Speaking privately before today’s Italian Grand Prix, Hollywood legend George Lucas asked Lewis Hamilton why he didn’t go out and win a race by 20 seconds, today Lewis Hamilton did.
In doing so, the performance of the year was shaded by controversy. Hamilton who had pulled away from Sebastian Vettel in second, had a 20 second lead going into lap 48 of 53 at Monza when he received a mysterious radio transmission instructing him to pick up the pace and not ask questions. Hamilton duly noted the instructions and upped his pace to a furious level, setting fast lap after fast lap whilst TV camera showed faces of grave concern from the Mercedes garage. In the end Hamilton crossed the finish line in a class of his own, 25 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
The race despite appearing straightforward, was truly anything but. The trouble began as soon as the lights went out when Kimi Raikkonen failed to get away cleanly from second on the grid. Anti-stall kicked in and the Finn went from second to last in an instant. Miraculously the entire field managed to avoid the failing Ferrari, following Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas who were the first to dodge potential disaster.
Hamilton lead from the front followed by Vettel and then Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Rosberg dropped to fifth after avoiding Raikkonen.
After a strong outing at Spa, Lotus faltered at Monza today. Pastor Maldonado’s engine failed after riding the high curbs in the first chicane, much in the way it did early on at Spa. Romain Grosjean couldn’t replicate his podium and also retired at the beginning of the race.
The race settled into a rhythm until the first pit stops shook up the running order. Rosberg came in first, an inspired move that allowed him to jump both Massa and Bottas in the Williams cars. Leaders Hamilton and Vettel held out for a respective 26 and 27 laps, easily resuming their one-two running order. Vettel just out in front of Raikkonen in third, who charged through the field after his terrible start. Last in was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who made it all the way into the top 10 from the back of the grid before coming in.
On lap 48 everything changed when Hamilton got the then mysterious call; haul ass first, ask questions later. He did, but all the while under threat from the stewards for his left rear tire being under inflated from the start of the race.
As Hamilton stormed into the distance, Rosberg began closing in on Vettel for second when his six race old, 2015 spec engine gave up the ghost in spectacular fashion, a water cooling failure causing the back of his silver arrow to go up in smoke and then flames.
Hamilton came home 25 seconds to the good of Vettel, who was clearly overjoyed to finish strong for Ferrari in front of the cheering tifosi. The final spot on the podium came down to a drag race between Massa and Bottas. Massa came out on top which thrilled his many Italian fans and puts the veteran Brazilian fourth in the points standings behind the Mercedes duo and Vettel. Raikkonen came in fifth in what would have been considered an incredible drive if not for the failed start. Force India had an amazing day with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg in sixth and seventh. Daniel Ricciardo had a strong drive from the back of the grid to claim eighth. Marcus Ericsson had the drive of his career to bring his Sauber home in ninth. Daniel Kvyat backed up team mate Ricciardo with a solid 10th place run.
Controversy aside, Hamilton dominated the field and despite Ferrari closing the gap to the 2015 spec Mercedes and Williams continuing their strong run, the entire field should be very afraid of just how fast the 2016 Mercedes package may turn out to be. Hamilton looks almost guaranteed for a third championship unless Rosberg or Vettel can pull out a miracle for the remaining fly away races of the season.