Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas handed Ferrari an embarrassing lesson on its home turf at the Italian Grand Prix, finishing over half a minute clear of Sebastian Vettel to allow Hamilton to take the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings by three points.
It was a crushing result for the Scuderia and Vettel freely admitted that the red cars simply didn’t have the pace to fight the Silver Arrows, and it will hope to reverse the result when the grid next meets in Singapore where Ferrari is expected to be much stronger.
A rain-hit qualifying session created a topsy-turvy grid, and that was blown wide open when almost half the field was hit with grid penalties. That promoted Williams’ Lance Stroll and Force India’s Esteban Ocon lined up second and third on the grid behind Hamilton, who romped to a record-breaking 69th pole position.
In dry conditions on Sunday Mercedes would romp to a 1-2 finish ahead of Vettel, but there were plenty of other successes and failures as Majd Khalil writes…
Lewis Hamilton: He became the season’s first back-to-back race-winner, and he was finally able to claim the lead in the Driers’ Championship standings. Additionally, the Mercedes driver broke Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions. Statisticians might quibble that Schumacher actually claimed 69 poles thanks to being stripped of pole at Monaco in 2012 due to a grid penalty, but they might have forgotten Hamilton suffered the same fate at the preceding Spanish Grand Prix. In the race, Hamilton was his true self and led from lights to flag to secure a comfortable win with teammate Bottas in tow.
Valtteri Bottas: The Finn surprisingly disappointed in wet conditions, but moved up to fifth on the grid thanks to the grid penalties for the Red Bull Racing drivers. He came alive in the race, charging from the first lap and critically overtaking Kimi Räikkönen on the opening lap. That paved the way for the Finn to work his way ahead of Ocon and Stroll in the early laps.
Lance Stroll: The Canadian has transformed himself from a laughing stock to a potential rookie of the year in a matter of races and claimed another points’ finish with a faultless weekend. Having never had any material experience in wet-weather conditions in Formula 1, Stroll stunned in the rain to claim the fourth-fastest in qualifying which became a front-row start after the Red Bull Racing drivers were penalised. Perhaps his car was too set up for the wet conditions, which meant he struggled in the dry and fell down the order to finish only just ahead of teammate Felipe Massa.
Esteban Ocon: Another rookie to star in qualifying, the Frenchman started from third and felt he was a genuine contender for a maiden podium finish. It wasn’t quite to be as he was overhauled by quicker cars in the race, but he still claimed ‘best of the rest’ honours. Secretly we would love to have seen him to toe-to-toe with teammate Sergio Pérez after the pair’s fracas in Belgium…
Ferrari: Ferrari seemed to pick its home race to have its worst performance of the year. After pushing Mercedes all the way the week before in Spa-Francorchamps, Sebastian Vettel claimed Ferrari didn’t have a track to fear. Clearly Kimi Räikkönen hadn’t read the same memo – his car was an absolute handful all weekend, although he still outqualified the championship leader but once again was overshadowed by the German in race conditions. This is a pattern that the Finn needs to arrest and his inconsistent performances will almost certainly cost Ferrari a shot at denying Mercedes another Constructors’ Championship title.
Max Verstappen: There is a difference between charging through the field, and charging the field. Young Max seemed to have collided with everyone he passed, although the Massa touch that caused his puncture early in the race wasn’t his fault. Nonetheless, it was avoidable and he could have achieved far better than tenth when you compare him against teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s superb charge to fourth. It’s no surprise that Verstappen is frustrated and feeling the pressure after six DNFs in a messy season, but control is a fine tightrope to walk when you’re constantly playing catch-up.
Renault: Five of the six Renault-powered runners took engine grid penalties at a track where they weren’t expected to be competitive. It threw the grid wide open, but with Daniel Ricciardo charging from 16th to fourth and quickest through the speed trap, it suggests a podium finish was actually a realistic possibility. If its strategic call pays dividends in Singapore, then it will be worth it.
The Stewards: It was a poor look for race officials. They failed to give Max Verstappen a penalty for clearly forcing both Haas drivers off-track, and also turned a blind eye to Felipe Massa popping the Dutchman’s tyre with his poor lunge at the first chicane. Then they were too slow in handing a penalty (or redress instruction) to Jolyon Palmer in his battle with Fernando Alonso, despite the Spaniard’s vocal and frankly justified complaints.
McLaren Honda: Effffff….
Images via McLaren Honda, Red Bull Content Pool