Turn 1 on Lap 2. From then on the two Finns would have contrasting races – Bottas would breeze past Stroll and then Ocon in the early stages of the race before finishing a comfortable 2nd behind a dominant Hamilton. Raikkonen, on the other hand, would struggle for pace, losing 5th to teammate Vettel, before failing to get past Ocon and Stroll until the first round of stops had been completed. As for Vettel, he would make light work of Stroll and Ocon to move into 3rd, but failed to make any real inroads into the lead of the Mercedes cars and would finish over half a minute down in 3rd place, a result which turn his 7 point advantage in the title battle with Hamilton into a 3 point deficit – the first time Vettel has not lead the Championship at any point in 2017.

The only real action of the race came further back in the pack, and most notably from the Red Bull cars. Despite qualifying in 2nd and 3rd on Saturday, the Red Bull cars started near the back of the grid as a result of various engine penalties for both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen – this was a fate that seven other drivers would suffer, leading to a confused and mixed up grid. Perhaps the best example of the madness was Kevin Magnussen’s grid position; despite being eliminated in Q1, the Danish driver started 9th. The Red Bulls, on pace this weekend, made quick progress through the field. Verstappen quickly made his way upto 8th in the race, but a collision with Felipe Massa for 7th at the first chicane left the Dutch driver with a broken front wing and a puncture, dropping Verstappen to last. A recovery drive would see Verstappen finish 10th, but a solitary point was ittle consolation for Max, who has retired from 6 other races in 2017. Ricciardo, meanwhile, drove a fantastic race en route to 4th, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with a fantastic overtake on the Finn following his pitstop at the first chicane becoming the highlight of the race.

Further down the field, it was a frustrating day for McLaren, whose Honda engines were woeful on the long straights of Monza. Both Vandoorne and Alonso would retire during the race with reliability issues, which would be an apt way for McLaren to lead up to their announcement that they will be using Renault engines for 2018, which is rumoured to be coming in the coming days. Before Alonso retired, however, there was time for the Spaniard to vent his frustrations at Renault’s Jolyon Palmer – who also retired from reliability woes as he continues to fail to score in 2017 – following Palmer cutting the chicane whilst battling further down the order. Palmer would receive a 5 second penalty for his manoeuvre, but Alonso, clearly frustrated, felt that it was not enough, and upon hearing that Palmer had retired from the race, he commented that he felt that ‘Karma’ was done over the team radio.

The day, and the weekend, however, belonged to Mercedes and Hamilton, who now control both the Driver’s and Manufacturer’s Championships as the European season draws to a close, and the flyaway races begin, with a trip to Singapore in two weeks’ time.

 

Levi Reilly

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