DAMS racer Norman Nato took his second Formula Renault 3.5 Series victory of the season at the Hungaroring today.
In an assured and confident fashion, Nato held a charging Roberto Merhi home for the duration, with Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly less than three seconds down the road.
It was Nato’s first top result since taking the chequered flag first at Monte Carlo in May – a result reflected in both the joy and relief of his post-race celebrations with his crew in Parc Fermé.
In one sense, Nato made a wonderful start from 3rd on the grid, but in another way he made the most of the conditions, with the Frenchman launching between front row pairing Merhi and Carlos Sainz Jr.
This was also the first dry start of the weekend and while Sainz Jr’s side of the grid was not wet, the conditions were far from optimum. Signs of growing pressure may also beginning to tell on the championship leader.
Out front, the Cannes-born Nato drew ahead of Merhi, whose start, while good, was no match for the Nato juggernaut, ensuring the Spaniard could do no better than slip into 2nd place as turn one unraveled.
Almost as the race had started, it was neutralised again following a clash between Oscar Tunjo, Will Buller, Sergey Sirotkin and Nicholas Latifi which brought out the safety car.
As the quartet filtered into the first corner, Latifi was squeezed between Buller and Sirotkin, which in turn pushed Buller into Tunjo, turning the Colombian over onto his lid. Both Sirotkin and Buller were damaged in the collision, causing both to retire, while Latifi recovered to drive around at the rear of the field.
Nato immediately forged a gap of one second after the lap seven restart, only for Merhi to close back to within half-a-second as the pitstops began in earnest. With Merhi stopping on lap ten, Nato reacted immediately, emerging just ahead of the Zeta Corse driver as strategies filtered out.
Thereafter Merhi continued to push, but Nato was back in his Monte Carlo prime – on this occasion, there was no chance for Merhi to force a way by his French rival. Nato was able to build a gap of two seconds to Merhi as the final tours elapsed, but let this elapse somewhat on the final lap as he cruised to the chequered flag.
For Merhi, the runner-up position remained a positive one, as he closes to with 16 points of championship leader Sainz Jr with only four races remaining.
Gasly drew to within three seconds of the lead, but was realistically not looking at the top two positions. It did mark a solid improvement for the Red Bull man, who was 6th following the opening lap, having started on the fourth row.
Stopping almost straight away proved to be pivotal, as it allowed Gasly to jump Oliver Rowland and Meindert van Buuren; however the big move was when Gasly took Sainz Jr when the Spaniard made a mistake into the first turn on lap nine. Thereafter Gasly drove away from Rowland, securing his sixth podium of the season, bringing to a clear 3rd in the championship.
Rowland secured another 4th ahead of the surprising van Buuren (5th) – the latter of whom securing what was by far his best result of the season, with the Dutch racer having even led a lap as the stops unraveled.
Sainz Jr came home a disappointing 6th having held Matthieu Vaxivière (7th) at bay for much of the second half of the race. Although starting slowly, Sainz Jr lost out badly as the few corners blended outward, dropping to 5th when the safety car emerged.
Jazeman Jaafar took more points with an 8th place finish, while Marco Sørensen and Will Stevens rounded out the top ten.
Esteban Ocon did not start the race following a heavy crash during the morning qualifying session that destroyed the front end of his Comtec machine. The teenager is, however, fine, if a little sore.
One of the major talking points following last weekend’s GP2 Series round at Monza was the on track behaviour of Trident’s Sergio Canamasas.
While mixing erratic driving and occasional bouts of pace is nothing new for the Spaniard, Canamasas’ Monza record was impossible to ignore during Sunday’s Sprint Race.
As noted in last week’s GP2 race report, the 26-year-old skipped through the Ascari chicane by himself on the opening lap after seemingly being ‘distracted’ by a battle Johnny Cecotto Jr and Felipe Nasr, before emerging on the other side of the tarmac run-off ahead of traffic, but going much slower than those behind.
It caused a frightening moment for Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who was forced into a last moment swing-and-brake manoeuvre to prevent from being vaulted over the rear of his out of place rival; however Canamasas’ actions did start a chain reaction that ultimately caused Pierre Gasly and Artem Markelov to crash – a clash that, in the eyes of this writer led to a grossly unfair penalty for Gasly.
Several laps later, Canamasas struck again when he clattered the left rear of Rene Binder on the approach of the Roggia chicane, before bashing the side of Raffaele Marciello into Lesmo just a few short seconds later. Both Binder and Marciello had to retire as a result these incidents.
These series of clashes caused quite a reaction in the GP2 paddock with rival drivers demanding he be dropped from the next round at Sochi in four weeks time.
What was most startling about this was Canamasas’ own reactions later on. When speaking with him in the GP2 paddock on Sunday afternoon, Canamasas claimed that none of the clashes were his fault and he could not understand why there were such claims against him.
Marciello was less than kind in his reaction. If nothing else, it was a grand display from a driver who seems – at times – to struggle with spatial awareness when in close quarters with other competitors, while also proclaiming incidents in which he is involved to be the fault of his rivals.
It must also be remembered that Monza’s actions were not merely spur of the moment incidents that cast a black mark on a previously scrupulous record. At Singapore in 2012, Canamasas ignored a drive-through penalty and then also a black flag for nine laps earning much criticism.
During GP2 qualifying in Bahrain last year, Canamasas deliberately used his car to force Kevin Ceccon off track as the chequered flag emerged. It was a shocking move that followed in the steps of a similar actions by Johnny Cecotto Jr in the previous round in Malaysia.
Unfortunately, series stewards proved unduly lenient following those actions.
During a brief Q&A session during the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting noted that “If a driver we driving erratically, this would be brought to the attention of the stewards who would probably impose a penalty would also attract points on his licence.”
It is understood that while Canamasas did not receive any penalty points prior to Monza, he certainly had come the end of Sunday. Whiting explains further: “If he accrues twelve points he would lose his licence for a race,” while also noting, “If a driver drives too slowly he won’t qualify for the race and will hence not start the race.”
As to how much accounts from other competitors play in a driver’s disciplinary action, the former Brabham mechanic was quick to point out these would only be used if “a driver is involved in an incident with another driver.”
Let’s be clear about this. Sergio Canamasas is not a rookie. He is coming to the end of his second full season of GP2 Series competition and prior to that he enjoyed two seasons of Formula Renault 3.5. He has also raced in Formula 3 in Spain for three years – first in Spanish F3, before it was renamed to the European F3 Open (now Euroformula Open).
Whiting confirms that status of championship can also play a part in how a driver may be disciplined. “We do always have the ‘fall back’ of [a driver] bringing the Championship into disrepute but I think with the above well-established systems in place this would be likely to be completely unnecessary.”
For a category that sits immediately below Formula One, it is dreadfully unfortunate that such low standards of driving took away from what was otherwise an excellent race that showcased some fantastic racing from those at the front of the field.
The nature of GP2 (and sister series GP3) means that a ruined Saturday also tends to nullify the potential for a result on Sunday as well and in a series like GP2, where the risks are high for drivers’ futures, crash happy competitors are an unnecessary hazard.
Some drivers are slow – that is something we live with in motorsport – but when competitors are reckless, that is a whole new kettle of fish and that should be dealt with in a prompt and proper manner.
Zeta Corse racer Roberto Merhi completely destroyed the Formula Renault 3.5 field in a stellar display at wet/dry Hungaroring this afternoon.
Pierre Gasly stole 2nd place from early leader Oliver Rowland as they exited the final corner, while championship leader Carlos Sainz Jr rose to 4th to keep his series charge in check.
Starting 7th, the Spaniard ramped his way up to 3rd by the opening corner, before sweeping into 2nd place around Pierre Gasly by the exit of turn two.
Thereafter the ultra aggressive Merhi hounded Rowland until forcing a mistake from the Briton on the seventh lap and taking the lead. Recovering from his momentary wobble, Rowland angled his Fortec machine to take a straighter exit from turn one, but Merhi had the inside line into the slow unwinding second bend, ensuring he stayed ahead as emerged into the quick turn 3 / 4 complex.
Up until that point, Merhi had also been sideways at several corners, most notably at the exit of turn two, although the much wider lines he took into the opening corner, also saw him fall slightly outside the track limits on occasion.
Once out in the open, Merhi ran away with the race and was at several points some three-to-four seconds per lap faster than the rest of the field. Come the halfway point on lap 11, the Zeta Corse driver was already over ten seconds ahead, but by the chequered flag that had extended to almost half a minute.
With his third win in four races, Merhi has pulled further away from the Gasly / Rowland duo, while also having taken a significant chunk out of Sainz Jr’s lead.
For Rowland, the second half of the race was always going to be something of a struggle. Having lost the best of his rear tyres battling Merhi, the Fortec racer began to drop toward Gasly, just as the Frenchman upped his pace.
In three of the last four tours, Gasly set the quickest lap overall and closed to less than one second of Rowland as they completed the final tour. While the Arden could not find a way past around the Hungaroring’s twisting turns, Rowland was losing more and more time as he struggled to get any speed exiting corners.
A sluggish last few turns allowed Gasly to close right in and when Rowland ran helplessly wide into the final corner, Gasly pounced and out-accelerated his British rival to the line to take the runner-up spot by 0.26s.
Sainz Jr’s early charged brought him up to 4th, but his progress stopped there as the track began to dry out. Starting 14th, the Spaniard claimed five positions by turn one and then scalped another three over the course of the opening lap.
Thereafter a brief battle with Marco Sørensen ensued, with the Dane retaking 6th on the second lap, before Sainz Jr eventually nailed the Dane on lap three. There would be a repeat performance with Matthieu Vaxivière over laps four and five, with Sainz Jr again winning out.
The next place would be less troublesome as a struggling Will Stevens – who had made a marvellous start – dropped back into the pack and behind Sainz Jr and Vaxivière.
As for Vaxivière, he had a quiet race and took home a solid 5th, some ten seconds up on Stevens (6th) and another seven ahead of Sørensen (7th).
Norman Nato finished 8th after he lost a brief battle with Sørensen. The Monaco winner dropped back toward FR3.5 debutante Esteban Ocon toward the end; however Ocon had his eyes more on his mirrors for the most part, as attempted to keep Jazeman Jaafar at bay.
Jaafar did get by Ocon, but only for a moment into the turn six/seven chicane, when the Malaysian ran side-by-side with Ocon, the latter of who was forced to take to the run off area to avoid a clash.
The stewards are currently investigating the incident.
The FIA formally announced the calendar for the 2015 Formula One World Championship during the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council today.
The calendar, which will at twenty races, matches the busiest season in the history of the World Championship, with Mexico returning to the Grand Prix schedule for the first time since 1992.
Once again Australia will open the season (March 15), followed by Malaysia two weeks later. In April, the series takes in Bahrain and China, before beginning the European leg in May with Spain and Monaco. As per usual, June brings a brief sojourn to North America, when F1 visits Montreal, before returning to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix in the third week of that month.
July will be a busy month for F1 with the British, German and Hungarian Grands Prix taking place before the a four-week summer break commences and ends with the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August. The Italian Grand Prix holds its early-September date, concluding the European leg season.
The championship heads east with Singapore and Japan before the end of September and begins to return westway and to Russia in mid-October. Initially in the draft version of the calendar that did the rounds at Monza last week, the US Grand Prix slotted in after Mexico; however that has been reversed in this final version, with the Circuit of the Americas hosting its fourth US Grand Prix at the tail end of October, with the returning Mexican Grand Prix taking place a week later on November 1st.
Once again the Brazilian Grand Prix (November 15th) will lead into the finale in Abu Dhabi two weeks afterward. Unsurprisingly, the Grand Prix at New Jersey is missing and the Indian Grand Prix, which was originally pressing for a 2015 return, is also absent, which may most certainly to consign that race – and circuit – to history.
2015 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar Australia (March 15) Malaysia (March 29) Bahrain (April 5) China (April 19) Spain (May 10) Monaco (May 24) Canada (June 7) Austria (June 21) Britain (July 5) Germany (July 19) Hungary (July 26) Belgium (August 23) Italy (September 6) Singapore (September 20) Japan (September 27) Russia (October 11) USA (October 25) Mexico (November 1) Brazil (November 15) Abu Dhabi (November 29)
When Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo arrived at Monza at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, it quickly became clear that the endgame was being played out and Montezemolo, omnipresent during the glory years, was being readied to be cut loose.
The Ferrari team – so successful less than a decade earlier – were struggling to not just to match their Mercedes-powered counterparts, but often could not even get close to them.
At one point humbled by a lacklustre Renault engine and power unit, even Red Bull has past Ferrari by, underlined by Daniel Ricciardo’s collection of three Grand Prix victories since June.
Ferrari, meanwhile, are facing their first winless season since the dire 1993 season – the early days of Montezemolo’s reign as Ferrari chairman.
The Scuderia’s naturally flamboyant and occasionally bombastic flair still make the team a feature, but it is unlikely that Ferrari envisaged trailing Williams for 3rd in the Constructors’ standings.
On the track, there is little doubt that Ferrari are underachieving – a mere 9th place finish for Kimi Raikkonen from Monza following on from Fernando Alonso mechanical failure was the nadir.
It mattered of course, as Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was all too keen to point out at the weekend. Marchionne’s comments cut Ferrari’s 2014 F1 efforts to ribbons, with the Fiat man calling it ‘unacceptable’.
Times change and with that, so do political, business, cultural and sporting factors and it is a factor that demands constant metamorphosis.
Within the greater Fiat organisation, Montezemolo became a Tyrannosaurus-Rex. After 23 years in charge, he had become a representative of a different time and with his influence waning, the 67-year-old did not only lost much of his battle on the results sheet.
More importantly, however, was his seeming inability – or unwillingness – to fall into line with the planned future of Fiat (and Ferrari), effectively making his position untenable.
Despite the on track crumbling, Ferrari – the car company – have enjoyed a bumper year, with a strategy of promoting exclusivity (and therefore upping the price and prestige of the brand) encouraging a very healthy income stream; however Fiat are looking beyond that – far beyond that.
If anything, the decision to finally cut ties with Montezemolo was promoted by the Bologna native’s dismay with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles desire to raise an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange next month.
While Montezemolo and Marchionne have not always seen eye-to-eye on a number of matters, Montezemolo’s objection to the floatation went some way to finishing him off.
And so with Montezemolo set to leave in mid-October, the door has opened for Marco Mattiacci to move into the position of chairman – a placement far more suited to his talents.
There were some rumblings too that Bob Bell, soon to be ex-Mercedes, is a consideration for the team principal seat at Maranello, should Mattiacci move onward and upward.
For Montezemolo, one supposes there could always be another stab at politics…
For a time, it looked as if the Felipe Nasr of old had been pushed aside and that there would finally be a “real” championship fight between the quiet Brazilian and Britain’s Jolyon Palmer.
Come Sunday afternoon, a very different realisation swept through the paddock, where, if nothing else, Palmer had emerged very much on top of his title rival.
Over the course of fifty-one laps in two races, Nasr may have blown his best opportunity to make great strides, but on Friday evening, the story was very, very different indeed…
As qualifying closed, Palmer slotted into 4th place – three ahead of Nasr, until the stewards investigated and discovered the DAMS machine did not have the necessary amount of fuel for a sample, rendering his session null.
“It’s very disappointing to have to start last,” the Briton said as he reflected upon the decision on the stewards, adding, “the car wasn’t under weight, and we had enough fuel for a sample, but we didn’t have the mandatory one litre of fuel in the car at the end and that is the regulation. There was no performance advantage here and it was a mistake with the fuel calculations.”
Nasr, meanwhile, did not have the best of qualifying sessions either. Palmer’s disqualification promoted the Brazilian to 6th, but considering his fight, he needed to be higher.
What was initially a poor result turned to something more positive as the evening drew in and news of Palmer’s penalty spread. More than anything else, Nasr now needed to capitalise on his rival’s misfortune and decimate the points gap.
That Nasr could then only manage two 6th place finishes compared to Palmer’s 8th (Feature Race) and victory (Sprint Race) has almost typical of the Brazilian’s seeming inability to convert advantages this season.
Palmer, on the other hand, has taken his chances and when necessary has pulled some championship worthy drives out of the bag – Saturday at Monza was a case in point.
Palmer was understandably ecstatic. “Unbelievable! It’s a weekend I’ll remember for a long time,” he beamed. “Friday was obviously extremely disappointing, but we all did a really good job, put it behind us on Saturday, and planned how we were going to come back from it. The race [on Saturday] went nearly perfectly, really: the car was good, the strategy was good, and then [on Sunday] starting from the front it was a bit easier, and we just had to control the pace.”
Meanwhile, over in the Williams F1 team hospitality on Sunday, the Didcot team – of which Nasr is the reserve driver – had announced the retention of their current line-up of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
The GP2 title may not be the only thing Nasr lost grip last weekend.
McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne took his third GP2 Series win of the season, although the Belgian had to fend off Arthur Pic for the duration.
A poor start by Pic (Campos Racing) gave poleman Vandoorne an added advantage off the line, with Vandoorne drawing his ART Grand Prix machine just over two seconds clear by the third lap.
Thereafter Vandoorne conserved his tyres, allowing Pic to close to within one second of the leading man. Despite a concerted effort by the 22-year-old Pic, the Frenchman could not quite close enough to force and error from Vandoorne.
Vandoorne would eventually stop after twelve laps, temporarily demoting the Kortrijk-native to the outskirts of the top ten. Pic stopped one lap later, but the Campos man could not do enough to overhaul his rival. As others ahead pitted too, the pairing also drew back toward the front of the order, with road finally clearing when Marco Sørensen stopped after twenty-one laps.
Pic stayed in Vandoorne’s mirrors for the final stint, but as his tyres aged, the Frenchman’s efforts were hamstrung.
Where he would close on the long straights, Pic would inevitably lose ground through Curve Grande, the Lesmo bends and Parabolica, gifting Vandoorne a solid gap as they approached the hard breaking points. Vandoorne relaxed on the final lap to allow Pic to close to within 0.6 at the flag, but realistically, the Belgian was never going to let this slip.
Mitch Evans took the final podium position for RUSSIAN TIME. The Kiwi initially held sway with the slow-starting Pic, but fell back as the race – and his Pirelli tyres – aged. Indeed a radio failure meant Evans missed his first calls into the pits for new tyres, with the Mark Webber protégé not stopping until lap thirteen.
Emerging just ahead of an aggressive Stéphane Richelmi, Evans kept the DAMS man at bay for a few laps, before gingerly building a gap to his Monegasque rival, who – for a time – was fighting his own battle with Daniel Abt, Andre Negrão, Felipe Nasr and Julian Leal.
The quartet fell away as their own battle became more intensive and with Evans already in the distance, Richelmi had little choice but to accept a solid 4th.
Despite growing pressure late on from a pushy Nasr, Negrão secured 5th place – his highest in GP2. The key move for Negrão’s race came on the 19th lap, when the Brazilian passed a struggling Abt, only for Leal to run Abt off the road two corners later.
Abt retired on the spot, while Leal was hit with a drive through penalty, while the released Nasr chased after Negrão. Despite a series of quicker laps, Nasr could not make a move on Negrão and finished just 0.4s adrift as they crossed the finishing line.
Sørensen dropped back to 7th after his stop, but he had to work hard to stay ahead of the charging Palmer late on. Having started last, Palmer made a startling jump off the line and had claimed ten places in the opening two laps.
Palmer stayed out until lap 20, emerging 10th when strategies had played out. Following Leal’s drive through, he took Stefano Coletti for 8th and reverse grid pole for Sunday’s race.
Coletti seemed to wake up when Palmer slipped by, but would spend the final laps fending off Johnny Cecotto Jr who accepted 10th and the last point.
The race was marred by a ridiculous moment at the start of the second lap, when Kimiya Sato blasted his way through the Roggia chicane, removing the innocent Danïel de Jong from the action. As the field ricocheted lightly, Rene Binder spun Takuya Izawa around, while Raffaele Marciello went off track and retired while attempting to avoid the incident.
Jolyon Palmer his third GP2 Series victory of the season at Monza on Sunday, bringing his lead over Felipe Nasr to 43 points with two rounds remaining. Palmer led from the beginning and initially held his DAMS teammate Stéphane Richelmi behind, before Stefano Coletti emerged as his chief rival.
Where Palmer made a solid start, Richelmi shot up the order jumping from 5th to 2nd by the first corner. Richelmi’s effort was helped by a sleepwalking Nasr, who dropped down the order like a rock from the second row, while Marco Sørensen lost positions by locking up into the Roggia chicane and Andre Negrão slipped to 4th.
Palmer’s lead was annulled when the safety car emerged on lap one, thanks to Sergio Canamasas. Skipping over the Ascari chicane, the Spaniard rejoined slowly amidst traffic, almost causing Adrian Quaife Hobbs to smash into him and forcing the field to bunch up. As a result Pierre Gasly and Andre Markelov collided heavily on the straight exiting Ascari, while Julian Leal picked up a puncture from debris.
Meanwhile as the field sorted itself into some order, Canamasas’ Trident teammate Johnny Cecotto Jr made an unrealistic move on Nathanaël Berthon into the Parabolica, which sidelined both.
It was a moment of unbelievable stupidity from the Trident pairing, but from Canamasas, the moment was particularly ‘special’.
From the lap seven restart, Palmer held a narrow lead over Richelmi, until Coletti slipped through four tours later. As fast as Coletti was, he could not pressure Palmer into an error, with the DAMS man earning a precious victory.
Richelmi stayed 3rd to collect his third podium of the season; however the Monaco native had to work to keep Sørensen behind in the second half of the race.
Negrão completed his best GP2 weekend by taking 5th just ahead of Jon Lancaster, while Nasr regained ground to claim 7th and just two points. The Brazilian was heading for 8th when Mitch Evans tried an unrealistic move on Negrão in the Retifilo four laps from the end, resulting in race ending damage for Evans.
Arthur Pic took 8th and the final point following a mid-race error that cost him two places to Nasr and Lancaster.
Following his brainless opening lap maneuver, Canamasas continued to cause havoc when he crashed into Rene Binder at the Roggia chicane on lap 11. While recovering from that mess, Canamasas clattered into the side of Raffaele Marciello in Lesmo, as the Italian was slipping past the sluggish Spaniard.
On a day when the series showcased some fabulous on track action, Canamasas did his best to cast a poor spell. When on lap fifteen the Spaniard was finally shown the black flag, it underlined that the series is still populated by some dreadfully undeserving talent toward the rear of the field.
Canamasas is not a child. He is not inexperienced. After two-and-half seasons of GP2 and two of Formula Renault 3.5, he is far from inexperienced and he should know far better.
It will be interesting to note whether Canamasas actually appears in Sochi in five weeks. Should he emerge with a slap on the wrist or no further sanction, then the series will suffer a dent in its reputation.
Lewis Hamilton recovered from a poor start to win his second Italian Grand Prix in stunning style today.
The 2008 world champion led a Mercedes 1-2, with championship leader – and rival – Nico Rosberg ending the day as runner-up.
Felipe Massa made it an all Mercedes-powered podium when he took 3rd in his Williams F1 machine.
For Hamilton however, it was all about the chase. An error with the race start mode of his W05 machine dropped the Briton to 4th off the line, as he explains: “The launch sequence didn’t engage properly for the formation lap and then again for the start. I tried to pull away as fast as possible; basically I just floored it and hoped for the best!” He continued, “There was a different sequence of lights that were on [the steering wheel] that weren’t on ever before. The RPM was all over the place and fortunately I managed to not lose too many places.”
It was inevitable that he would though. With Hamilton momentarily stricken, Rosberg sailed through into an early lead followed by Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) and Massa (Williams). Admittedly, the error did not immediately correct itself, with Hamilton briefly settling into a pace in the mid-1’30s, before the Mercedes began to fully come alive again.
Raising his pace – and the pressure – both Massa and Hamilton were able to pick off the less nimble McLaren of Magnussen on lap five before Hamilton dispatched Massa four tours later.
Now in 2nd, the 29-year-old began to zero in on his target. The fight was on. “When I closed up to Nico, I didn’t want to hold back as the car felt good.” He added: “I knew from experience that the only chance would be at the start of the stint when the tyres were fresh so I went for it.”
Having lost four seconds behind the Williams and McLaren, Hamilton pulled just under three seconds out of Rosberg’s advantage by the time his German rival stopped for the harder compound Pirelli tyres on lap 25.
Rosberg retook the front of the order when Hamilton stopped on the following lap; however the Englishman continued to press for the lead. “I was pushing to overtake him. That meant it opens up the doors for everything,” noted Hamilton.
It worked. For all intents and purposes, Rosberg appeared to crack under the intense scrutiny from behind. Having already made a mistake by running off at the Retifilo chicane on lap nine, Rosberg did it again on lap 29, only this time Hamilton was close enough to slip into the lead.
To his credit, Rosberg held his hands up for the error. “Lewis was quick, coming in from behind. I needed to up my pace and then as a result just went into the mistake. That was very bad and lost me the lead in the end.”
Thereafter Hamilton never looked back, as he extended the gap to the 2nd placed man to over four-and-a-half seconds as the race entered its final third. In taking the chequered flag, Hamilton secured his sixth victory of the season, cutting the gap to Rosberg to just 22 points. “I’m really pleased with the win, it’s feels like I have some momentum back as we go into the final races.”
Meanwhile Rosberg conceded the race, knowing that – on this occasion – Hamilton simply had the upper hand. “Lewis was quicker this weekend, so he deserved the win. That for sure is very disappointing for me.” Continuing, the championship leader added, “I need to see the positive things from today. Second place is still good and I lost only seven points to Lewis, so this could have been much worse…”
For Felipe Mass, the race could not have gone much better as he secured his first podium finish since last year’s Spanish Grand Prix. Slotting into 3rd for a time at the start, the Brazilian lost nearly four seconds to the lead, before pulling past Magnussen in the opening half dozen tours. “I had a good start and passed Magnussen at just the right time.”
Once in clear air, Massa claimed nearly two seconds out of the gap to Rosberg, but holding the resurgent Hamilton at bay was always going to be a struggle. From the moment the Silver Arrow crept into Massa’s mirror, the Brazilian knew a tough time was ahead. “I had to work hard to establish that position, sadly the Mercedes were still a bit quick, so we did the best we could.”
As soon as the position was lost to Hamilton, Massa settled into a solid pace that solidified his place between the Mercedes and Magnussen, the latter of whom was in the midst of a six-way battle for 4th.
With the McLaren man preoccupied, Massa built a thirteen second gap to the Dane, before the Woking-based team pulled Magnussen in for his one and only stop after twenty-one laps.
Massa pitted for new hard Pirelli’s two laps later and emerged into a small pool of clear air, which quickly soon cleared as strategies played out around the Williams man, bring Massa back into a podium position. “I think a one-stop was the strategy for everybody. The tyres worked pretty well. It was really pretty much OK to one-stop, at least for us.”
It marks a remarkable turn for the man who was revealed to be staying with the Didcot team for 2015.
Bottas, in the other Williams, endured a shocking opening lap that dropped the Finn to 11th. Amidst the collection, Bottas began to move up the order taking both Force India’s and both Ferrari’s prior to his stop on the 24th lap.
Thereafter Bottas had to work hard again, taking Sergio Perez, Magnussen (and in stellar wheel-to-wheel fight), and Sebastian Vettel, which promoted the hard working Finn into 4th place.
“Once the tyres were up to temperature I had a lot of work to do. It was good fun to overtake so many people and we had some good pace as well,” as Bottas revealed.
It would prove to be a critical run for Bottas as it lifted him to 4th in the Drivers’ Championship ahead of Fernando Alonso, while Williams also jumped Ferrari in the Constructor’s Championship.
Daniel Ricciardo made the best of a long first stint to finish 5th. The Australian made an error with his starting procedure, dropping him to 12th; however Ricciardo stayed out until lap 26. “I saw the cars in front of me pit and the pace was still good enough, so seeing that we didn’t have great pace when we were out of position then we thought we would try something different.”
Despite the long running stint, Ricciardo still pushed his way through a gaggle of cars, including Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Perez, Magnussen and Vettel along the way. “I was more comfortable with the prime tyre and was able to do some good moves, which kept me smiling,” beamed the Red Bull man.
Vettel held 6th, but following an aggressive strategy, the German lost nearly ten seconds on Ricciardo in the closing tours as his Pirelli’s began to age rapidly. The reigning world champion made a fantastic start, but was clearly suffering for power along Monza’s lengthy straights; however the desire to pull the German out of traffic forced the Red Bull squad to pull Vettel in at the one-third point in the event.
Magnussen was originally next across the finishing line; however the McLaren youngster was found guilty to have not given Bottas enough room and forcing him off track on lap 31, as the Finn charged up the order. With his stop already completed, Magnussen was hit with a five-second post-race penalty, which dropped the McLaren racer to 10th overall, promoting Perez, Button and Raikkonen to 7th, 8th and the respectively.
Perez assumed another points score for the Force India team; however it was quite clear that of the Mercedes-powered team’s, the Silverstone-based squad were struggling the most. With Hulkenberg well out of contention for points, it was left to the Mexican to rescue scores for the team, as they continue their battle with McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship.
Both Button and Raikkonen followed Perez over the line – indeed such was the close racing in the group, Magnussen’s penalty was multiplied more than would normally be the case. Although Button accepted the result, it is less than likely that Ferrari will be as pleased with a mere 9th at their home race.
The high speed nature of the circuit began to take its toll late on, with the Force India’s blowing clouds of black smoke from their brake ducts in the latter stages of the vent; however it was Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat who suffered the biggest scare when a failing brake pitched him into a frightening off at the Retifilo.
Behind the Russian, Hulkenberg (12th) and Jean-Eric Vergne (13th) were the last of those on the lead lap, while Pastor Maldonado (14th) led the Lotus charge, albeit a lap down. Adrian Sutil assumed another lowly 15th for Sauber ahead of Romain Grosjean in the other Lotus.
In the distance, Kamui Kobayashi took 16th for Caterham, some 13s up on his Marussia rival Jules Bianchi (17th). Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) and Marcus Ericsson (Caterham) rounded out the finishers, although both were lapped twice; however Gutierrez was later penalised 20s for clashing with Grosjean with two laps remaining, dropping the Mexican behind Ericsson in the classifications.
Alonso was running on the outskirts of the top ten when the ERS failed on his Ferrari on lap 28 – which was a far better effort than Max Chilton, who pummelled his Marussia by sending into the Roggia barrier on the fifth lap.
With the European season over, Hamilton now heads to Singapore with a swing in his step, both it would be ill-advised to assume that there will be another Mercedes sweep at one of the toughest street circuit on the calendar.