FER­RARI FAIL ON HOME TURF

De­spite Seb’s valiant ef­forts, it was Lewis who took both vic­tory and the cham­pi­onship lead at Monza

F1 Racing (UK) - - RACE DEBRIEF -

This was a bit­ter blow for Fer­rari. At their home race, in their 70th an­niver­sary year, they were well and truly beaten at Monza. And to cap it all, in this tight world cham­pi­onship con­test, Lewis Hamil­ton wres­tled away the points lead from Se­bas­tian Vettel for the first time this sea­son.

On the very first lap, Hamil­ton had driven off into the dis­tance. He stayed there and was swiftly joined by his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, to se­cure an em­phatic one-two for Mercedes.

Stand­ing on the podium over­look­ing the sea of Fer­rari fans and flags af­ter­wards, Hamil­ton was all too aware of what he’d achieved in his ri­vals’ back­yard, but he cer­tainly didn’t mind too much when he was booed by the par­ti­san crowd. “I’m happy to play the vil­lain,” he said, smil­ing. QUAL­I­FY­ING When Hamil­ton crossed the fin­ish line to set a new all-time record with his 69th pole po­si­tion, he punched the air with de­light. He was thrilled af­ter putting in a bril­liant lap at the end of the ses­sion, in un­sea­son­ably wet con­di­tions, a full 1.148 sec­onds from his near­est com­peti­tor, Max Ver­stap­pen, and 2.279s ahead of Bottas.

There had al­ready been a lengthy stop­page of two-and-a-half hours dur­ing the Satur­day af­ter­noon ses­sion as heavy rain drenched the royal park. It had been wet all morn­ing and de­spite qual­i­fy­ing getting un­der way as nor­mal at 2pm, just five min­utes into the ses­sion it was red-flagged when Ro­main Gros­jean crashed his Haas on the start/fin­ish straight.

Mo­ments be­fore, Gros­jean had been on the ra­dio to his en­gi­neer, com­plain­ing about the atro­cious con­di­tions: “I can’t see where I’m going, it’s too dan­ger­ous!” he ex­claimed.

Then the long wait be­gan. More rain fell, then hopes rose as it started to ease – only for it to fall even more heav­ily. The or­gan­is­ers had no choice but to de­lay pro­ceed­ings un­til the weather cleared.

Fi­nally, we got un­der way again at 4.40pm, but en­ter­ing Q3, the rain once again started to in­ten­sify. That didn’t trou­ble the fear­less youngsters, as first Max Ver­stap­pen, then Este­ban Ocon be­gan set­ting the pace and they were joined in the mix by Wil­liams’ Lance Stroll. But the chance of hav­ing a shock pole-set­ter was dashed by Lewis Hamil­ton. In a per­for­mance that Mercedes tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor James Al­li­son de­scribed as “im­pe­ri­ous”, Hamil­ton de­stroyed the op­po­si­tion with his fi­nal run. It was a lap that de­served to break Michael Schu­macher’s all-time pole record.

RACE As the pack charged to­wards the Ret­ti­filo, Hamil­ton neatly edged ahead of Lance Stroll’s Wil­liams and com­fort­ably rounded the first cor­ner in the lead. Within four laps he was ac­com­pa­nied by Bottas, who had also made light work of passing Räikkönen, Stroll and Ocon. But he wasn’t the only driver on the move.

The Red Bulls looked mighty in the wet on Satur­day, but were thwarted by their lowly start­ing po­si­tions. Ver­stap­pen (who orig­i­nally qual­i­fied P2) started 13th, while Ric­cia­rdo, who was third on Satur­day, started 16th ow­ing to grid penal­ties.

On the third lap, Ver­stap­pen, who had al­ready made up five po­si­tions, chal­lenged Wil­liams’ Felipe Massa for sev­enth place. As the pair rounded the Ret­ti­filo chi­cane to­gether, they made contact – the right front of Max’s RBR strik­ing the Wil­liams. The re­sult was a punc­ture and Ver­stap­pen sank to the tail of the field as he pit­ted for fresh rub­ber.

Red Bull team boss Chris­tian Horner rued Ver­stap­pen’s bad luck and sug­gested that if he hadn’t had the prob­lem, he would have se­cured a podium fin­ish. As it was, he fin­ished P10.

“HORNER

BE­LIEVED RED BULL WERE THE SEC­OND QUICK­EST IN THE RACE, BUT CON­CEDED MERCEDES WERE ‘IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN’

“It’s a racer’s in­stinct to make as much progress as pos­si­ble,” said Horner. “And he was un­lucky as the punc­ture ef­fec­tively de­stroyed his race. Still it’s race 13, he was 13th on the grid, sit­ting in the RB13. So if you be­lieve in su­per­sti­tion… I’m just happy he didn’t fin­ish 13th.”

The star of the race, though, was his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ric­cia­rdo. He made slight contact with Gros­jean’s front wing at the first chi­cane on the opening lap, but from there ran a clean, trou­ble-free race. He picked off a car on each lap to rise from 16th to P9 by lap 7. He then made up an­other four places be­tween laps 16 and 21 as the su­per­soft run­ners ahead of him pit­ted. When it came to mak­ing his own stop – the third­fastest at 2.2s – Ric­cia­rdo was in a net fifth place.

Af­ter over­tak­ing both Kevin Mag­nussen and Ser­gio Pérez into Vari­ante della Rog­gia, Ric­cia­rdo’s best pass came on lap 40. He braked late and deep into the Turn 1 chi­cane to pinch P4 from Kimi Räikkönen. Next in his sights was the sec­ond Fer­rari and since he was on the softer tyre, he be­gan lap­ping a sec­ond quicker than Vettel ahead of him. With five laps to go he was just 5.8s be­hind, but the chase was in vain. Vettel held on to third.

Horner be­lieved Red Bull were the sec­ond quick­est in the race, but con­ceded Mercedes were “in a class of their own.” It had looked easy, but Sin­ga­pore is next, a track where Mercedes tend to strug­gle. This ti­tle bat­tle will con­tinue to ebb and flow, but Fer­rari will come back fight­ing.

Top: Hamil­ton con­verts his 69th pole into the lead at Turn 1. Far left: Ver­stap­pen suf­fers a punc­ture on lap 3. By lap 5, Bottas has edged ahead to P2 to fol­low his team-mate Ric­cia­rdo over­takes Räikkönen for fourth place with an im­pres­sive late-brak­ing ma­noeu­vre at Turn 1

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