Hamilton goes wire-to-wire for third Italian Grand Prix victory

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Lewis Hamilton extended his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship to 53 points by winning Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza in emphatic fashion.

After scoring his 11th pole position of the season on Saturday, Hamilton went lights-to-flag at Monza to lead home Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 25 seconds.

Mercedes’ weekend was far from perfect, though, as championship contender Nico Rosberg suffered an engine failure with three laps remaining, resigning the German to his first retirement of the 2015 season.

At the start of the race, Kimi Raikkonen bogged down in first gear from second place to fall to the very back of the pack as the rest of the field streamed past. Hamilton managed to defend his lead from Vettel before opening up a gap over the first few laps, whilst Rosberg dropped down to P6 to leave himself with a mountain to climb.

Raikkonen began his fightback in the laps that would follow, rising into the top ten after five laps thanks to clean moves on the Red Bull and McLaren drivers. He also gained positions when the two Lotus drivers retired after just one lap, bringing an early end to a difficult weekend for the British team.

At the front, Hamilton began to open up a gap to Vettel behind as Rosberg bid to make up for his poor start. The German driver made a good move to pass Sergio Perez for fifth place before latching onto the back of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. However, he was told to be careful with his brakes due to excessive wear, causing him to drop back again.

Rosberg was forced into pitted early on lap 18 in the bid to get the undercut on the Williams drivers ahead, moving onto the medium tire that would last him to the end of the race. Before stopping, the German driver had already fallen over 20 seconds behind Hamilton at the front, who in turn was over 12 seconds clear of the field.

The undercut worked well for Rosberg as he got the jump on Felipe Massa, who had been running P3 before stopping. Williams opted to keep Bottas out for a few more laps before stopping, leaving the Finn to come out behind Rosberg and Massa.

Hamilton was the last of the leaders to pit on lap 26, moving onto the medium compound tire. Vettel had pitted just one lap earlier, but remain some 18 seconds behind in second place after the pit cycle, giving Hamilton plenty of breathing room up front.

Rosberg’s fightback continued at the expense of Raikkonen, who had worked his way up to third place with a long first stint. His starting tires were beginning to fade, though, allowing Rosberg to take P3 before Ferrari brought the Finn in for his solitary pit stop at the end of lap 28. He emerged back out on track in P10 behind Marcus Ericsson, having narrowly avoided being hit by Roberto Merhi at pit entry.

As Hamilton’s lead rose to over 20 seconds at the front, Mercedes turned attention to Rosberg in third place in a bid to score another one-two finish. The German driver ran five seconds behind Vettel after both had pitted, but with his tires some seven laps older, it would be a big challenge for Rosberg to leapfrog his compatriot in the second half of the race.

Further back, Raikkonen continued his charge by passing both Ericsson and Nico Hulkenberg soon after pitting, moving himself up into seventh place with 15 laps remaining. In the battle to make the points, Daniel Ricciardo’s long first stint had launched him up into tenth position, giving Red Bull some solace after a trying weekend.

With three laps remaining, the championship race took a huge twist as Rosberg’s engine began to exude smoke before eventually failing at the Roggia chicane, forcing him to pull over and retire from the race.

At the head of the field though, Hamilton was given a late scare when Mercedes told him to pull out a gap at the front of the field and push hard, telling him that they would explain after the race. He managed to remain in the lead until the flag, completing a lights-to-flag victory.

Some 25 seconds later, Vettel crossed the line in second after coming under heavy pressure from Rosberg in the closing stages. Traffic had caused trouble for both drivers, but it was Vettel who managed to stay ahead and give the loyal Ferrari fans at Monza something to cheer for.

Lucking in from Rosberg’s failure was Felipe Massa, who crossed the line just three-tenths of a second clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas to finish third for Williams. Kimi Raikkonen’s fightback finished with him in P5 ahead of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, whilst Daniel Ricciardo finished eighth. Marcus Ericsson and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.

Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen fought well for Toro Rosso to finish 11th and 12th, whilst Felipe Nasr followed them home in 13th. Jenson Button finished P14 ahead of Manor drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi. Fernando Alonso retired from the race late on, ending a tough weekend for McLaren.

In the moments following the checkered flag, the stewards issued a statement calling for both Hamilton and Rosberg due to a supposed issue with their tire pressures before the start of the race, reasoning Mercedes’ call for Hamilton to push in the closing stages.

For the time being though, Hamilton remains the winner of the Italian Grand Prix, and now enjoys a 53-point lead over Rosberg in the drivers’ championship heading to the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

F1: Recapping the past week’s news

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Grosjean Three Penalty Points Away from a One-Race Ban

Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean could face a one-race ban if he accrues three more penalty points, per Formula1.com.

Grosjean, who had seven penalty points to his name entering last week’s Grand Prix of Singapore was assessed two more for ignoring blue flags in last week’s race.

Grosjean was in the midst of a battle with Sergey Sirotkin as race leaders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen approached. FIA rules dictate that when a driver is given a blue flag, he or she must move over and let the faster car(s) through, irrespective of any in-race battle they may be involved in.

However, Grosjean continued to push Sirotkin as they battled for position, and did not immediately yield to Hamilton, which allowed Verstappen to close in.

Hamilton and Verstappen both eventually got by, though Hamilton was particularly alarmed by the incident.

“These guys were moving around … and they wouldn’t let me by,” he said in the aforementioned Formula1.com story. “It was definitely close and my heart was in my mouth for a minute.”

Grosjean did issue an apology afterward, and offered his side of the story.

“I’m sorry if I blocked anyone, it was not my intention,” Grosjean said. “I believe I did my best. I was fighting with Sergey, who was doing a little bit of go-kart racing out there. I couldn’t really slow down. Pierre [Gasly] was on my gearbox and Sergey was on my front wing. I passed him, then as soon as I passed him, I let Lewis by.”

Any driver who accumulates 12 penalty points in a span of 12 months is automatically handed a one-race ban. For Grosjean, his current tally began on October 29, 2017, meaning if he receives three more between now and October 29, 2018, he will be forced to sit out one race.

F1 Signs Sponsorship For In-Play Betting

Per BBC Sport, Liberty Media, which owns Formula 1, has signed a sponsorship rights agreement with Interregional Sports Group to develop and manage in-race betting platforms for grands prix.

The sponsorship, worth a reported $100 million U.S. dollars, would help generate “new ways to engage with the sport,” said managing director Sean Bratches in the BBC Sport story.

Liberty and F1 officials would also work with Sportradar, which collects and analyzes sports data, to track betting and ensure no fraudulent activities take place.

Arrivabene Takes Responsibility for Ferrari Missteps

Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has said he accepts full responsibility for the miscues Ferrari has made during the 2018 Formula 1 season.

“The only mistake you see in front of you is me. I’m responsible for the team,” Arrivabene said in a piece posted on Crash.net.

He added, “When the result is not coming, it’s my responsibility. Not the responsibility of Sebastian (Vettel) or the engineer or the responsibility of the mechanics. It’s my responsibility.”

The statement, made on the Friday press conference prior to the Singapore Grand Prix, is especially poignant in the wake of a somewhat clumsy Italian Grand Prix. The team faced criticism after Kimi Raikkonen scored the pole, ahead of the championship-contending Vettel.

Vettel, too, has not been infallible. Most notably, he had contact with Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap of the French Grand Prix, spinning Bottas and damaging Vettel’s front wing – Vettel eventually finished fifth – and he crashed while leading the German Grand Prix. These incidents are among multiple black marks that have blighted Vettel’s championship challenge.

However, despite the errors, Vettel remains unshaken ahead of the final six races of 2018.

“We don’t have to fear any track that is coming, our car is working well in every track, so there’s nothing to fear until the end of the season. Russia should suit our car, it’s getting better for us every year,” Vettel said in a separate Crash.net piece.

He added, “There are still a lot of races to go and points to score. I never believed we have the faster car by a large margin like people said, but I know we have a very good car.”

Currently, Vettel trails Hamilton by 40 points in the driver’s championship, while Ferrari trails Mercedes by 37 points in the constructor’s championship.

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