Rosberg capitalizes on Hamilton error for Italian GP victory

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In a display reminiscent of his early-season form, Nico Rosberg capitalized on an error from Mercedes teammate and Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton at the start before dominating Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza en route to his seventh victory of 2016.

Rosberg went relatively unchallenged through the 53-lap race, seeing off a charge by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the first corner before surging clear. He led all but one lap, falling to second briefly when pitting.

Hamilton was able to perfect his one-stop strategy despite his poor start to follow Rosberg home in second place, ensuring he retains the lead of the drivers’ championship heading into the flyaway rounds. The gap has, however, been whittled down to just two points.

The start saw Hamilton bog down after getting too much wheelspin, falling back to sixth place before the first chicane. Rosberg came under pressure from the super-soft shod Vettel, but kept his cool to take the lead. Raikkonen followed Vettel through ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo, while Max Verstappen dropped outside of the top 10.

The opening stages went by without too much drama, the exception being a clash between Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Nasr at the first chicane. Both drivers tried to continue, only to be forced to retire with damage. Nasr was hit with a 10-second time penalty for the incident, prompting Sauber to send him back out to serve it and avoid a penalty in Singapore.

Rosberg immediately set about creating a gap to the chasing pack as Hamilton began his fightback. The Briton eased past Ricciardo at the end of the first lap before closing up on the back of Bottas. The straight line speed of the Williams allowed Bottas to stay ahead at first, but Mercedes remained cool, reminding Hamilton that the cars ahead would suffer a tire drop-off shortly. Hamilton eventually slipped past Bottas on lap 11, moving up into fourth place, albeit now 11 seconds behind race leader Rosberg.

Bottas was the first of the leading drivers to pit, switching from super-softs to soft tires on lap 13. Ferrari followed suit with its drivers in the next three laps, releasing Hamilton up into second place. Mercedes may have enjoyed a one-two, but Rosberg sat almost 15 seconds clear – a significant buffer.

Despite a slow pit stop, Vettel was able to stay ahead of Raikkonen as the duo waited to see when Hamilton would pit. Mercedes’ pit wall kept a close eye on his tire life as he began to eat into Rosberg’s lead by a few tenths each lap, the plan being to emerge from the pits ahead of the Ferrari pair so as to avoid any further hold-ups.

Rosberg came in for his one and only pit stop at the end of lap 24, switching from soft to medium tires. Hamilton mirrored his move one lap later, coming out behind both Ferraris. Despite not having the clean air in which to try and catch Rosberg, Hamilton knew that Vettel and Raikkonen would have to stop once again, making second place his for the taking.

Vettel came in for his final pit stop at the end of lap 33, moving onto the soft tires that would take him to the checkered flag. Once Raikkonen had pitted one lap later, Hamilton once again sat second, the gap to Rosberg standing at 11 seconds.

Hamilton and Rosberg’s pace was fairly even through the second stint of the race, only for another mistake from Hamilton – this time cutting the first chicane after locking up – cost him yet more time.

However, the damage had already been done. Rosberg was able to keep cool through the medium stint, eventually crossing the line 15 seconds clear to record his first Italian Grand Prix victory.

The result ended a barren run of form for Rosberg at Monza, the track being the site of two significant blows to his title bids in 2014 and 2015, as well as drawing him to within two points of the championship lead.

Hamilton was left to settle for second place, his one-stop strategy allowing him to comfortably finish clear of Vettel in third place. While the tens of thousands of Ferrari fans packed into the Monza may have dreamed of seeing the Scuderia ascend to the top step of the podium, third place was nevertheless a solid result given Red Bull’s recent rise.

With Raikkonen following Vettel home in fourth, Ferrari was able to close up on Red Bull in the constructors’ championship once again. Ricciardo was Red Bull’s lead driver in P5, making an alternative strategy work to pass Bottas late on. The Williams driver had chewed through his middle-stint softs too quickly, leaving him sixth at the flag.

Max Verstappen recovered from a dreadful start to come home in seventh place ahead of Sergio Perez, while Felipe Massa was ninth. Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 for Force India as it slipped back down to fifth place in the constructors’ behind Williams.

Haas narrowly missed out on its first points finish since Austria as Romain Grosjean’s bold one-stop strategy brought him home in P11. Esteban Gutierrez’s charge to Q3 went to nothing after a dreadful start before eventually finishing 13th.

Jenson Button was McLaren’s lead driver in 12th after passing teammate Fernando Alonso late on. McLaren opted to pit Alonso with two laps to go, giving the Spaniard the chance to record the fastest lap of the race and finish 14th.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished 15th for Toro Rosso as teammate Daniil Kvyat retired, while Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen were P16 and P17 for Sauber and Renault.

Esteban Ocon was Manor’s sole finisher at Monza, crossing the line 18th. Teammate Pascal Wehrlein had made a rocket start and moved up into the points through the pit stops, but was told to park his car up just past half distance due to an issue.

Formula 1 returns in two weeks’ time with the Singapore Grand Prix.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”