2015 Italian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Hamilton’s Win Survives Stewards Inquiry

The drama at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix continued well past the chequered flag. Lewis Hamilton was imperious on the day, building a substantial lead to Sebastian Vettel, who had no answer to the pace of the championship leader – contrary to Saturday afternoon predictions – as the Scuderia flattered to deceive at home. It was only when Hamilton’s Mercedes team realised that a post-race time penalty for starting the race with illegal tyre pressures could spoil their day that the Briton was informed that Hammer Time was necessary. Albeit, following an anxious two hour wait, Hamilton’s win was upheld.

And what a win it could prove to be in the context of the 2015 campaign.

Chinks In The Armour

Since the turn of the year, Mercedes have seemed almost infallible. Barring a strategic blunder in Monaco, and a catalogue of driver errors in Hungary, the team have staked a claim to perfection. The unreliability which blighted their 2014 copybook appeared to have been eradicated until two power-related incidents derailed Nico Rosberg’s Italian Grand Prix weekend and have demoted him to a near insurmountable 53 point deficit to his chief rival Hamilton.

Ultimately, the power unit change ahead of qualifying spelled a spiral of decline for his weekend. The new powerunit, which arrived at Monza at a cost of Brixworth’s final seven engine tokens, failed after FP3, meaning that the German had to switch to an old specification unit. To compound matters, the unit had completed each and every round of the championship since Canada and was therefore reaching the end of its usable life.

As such, Rosberg’s costly DNF on Sunday, which robbed him of an assured 15 points, can largely be attributable to the engine issue of Saturday. The post-race stewards inquiry which threatened to strip Hamilton of his 40th career victory was just as important in the context of Rosberg’s season. A 25 point gain for the front runner at this point in the season means that the reigning champ has one hand on what will be a third world title.

Action and Reaction

Following the stewards decision, fans were divided by the verdict. Upon reading the FIA document, it is clear that a procedural grey area was what gave Mercedes a case to argue in an otherwise black and white incident. In regards to those who claim that this decision signifies that the minimum tyre pressure regulation is now unmanageable, it is important to consider that the stewards and scrutineers will unquestionably review how the loophole can be closed to avoid a repeat of Sunday’s drama.

“I’m Too Old For That”

In a sport where 17 is the new 25, Felipe Massa is now one of the most experienced drivers around. However, the Brazilian’s excellent 2015, in which he is adeptly fighting off his young teammate Valtteri Bottas, continued in Italy. Although we should not be entirely shocked that Massa’s expertise in defensive driving allowed him to repel his fast-charging teammate in the closing laps, his third place was still impressive, particularly given that it followed a Saturday where he carried a clear advantage over Bottas for the duration and out-qualified him.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the career spectrum, Max Verstappen was once again driving in his characteristic awe-inspiring manner, pulling off some fantastic overtakes as he worked his way through the field following his grid penalty. It may have only been P12, but the Dutchman continues to provide blockbuster entertainment.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day 

Marcus Ericsson

Last weekend was quite possibly one of Marcus Ericsson’s best during his short tenure in the sport. The Swede was downbeat following his three place grid drop, which demoted him out of the top ten on Saturday evening. Nonetheless, Ericsson fought back admirably on Sunday, driving an impeccable race and replacing his rookie teammate Felipe Nasr in the Sauber spotlight. Ericsson is beginning to show signs that deserves to be a long-term paddock fixture.

Overtake of the Day

VERSTAPPEN vs Nasr

One of a number of fine overtakes, the DRS brought the Dutchman into play before a late lunge around the outside of turn one saw his Toro Rosso earn the high-ground for turn two. It was another example of Verstappen’s remarkable feel under braking.

Team of the Weekend

Red Bull

At a venue where they expected little reward, a five point return courtesy of the two Dan’s was quite an achievement for the Milton Keynes squad. They have certainly seen a marked improvement in fortunes since what was a breakthrough British Grand Prix and with what should be their strongest track of the year next on the schedule, Red Bull are shaping to remount a challenge to the sport’s front-runners.

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