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Monday, September 10, 2012

Lewis Hamilton takes the Chequered Flag in Monza

A satisfied Lewis Hamilton wins comfortably  in Italy
Photo Courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Monza Results:

1.   L. Hamilton
2.   S. Perez
3.   F. Alonso
4.   F. Massa
5.   K. Raikkonen
6.   M. Schumacher
7.   N. Rosberg
8.   P. Di Resta
9.   K. Kobayashi
10. B. Senna

Another great race at Monza but, for the second time this season, the role of DRS rather than tyres in enabling passing was very apparent.  While tyre wear also played a crucial role in determining the outcome, this was down to pitstop strategies rather than rapidly degrading rubber; for the last three races it would appear that the teams and Pirelli have gotten to grips with how the different tyre options work.

The teams' understanding of the performance of each compound has negated the lottery which was rife in the earlier part of the season and I must give Pirelli credit for facilitating this understanding by their constant work at making the tyres less of an enigma.

The DRS zones, while the system remains a bit of a bugbear for me personally, were not the only parts of the circuit where overtaking took place and hats off to Alonso, Perez, Vettel, et al who were not afraid to have a go - even if it did see Alonso taking to the grass in a scary moment on the Curva Grande.

Monza sparkled on Sunday.  Lewis, starting from Pole Position took control of the race from the start while  Felipe Massa in third caught Button out in the drag race down to the first chicane.  Massa held on well to Hamilton for a little while but the gaps stabilized, as they are wont to do, and Jenson, who had been biding his time and saving his tyres inexorably began to reel in the Ferrari, before overtaking him when he pitted on lap 19 and putting in some stunning laptimes which negated the McLaren 4.1 second pitstop (slow by their standards) to come out ahead.

Button held onto second place until he parked the car up on lap 33 with an engine ("fuel pick-up") problem that left him without drive.

Vettel and Alonso were fighting it out for around 20 laps, with a side by side release in the pits adding to the nervousness and excitement, then Alonso tried around the outside on the Curva Grande and ended up with four wheels on the grass as Vettel applied a drifting squeeze, which many of the commentators saw as revenge for a similar move last season which saw Vettel overtaking Alonso with a similar, if slightly less dangerous, outcome.  Alonso survived the scare and shortly afterwards took third though Vettel received a drive through penalty for his defensive tactics.

I have to say, in Vettel's defence, that I am not 100% convinced that it should be a penalty offence but the rule does require a cars width. This youtube video does show that Sebastian did not leave that and I guess that's the end of that question.  Vettel was instructed to park the car as the Renault engine suffered another Alternator failure.  Renault apologised to Sebastian and Red Bull:
We have to apologise to Red Bull for the two failures on Sebastian’s car, first in FP3 and now in the race. In both cases the alternator failed. We introduced a new spec’ of alternator following the problems in Valencia and believed this would overcome the issues. We are still looking into why the part failed again here but we do know that even though the alternator was being operated entirely within the prescribed range, the part itself overheated and shut off the power supply. This is a priority between ourselves and our suppliers and we have to ensure we are fully on top of the problem before Singapore.

Alonso drove a fine race to third position from tenth, gaining one place when Massa gave way and, once again, (as per Belgium) I have to highlight what I see as the easy "overtake" by which Vettel overtook Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso for position.  Maybe I'm being sensitive to the sister teams but it just seems like the Red Bulls have a favoured status in overtaking the Toro Rosso's for position.

It makes a bit of a mockery of the fact that Ferrari aren't allowed to run a third car.

Perez enjoys a well deserved Second place
Photo courtesy of Sauber F1
Drive of the day is reserved for Sergio Perez who drove a spectacular race for Sauber from 12th position on the grid to finish second, overtaking the two Ferraris along the way.  A very long first stint on the hard tyres saw him overtaking Rosberg, Senna, Di Resta, Kobayashi and Raikkonen (twice) for position, which brought him up to sixth before he took Massa, Alonso, Vettel, Button and Hamilton in the pits to take the lead before his one and only pitstop on lap 29.  That dropped him down to eighth but he benefited from Button's retirement and the second pitstops of Vettel and Schumacher to move to fifth and, in a storming performance on the medium compound tyres, overtook Raikkonen, Massa, and finally Alonso on lap 45 to take a brilliant second place.

If the race had been 5 laps longer Lewis's win would not have been comfortable, though he managed to up his pace for a couple of laps at the end which ensured Victory.

Fernando's third, combined with Vettel's retirement, increases the gap to Lewis in second (in the official driver's championship) to 37 points. 35 points separate the two in my (- Bah) championship.

With 175 points left to play for, and the much improved performance shown by McLaren over the last few races it looks like both championships are wide open as the F1 Circus leaves Europe and heads to Singapore.

Senna has an eventful race in his battle to tenth
Photo Courtesy of Williams F1 team