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 Rettilo, 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 briey 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 Rettilo 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 benet 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 conicted: here was a long­time Fer­rari loy­al­ist scor­ing points that would de­mote the trou­bled Scud­e­ria

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