Rosberg goes off-pista
A rare slip from Nico passes the advantage back over to Lewis Hamilton at
Never before has Lewis Hamilton been so popular with the unashamedly partisan crowd at Monza; nor, indeed, have those fans who gather each year beneath the whispering trees of la pista magica greeted so warmly any misfortune that befell those who stood against him. Here, at Formula 1’s temple of speed, the fastest man won, conjuring an against-the-odds win not through strategic chicanery but by surefootedly applying pedal to metal.
Drama attends pivotal moments of Hamilton’s career like a Greek chorus, and here he was nearly undone on the grid by a software glitch that undid his hard-earned pole position. As the lights went out, Rosberg’s W05 Hybrid sprang smartly away from the line, effortlessly outpacing Hamilton, who was caught in a stuttering mess of wheelspin as his ‘race start’ mode failed. One row behind, Valtteri Bottas also went backwards, shedding eight places before turning in to the Rettilo, while Spa winner and stealth title contender Daniel Ricciardo compounded a slightly disappointing qualifying – by his standards – by dropping from ninth to 12th.
In the top-ten shuffle Kevin Magnussen briey elevated his McLaren to second place, but the MP4-29 proved disappointingly easy meat in a straight line: both Felipe Massa and Hamilton breezed past on the run out of the Curva Grande on lap ve with no DRS assistance. Five laps on, Hamilton edged past Massa under braking for the Rettilo to roars of approval from the crowd, who, just moments earlier, had been equally voluble in their approval of race leader Rosberg running straight on and having to thread his way through the polystyrene hoardings.
“Do not,” cautioned Rosberg over the team radio, “tell me the gap.”
Hamilton’s recalcitrant control software gave him a slow exit from his pitstop but he was soon on the attack again. The feeling in the number 44 cockpit is best summed up by Hamilton’s response to a proposal from the pitwall to “hang back”, gain the benet of the tow without losing downforce, save his tyres to the end and attack then: he set his fastest lap of the race – the fastest lap of the race – and put his rival under the cosh. There would be no repeat of Spa: Rosberg cracked, and, soundtracked once again by the crowd’s delight, ploughed straight on at the rst chicane as Hamilton slotted neatly through and sprinted clear. Job done.
All other things being equal, at a powerdominated track such as Monza the most powerful engines ought to dominate. Thus, behind the two ‘works’ Mercedes, Massa quietly plugged away in clear air to a podium nish for Williams that would leave the tifosi conicted: here was a longtime Ferrari loyalist scoring points that would demote the troubled Scuderia