Italian GP – Winners and Losers

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We look at the winners and losers of the Italian GP. It turned out to be a pulsating Italian Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton starting from third on the grid and winning the race. The battle for the race win between Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen was enthralling. Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, ended up fourth after a collision with Hamilton on the opening lap and lost further ground in the championship.

Italian GP – Winners and Losers

The Winners

Lewis Hamilton

The Briton scripted his sixth win of the 2018 Formula 1 season at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit and extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to 30-points over Sebastian Vettel. After the Belgian GP which Vettel won, it seemed like the Ferrari SF71H had an edge over the Mercedes W09 with the updates after the summer break.

Hamilton called on his Mercedes team to up its game, saying he can’t create miracles every weekend now that Ferrari has the faster car. In Monza, the dramatic qualification session saw Ferrari lockout the front row. The slight glimmer of hope for Hamilton was the fact that Raikkonen was on pole, not his title-rival Vettel. As has been his wont all season, Hamilton maximized the small opportunity he was afforded.

Starting third, he tucked in behind Raikkonen and Vettel initially. At the second chicane he used Vettel’s slipstream to draw level with him on the outside. Hamilton gave his rival enough room, but Vettel drifted to the right and hit Hamilton. The German was spun around and fell to the back of the field. With his title-rival now making his way from the back of the grid, Hamilton set about attacking Raikkonen for the race win.

In a duel that lasted lap after lap for 45 laps, Hamilton finally got ahead of the Finn to take the race lead. Hamilton crossed the line to take his 68th career win and a record-equalling fifth win at Monza in front of a sea of red-clad Ferrari fans. This must rank as one of his most satisfying wins.

Hamilton after his hard-fought victory in front of the partisan ‘Tifosi’ said: “I want to give it up to Ferrari who put up a great challenge and gave us a great fight. There’s been a lot of negativity but there were a lot of British flags out there today. They know who they are. In future, I only want to turn a negative to a positive. It is easy in the arena that we’re in, it is very, very easy to allow it to get to you, to allow it to have an impact on your life and think about it. But it is also quite easy to harness it and use it. That gave me so much motivation today I welcome it, they can continue to do that, it just empowers me.”

Kimi Raikkonen

The 38-year old Finn has not been re-signed for next season yet. There are persistent rumours that he is going to be replaced by Charles Leclerc in 2019. At the ‘temple of speed the ageing former world champion showed the adoring Ferrari fans that he was driving as well now as he was in his youth.

The pole-clinching lap in qualification saw him break Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2004 record for the fastest ever lap in F1 history (average lap time of 263.588 km/h). That blistering pole lap saw him outpace the younger Vettel and Hamilton duo, the two drivers who are fighting tooth and nail for the World Drivers’ Championship (WDC).

A good start saw Raikkonen leading the race at the end of lap 1. After the Safety Car restart, Hamilton passed him, only for the favour to be returned by Raikkonen. In front of the cheering Italian crowd, the Finn tenaciously held on to the lead despite an all-out attack by Hamilton.

After his first pitstop, Raikkonen had to deal with the Mercedes team game and had to fight hard to overtake Valtteri Bottas for the race lead. The time spent battling behind his fellow Finn damaged his soft tyres and let Hamilton close within DRS range. Though Raikkonen put up a valiant fight, he lost the lead to Hamilton to finish a very creditable second.

This is the ninth podium of the season and the 100th podium of his career. Without the three DNFs Raikkonen has suffered this season, for no fault of his own, he would have been part of the title race. The third position in the drivers’ championship (164 points) is his best performance since he returned to Ferrari for his second stint in 2014.

Mercedes

Arch-rival Ferrari seemed to have won the development race and edged ahead in performance recently. It looked like doom and gloom going into the Italian GP with Ferrari set to beat them on the high-speed circuit with their superior straight-line speed. After qualification, both Mercedes drivers were on the second row behind the Ferrari drivers. This seemed to confirm the fact that Ferrari has now moved ahead of the dominant team of the hybrid-era.

But with the help of their four-time world champion driver the team has fought against the odds and scored unlikely wins all season long. Yet again on the home turf of their rivals, Mercedes pulled off an Italian heist. The Silver Arrows played the team game to perfection as they used Bottas to help Hamilton get ahead of Raikkonen for the race win.

Mercedes had engineered an unlikely 1-3 finish in front of a partisan Italian crowd. This was the German team’s fifth straight win at Monza since the start of the hybrid-era in 2014. The team extended their constructors’ championship lead to 25-points over Ferrari. With tough tracks for them like Singapore coming up, the cushion in points will be helpful. It remains to be seen if they can outwit Ferrari in the seven races left and win both titles for the fifth consecutive time.

Racing Point Force India

This was a team that went into administration just before the summer break started. A consortium-led by Lawrence Stroll has bought the team which is now rebranded “Racing Point Force India”. The FIA announced that the team will start with zero constructors’ points but both the drivers, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, can keep their points in the drivers’ championship.

Rival teams like Haas F1 has objected to the team being able to keep the prize money as they are a new team. There have been rumours that the very talented Esteban Ocon will shortly be replaced by Lance Stroll from Williams, the son of the new owner. But even with the uncertainty surrounding this team, they continue to deliver great results.

In the two races as the newly rebranded outfit Racing Point Force India, the team has had two double-point finishes. The 32-points scored by the team in the two races in its new avatar is even better than the third-placed Red Bull team over the two races. The new team is already seventh in the constructors’ championship. The Silverstone-based team has once again shown what a valuable team they are for F1.

Williams

For the first time this season, the Grove-based team has made it to the winners list. After a wretched 2018 season so far, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin qualified a creditable 10th and 12th respectively. The pair finished ninth and 10th in the race and Williams had their first double-points race of the season. The team has had only three point scoring finishes this season.

Sirotkin with the lone point for finishing 10th opened his account in his F1 career. The Russian rookie has worked hard all season and deserves the result. It was achieved after Romain Grosjean (P6) was disqualified as the floor of his Haas car was deemed illegal.

There are dark rumours surrounding the future of this marquee team. With Stroll set to move to Force India, the money his father was paying the Williams team will almost surely dry up. How the team replaces the money and turns around its performance to secure its future is a big question mark.

The Losers

Sebastian Vettel

On Ferrari’s home territory, the Italian team looked set for their first victory in their home Grand Prix since 2010. Vettel had scored a dominant win at the previous race in Belgium. His rival Hamilton appeared disheartened and said Mercedes had to improve their performance to match Ferrari. The dry free practice sessions confirmed that the four-time world champion Vettel had the car to win the race.

The first stumble happened in qualification when a scruffy final flying lap saw him lose pole position to his teammate Raikkonen. Starting second behind Raikkonen and ahead of Hamilton was always going to be dicey. By turn 4 on lap 1, Vettel was spun around and faced the wrong way after a collision with Hamilton. The German pitted under the Safety Car for a change of front wing and new tyres. Though he essayed a great comeback drive to finish fourth, Vettel had conceded a further 13-points in the title race to Hamilton.

A race win in front of the adoring Ferrari fans seemed to be on the cards. But instead more questions about Vettel’s propensity for errors under pressure have arisen. The memories of the implosion of Vettel and Ferrari starting with the Singapore GP in 2017 have resurfaced. Vettel needs an error-free run going forward to win that fifth world championship.

Daniel Ricciardo

Another frustrating race for the ever-smiling Australian. The famous win at the Monaco GP and the talk about an outside chance of a title run seems a long time ago. Since then, Ricciardo has suffered 4 DNFs and 6 DNFs overall in the season. He has dropped to sixth in the drivers’ championship behind teammate Max Verstappen.

Ricciardo started 19th on the grid after grid penalties for new Power Unit elements that exceeded the allowed quota for the season. Some trademark overtakes followed. But it did not last long with a clutch issue forcing him to retire from the race. The Australian surprised the F1 world by signing a new contract to join Renault next season. Ricciardo can only hope the last seven races of his Red Bull Racing career will produce better results than recent races.

Ferrari

The Maranello-based team entered the summer break ten points behind Mercedes. In the first race after the summer break, Vettel won the race and beat Hamilton head-to-head in a straight fight. They came to their home race in Monza with full confidence that they could beat Mercedes at their home race for the first time in the hybrid-era.

The qualification went well and the team locked out the front row. The loyal Tifosi turned up in full strength in anticipation of a Ferrari 1-2. Instead, Vettel ended up at the back of the grid after lap 1. Ferrari pitted Raikkonen early and dropped him behind Bottas. Mercedes took full advantage of both their drivers versus the lone Ferrari driver in front to script a race win for Hamilton.

What seemed like a sure race win for the first time since 2010 at their home Grand Prix saw Ferrari lose more ground to Mercedes in both title races. With a car that performs well at all tracks and is slightly faster than the Mercedes W09, repeated errors might be harming the team’s chances of winning both titles. With new Ferrari chief Louis Camilleri replacing the late Sergio Marchionne at the helm of the team, the team needs to deliver better results and move forward.

Haas F1

Romain Grosjean finished sixth for his best result at Monza. The eight points helped Haas draw level with Renault in points and take fourth place in the constructors’ championship. Since the start of the season, the team was rated as being ‘the best of the rest’ behind the top 3 teams. But a mixture of team and driver errors had seen them lagging behind other midfield teams.

Finally, it looked like they had taken the fourth place they should be in. But a protest to the FIA by Renault about the legality of the floor of the car led to Grosjean being disqualified. The team was docked the eight points he scored which dropped them to fifth in the championship, ten-points behind Renault. The team protested the ruling, but it remains to be seen if the FIA will reverse the decision.

McLaren F1

The Woking-based team had another poor race. Fernando Alonso did not finish the race. Stoffel Vandoorne finished P12. This is the second non-scoring race after the summer break. McLaren has dropped to sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Zak brown, McLaren CEO, said:“I think other teams have developed at a faster pace than ourselves. It appears that we’ve gone backwards. I think everyone else has gone forwards but in Formula 1 if you’re not going forwards, you’re going backwards.”

A disgruntled and exasperated Alonso has decided to leave F1 and race elsewhere in 2019. Carlos Sainz is set to replace his fellow Spaniard for the 2019 season. Now McLaren has announced it will replace Vandoorne with the talented young Lando Norris in 2019. With a new driver pairing next year this once great team will hope that it can finally turn the corner.

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