Italian GP 2014
SEPTEMBER 8, 2014
Race Report - They Didn't Do It
The Mercedes teammates didn't do it. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg did not collide at Monza like they did at Spa during the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks earlier. In fact, they seemed to go out of their way to avoid each other. The end result was that Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix and ended is streak of bad luck while Rosberg finished second.
As usual, the Mercedes duo were in a class of their own, and with both cars (eventually) running trouble-free, Hamilton and Rosberg dominated the 53 lap race around the Temple of Speed and scored the first one/two result for Mercedes since the Austrian Grand Prix back in June.
Felipe Massa earned his first podium since 2012 by finishing third in his Williams Mercedes. His teammate Valtteri Bottas started third, dropped to 11th, and rocketed back to fourth. Daniel Ricciardo gridded his Red Bull Renault ninth, slipped back to 12th, and then charged to fifth.
Hamilton had qualified on pole with Rosberg gridding second. Would they hit each other in the narrow chicane just after the start? No, because they were nowhere near each other. Hamilton's car was slow off the start, and he slid back to fourth place while Rosberg grabbed the lead.
"At the start there's a button that you press which engages the launch sequence," Hamilton said, "and for the formation lap it didn't work. I thought 'no problem, I'll just put it on for the race' and then when I got to the grid I put it on and again it didn't work.
"It's very, very strange, I've never really had that happen before. There was a different sequence of lights that were on, that weren't on ever before. Anyway, I tried to pull away as fast as possible. The RPM was all over the place and fortunately I managed to not lose too many places."
McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile, had made a terrific start and jumped from fifth to second ahead of Massa in third place.
Rosberg led while Hamilton passed Massa on lap 5 and Magnussen on lap 10.
Rosberg, meanwhile, was feeling the pressure from his teammate and went off at the first chicane escape road. He did the same thing again on lap 24 and that's when Hamilton took the lead.
"Lewis was quicker this weekend, so he deserved the win," Hamilton said. "That for sure is very disappointing for me. I had a lock up in Turn One and I decided to go straight to avoid a flat spotted tire. That cost me the lead. But he was very quick behind me, so I had to push all the time."
Hamilton went on to lead the rest of the race and win his sixth grand prix of the season.
"What a great crowd we have here," he said on the podium. "This is amazing to see. The whole finish line straight is completely filled with fans. You guys make this race, so thank you so much for the support."
Hamilton gained 7 points but still trails Rosberg by a score of 238 to 216 in the drivers' championship.
"Definitely very disappointing from that point of view," Rosberg said of finishing second. "But then at the end of the day, also, first of all it's a great day for the team, because after the recent difficulties it's the first one-two for the team in a long time. And so that's back to where we need to be, so that's awesome. And then for me: of course I'm disappointed now right afterwards but in the end of it, still second place, still a lot of points, so it's not a complete disaster."
It certainly was not a disaster for Massa.
"It's a great day for us," he said. "It was a great race, a great start. Also the pace was very good. So, not enough to fight with Mercedes but I think we had a very good pace, a very good car. The team did a perfect job. I'm really, really happy to be on the podium today.
"We missed a little bit during the season to be on the podium, but so it's special to be on the podium here in front of these amazing people. Also, a very positive result for us that we passed Ferrari here (in the constructors' championship) as well, which is very important for us, very good for us.
"It's amazing to see how Williams were last year and we are fighting with big teams. Definitely it's really good for the whole team and we will keep fighting until the last race and I hope really we can get this third place in the constructors' championship. It would be fantastic for the whole team. I'm so happy to be on the podium here in this amazing place that I really love."
Bottas would have been on that podium but for his poor getaway.
"Compared to the grip I had available in the tires I think we were a bit aggressive with the clutch," Bottas said. "The start for the formation lap when we always do the final checks was compromised because Lewis (Hamilton) had a slow getaway so that maybe hurt a little bit.
"Definitely the tires were not in the optimum window and maybe for that condition we were a bit too aggressive; I had a poor start but the same thing continued after Turn 2 - just wheel spinning after Turn 2. After the poor start the position I was in the chicane was a bit lucky, I couldn't accelerate at the maximum rate. That really compromised the race for me.
"It's a pity because today I came into the race with the mentality that this was the best chance of the season to fight for the win, so fourth is not really that satisfying."
Ricciardo was satisfied with fifth. The Renault powered cars were always going to be at a disadvantage to the Mercedes cars, so fifth was a solid result. Ricciardo overtook Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Sergio Perez (Force India), Magnussen, Jenson Button (McLaren), and his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel. All those drivers were involved in various fierce fights, but none of them could keep Ricciardo at bay.
"The strategy helped today," Ricciardo said. "It kept the tires fresh enough to go those extra few laps at the end. I saw the cars in front of me pit and the pace was still good enough, so seeing that we didn't have great pace when we were out of position then we thought we would try something different and that's why we went long, which helped towards the end of the race.
"I was more comfortable with the prime (hard compound) tire and was able to do some good moves, which kept me smiling. The start wasn't ideal, it's one of the longest runs up to Turn One here from the start line and it's not a place where you want to have a bad one, but I dropped the clutch and didn't get the traction, so we will have to look at that, but we kept a cool head and picked our way back through the field. I think fifth, even with a good start, was the best we could do."
Red Bull's Sporting Director Christian Horner explained the team's strategy.
"I think fifth and sixth was the absolute optimum today," he said. "We picked two different strategies, an aggressive one with Sebastian to undercut the McLaren, which worked and gave him track position but unfortunately made his tires marginal at the end of the race.
"With Daniel we took the opposite approach as he was running in clear air. We ran him long in the first stint with a shorter second stint and then his passing moves to come back through the field were truly impressive and obviously with Sebastian struggling with tire degradation due to the length of the stint, it became inevitable that the two were going to swap positions. But fifth and sixth place, at a circuit dominated by Mercedes-powered cars, is damage limitation achieved."
The end result was that while Vettel ran in fourth for part of the race, he ended up sixth and once again was beaten by Ricciardo.
"I think that was the most we could do today," Vettel said. "On the primes we weren't able to look after the tires as well as we wanted to. The target is to get back to the front, at the moment the gap is quite big but we will have to work hard to close it again. We have had some difficulties this year, but they can only make us stronger if we learn from them.
"In terms of strategy we wanted to get the McLarens so we went aggressive with the early stop, but the tires started going off at the end and all in all that was what we could do today."
The McLarens of Magnussen and Button crossed the finish line in seventh and eighth places, but officials penalized Magnussen five seconds for pushing Bottas off the track and classed him 10th.
"I made a great start - I got up to second into the first corner - but I knew I wouldn't be able to keep that position, and inevitably I fell back," Magnussen said. "Obviously, it was nice to be up at the front for a while, and disappointing that we couldn't stay up there, but as I say I knew it wouldn't last forever.
"It's unfortunate to come away from the weekend having only scored a single point. Okay, we're not battling for the world championship, but we're still fighting for crucial positions in the constructors' championship, and the points we lost today would have been very useful from that point of view."
Button had a great battle with Perez who ended up seventh.
"This wasn't the result I was after - but it was good fun nonetheless," Button said. "It's just a pity that we didn't quite have the race pace we'd hoped for: when you start fifth and sixth, you're not just looking for a points finish, you want a bit more than that. If we'd had a clear run, I think we could have done a bit better - but, in the traffic, it was easier for the cars around us to pick us off than it was for us to pick them off.
"I had an amazing battle with Checo (Perez) - we took the first Lesmo side by side, which doesn't happen very often. It's a pity I couldn't get past him - I tried so many times - but he was so strong under braking that to match him into the turns I was locking up the fronts and the rears, which left me struggling for position on the exits. But I was really on the limit. It was superb wheel-to-wheel action - I hope it was great entertainment for the spectators and fantastic TV for the fans at home."
Perez: "The race was a lot of fun. We were always fighting somebody and always pushing hard. It was great racing and it's good to score important points for the championship. The most important part of the race was the fight I had with Jenson, which was really nice and reminded me of the old days. I know he is a driver that you can fight really hard and it's always clean. At the end of the race with Kevin, I knew he had a penalty and there was no need to attack him. It meant I could focus on keeping Jenson behind me, which was not easy."
It was a bad day for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso retired with a mechanical problem for the first time since 2009.
"After a long run of trouble-free races, it's a real shame I had to retire just here in Monza, in front of all our fans," he said. "I would have liked to have put on a very different race for them. In the first stint we were competitive, but when you find yourself in a group of cars where everyone is using DRS, overtaking becomes nearly impossible.
"After the pit stop, I found myself at the back of a train of cars and at that point we changed the strategy, deciding to drop back from the group to conserve the tires and try and attack at the end of the race. But then came the problem with the ERS system. It's never nice for the team to have a reliability problem, because the guys work night and day to give us the best car possible.
"What happened doesn't change my will to win and in order to try and have that happen soon, we will continue to work as hard as we can, always giving our all."
Raikkonen finished 10th and was elevated to ninth because of Magnussen's penalty
"We knew this would be a difficult weekend and today in the race, we saw the proof of that," Raikkonen said. "Overall, I was happy with the handling of the car and the balance was good, but we lacked speed down the straight and I didn't have much grip. As soon as I got close to the cars ahead of me, I lost aerodynamic downforce and the car was sliding all over the place.
"I think I did the most I could today, even if unfortunately I was unable to get the result I would have wanted for our home race, for the team and all our fans. Now we must think of the upcoming races and continue to work nonstop, because we are coming up to tracks that should better suit the characteristics of our car."
So Ferrari didn't do well in its home grand prix while Mercedes did very well with a one/two finish in a race where Rosberg and Hamilton did not hit each other.