The luck really seems to be with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg after the mid-season break with a second easy victory on the trot to bring the world drivers championship gap to Lewis Hamilton down to two points.
Polesitter Hamilton made it easy for Rosberg with a terrible start exiting the first chicane in 6th place behind Daniel Ricciardo. Both Ferrari’s jumped ahead into second and third place with Sebastian Vettel coming out ahead; while Max Verstappen also made a bad start dropping back to 12th place off the line.
Hamilton passed the Red Bull of Ricciardo around the outside of Curva Grande between the first and second chicanes to move upto 5th place on the second lap highlighting the power difference between the Mercedes and Renault power units. On lap 11, Hamilton then dispatched Williams’ Valteri Bottas using DRS down the main straight after staying close through Parabolica to move upto 4th behind the Ferrari’s.
Hamilton eventually overhauled the Ferrari’s through strategy by the second stop to make it a Mercedes 1 – 2. The German team elected to make a single stop while Ferrari went with a two stop strategy. I’m not sure if it was a strategic choice or necessity, either way, it seems that a single stop was the way to go.
The race was fairly dull overall; just one highlight for me and that was Ricciardo’s lunge down the inside of Bottas into the first chicane; excellent driving from both Bottas and Ricciardo to avoid contact. Verstappen made a similar move on Force India’s Sergio Perez for 7th place two laps later into the second chicane, Perez bailed out down the escape road making it easy for the Dutchman to advance.
The Italian Grand Prix ended with a Mercedes 1 – 2, Rosberg leading Hamilton home with a 15 second cushion; followed by Vettel and Raikkonen for a Ferrari 3 – 4. Ricciardo finished best of the rest in fifth place after his amazing pass on Bottas who took the chequered flag in sixth place. Verstappen, Perez, Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th respectively.
Away from the race itself, the bigger news of the weekend is the announcements that Felipe Massa will retire from F1 at the end of the season after 14 years in the sport. I do think that now is a good time for him to hang up his helmet; in my view, the Brazilian has never been the same since his accident in 2009.
Jenson Button also announced his effective retirement to become a McLaren ambassador; which reading between the lines means he will become a reserve driver to cover for Alonso should he jump ship at the end of 2017. This of course promotes current reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne to a race seat in 2017.
Button’s decision seems like an odd one given that Williams, the team where he started his 17 year Formula 1 odyssey were very keen to offer him a contract for the 2017 season as a replacement for the outgoing Felipe Massa. Whatever his reasons for sticking with McLaren, I wish him the best for the future.