Ah, beautiful Italy, land of the delightful cuisine, the gorgeous women and... Il Cavalino Rampante, Ferrari.
On their homesoil, the red machines always manage to overperform themselves, and I could only hope and dream it would be so this year as well.
During free practice, they had kept themselves well, truning around 4th place, but come the qualifications all went down the drain, Alonso qualifying 7th, and raikonnen 12th, but starting 11th as Kvyat is the first driver this year to receive a 10 grid drop penalty for having to get his 6th engine.
This resulted in an all Mercedes line up on the first 6 places, with on row one Mercedes, with Hamilton taking pole, then followed by both Williams and both McLaren. Well, at least Alonso was the first non-Mercedes powered car on the grid...
In the back, Kamui is back in the Caterham, and promptly went to qualify in front of both Marussia and of course Ericsson. Why the japanese driver got replaced instead of the swede, is a question of money, as even his replacement Lotterer in Belgium was a second faster then Ericsson. And that is even including speeding under yellow, causing Marcus to have to start from the pits...
Before the race, it was also confirmed that both Massa and Bottas have renewed their contracts for next year, so Williams is on the stability course, and are put forward by Mercedes as the favorites for this heat, as they have a most impressive straight line speed, and Mercedes achilles heel, the brakes, aren`t spared on Monza with his long high speed straights and slow corners. And will both drivers try to take each other off again?
In other news from the pit lane, the new HAAS team in 2016 has signed an extensive partnership with Ferrari for transmissions and engines, and after that even a closer work together.
But then the warming up lap passes, and we are off to the start of the last european soil (okay, there is Russia in three GPs time, but technically the circuit is on asian soil).
Hamilton has a bad start as the car doesn`t fire up well, and in doing so also hinders Bottas. This results in Rosberg taking the lead in front of Magnussen, Massa and Hamilton. On the contrary to other years, there are no big scraps in the first corner and everyone gets through unscathed.
Lap 2: It is confirmed, Hamilton has an ERS issue and needs to change engine settings, but the problem gets resolved soon afterwards.
Laps 3 and 4: Rosberg puts in fastest laps to open the gap on the slower McLaren of Magnussen, who holds up the Williams and Mercedes behind him.
Lap 5: Massa finally gets past Magnussen, and on the following straight Hamilton duely follows and overtakes the dane as well.
Lap 6: Chilton goes a bit to enthusiastic over the curbs, and into the gravel, which will be his second DNF of his whole career.
Lap 9: Rosberg overbrakes and goes over the runaway straight, causing the gap to massa and Hamilton to be closed by about 1.5 second. Hamilton then goes by Massa the next lap and starts pressuring Rosberg.
Lap 11 to 14: as Hamilton makes up about a 10th of a second per sector, he and Rosberg trade fastest laps the whole time. Bottas, down in 10th after the start, now passes Perez to 8th.
Lap 16: The fin now also passes Alonso and in two laps time is also by Button. As Vettel, in front of him, goes in to pit on lap 19, he flies by Magnussen to take his rightful place in 4th.
Lap 24 - 28: Massa, Rosberg and Hamilton now pit in that order, and even though Rosberg retains the lead, Hamilton is now right behind him. His race engineer advices to save fuel and tyres and attack Nico near the end, but Lewis keeps pushing and forces Rosberg to make a mistake, again overbraking at the end of the straight and needing to take the runout lane. Hamilton, now in the lead, is certainly gaining an advantage over his normally more level headed team mate.
Lap 29: Monza cries, as for the first time since his Renault days in 2009, Alonso has to retire due to mechanical failure. Let`s hope a struggling Raikonnen can at least score points, to not end the 79 GPs in a row points finishes for the red machines now...
Lap 30: another fastest lap for Hamilton as he opens the gap to Rosberg. `Calm` and `Hamilton` clearly don`t go in the same sentence.
Lap 31: Bottas has to attack Magnussen again after a botched pitstop, and he has lost some places. They slightly touch and Bottas is forced of the track, something Magnussen will be penalised for. After Belgium, this is the second GP in a row this happens, though this time only 5 seconds will be added to his time.
Lap 34-37: Ricciardo wakes up in the back and flies by Raikonnen to 9th as Bottas finally goes by Magnussen
Lap 39+: an epic battle develops between Button and Perez, the Briton often passing the Mexican, only to be forced back again in the corners. This will last for almost the full remainder of the race, a truly fantastic duel.
Lap 40-41: Ricciardo is now passing the cars in front, and only Magnussen is between him and Vettel. Will Seb get to hear that dreaded message again???
Lap 44: the McLaren is no match for the daring driving style of the aussie in the Red Bull. He then goes to hunt Vettel, and two laps later he passes him by using a faint attack. This guy is definitly world championship material, considering the ease he is overclassing the 4 times world champion this year. Dr Marko will have big problems on his hands to keep Vettel the chouchou of the team, as the aussie is of a different breed then Pitbull Webber was.
Lap 50: Pay Driver time! Every race, you can count on either Guterriez or Maldonado doing something incredibly stupid (or often even both of them), and the moron of this week is the mexican. He passes Grosjean, then starts wiggling his car, and manages to puncture his own tyre... luckily, there are no consequences for the frenchmen, but Gutteriez will be adding some more points to his license for sure. Van der Garde`s chance on a racing seat are getting better and better...
Lap 52: Kvyat, from 21st to 11th and virtually in the points due to Magnussen`s penalty, has a brake issue and goes straigth at the corner at high speed. By some miracle and great car control he avoids both the barriers and the cars in front going through the chicane, but his chances at a last point are gone. In the next lap, Hamilton takes home a psychologically very important victory! And of note, only two cars had to retire (though both with the Ferrari engine...)
1. Hamilton - Mercedes
2. Rosberg - Mercedes
3. Massa - Williams Mercedes
4. Bottas - Williams Mercedes
5. Ricciardo - Red Bull Renault
6. Vettel - Red Bull Renault
7. Perez - Force India Mercedes
8. Button - McLaren Mercedes
9. Raikonnen - Ferrari
10. Magnussen - McLaren Mercedes
11. Kvyat - Toro Rosso Renault
12. Hulkenberg - Force India Mercedes
13. Vergne - Toro Rosso Renault
14. Maldonado - Lotus Renault
15. Sutil - Sauber Ferrari
16. Grosjean - Lotus Renault
17. Kobayashi - Caterham Renault
18. Bianchi - Marussia Ferrari
19. Gutteriez - Sauber Ferrari
20. Ericsson - Caterham Renault
Of note (for a fanboy like me) is Kamui`s 17th place, no less then 13 seconds up from Bianchi. I can hope they do indeed give Lotterer another chance... but in the other car.
Driver of the Race: Hamilton
Who else? Not only did he fight back from a bad start, he was so overwhelming in his pressure that he forced Nico to make a mistake. And even though Rosberg in the common room before the podium kept talking italian to the Mercedes rep and to Massa, as to exclude Lewis from it all and his pathetic show on the podium speaking to the (still whistling over the Belgium incident) public in italian as well, Lewis knows he has the support now of the neutral viewer. And mine as well!
Team of the Race: Mercedes
They had issues with brakes and start ups and two pilots out to drink each others blood. They feared Williams for the solid straightline speed of those cars on this almost all straights, 200+ MPH circuit... and they blew them all away to another impressive 1-2 victory.
The final note goes to... Caterham. There, Christian Albers announced after the race he is already leaving the team, less then 2 months after the takeover. Clearing the way completely for Coles and `Forza Rossa` it seems...
Blast from the Past: BMS Scuderia Italia
When in Italy, of which team to talk better then of the team called Scuderia Italia, or more popularly known as Dallara, the maker of their chassis. The team was in F1 from 1988 to 1993, and I have always been a fan of the `Baby Ferraris` as they where usually known. This in part because of their first four years, they also ran red cars with only a white bar distinguishing them from the big brothers.
Their final year they with their main competitors, Minardi and lost out again, but overal in their 6 year stint they where quit succesful. Considering in those days only the first 6 scored points, and 1989 had an impressive 39 cars on the grid, they managed two podiums (De Cesaris in Canada 1989 and JJ Lehto in Imola 1991) and score points in 3 seasons, and usually with both cars. Here ends the tale of Dallara (as it was known, though it would come back with HRT in 2010, and will return in 2016 with Haas in all probability), but the team went on for one more year.
In 1993 Dallara left as their chassis builder due to an issue with engine supplier Ferrari, the chassis was build by Lola cars. The cars now also ran a totally new blue white red dotted livery, but the year didn`t go well at all, scoring no points and often even failing to qualify.
For 1994 they merged with fellow italians and `main competitors` Minardi, and this venture, under the Minardi flag, would last two more years before BMS went on to persue other goals in autosport.
But I will always remember those beautiful cars and their often time `punching above their weight` heroics...