Italian GP 2015
SEPTEMBER 7, 2015
Race Report - That Fabulous Feeling
BY DAN KNUTSON IN MONZA
Lewis Hamilton started from the pole and led all the way to win the Italian Grand Prix only to discover afterwards that he faced a penalty or disqualification because the left rear tire he started the race on was 0.3 psi below the specified minimum tire starting pressure of 19.5 psi.
"I don't feel concerned at the moment, no," Hamilton said to Sky TV when asked about the possibility of getting disqualified. "There's no need to worry. I had an amazing day, amazing weekend, and that's really what I'm focused on. What will be will be - we did everything we could."
In the end, the stewards ruled that because the tire warming blankets had been disconnected from their power source that this had caused the tires to cool and lose pressure. And they stated that the team had followed the normal procedures set by Pirelli.
So Hamilton got to keep his win, and he got to keep that fabulous feeling of winning at Monza for the third time.
"This weekend has been just fantastic," he said. "It has been a perfect weekend for me. I don't know if I have ever had a weekend like this. This circuit is such a special one - it's the same for all the drivers. When you stand on top of that podium you feel incredible pride and incredibly proud to be amongst the greats that have stood up there and when you see a sea of fans - a lot of them in red - but the sea of fans is just unlike anything I've seen. It's very emotional when you are up there. The race was fantastic."
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg started the race with left rear tyres that was 1.1 psi below the legal limit. But Rosberg ended up in 17th place after running third only to have his engine go up in flames two laps from the end.
"The whole weekend went wrong," said Rosberg who now trails Hamilton by 53 points. "It was very unlucky I think and with so many repercussions. It wasn't even an engine issue; it was a chassis issue that meant we had to change the engine on Saturday. It is very, very disappointing for sure. To have it explode two laps from the end is more disappointing for sure."
The avid tofosi fans cheered wildly as Sebastian Vettel took second place in his Ferrari, and they were happy as well that former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa finished on the podium in his Williams.
In the early laps Vettel was able to keep tabs on Hamilton.
"At some points we were similar in lap time," Vettel said. "He was only a tenth quicker for one or two laps. I thought that maybe now we get a chance to close the gap but then he just seemed to... in football you call it the second lung. I don't know - that's a German saying, it makes no sense in English - but he just seemed to find an extra switch and he was pulling away.
"Me, Felipe (Massa) and the cars behind, we seemed to struggle with tyres, so we're losing pace whereas Lewis just kept doing what he was doing in the first couple of laps. So it was quite incredible to see and no chance to stay close to him. After that our race was pretty isolated but I knew I had to keep pushing. Seeing the pace that Lewis had, I knew that Nico (Rosberg) eventually will have the same pace. He did in the end, he was closing the gap, it was getting quite tight but I think we could have managed and get the place even with Nico not retiring."
Massa barely beat his teammate Valtteri Bottas who finished fourth and just 0.361 of a second behind.
"It was not really that fantastic a start," Massa said. "But it was really good to overtake cars and to manage to be in the position compared to the guys behind, so happy for that. But also, just the pace trying to open the gap against Valtteri. I went to the pit stop a little bit early and he stays on the track for a few other laps which helps a lot his tires for the end of the race.
"I opened the gap anyway and we were doing good lap times to maintain the gap but at the end I started to lose performance on the rear tires and he was catching me with better tires as well. So, in the last three laps it was pretty difficult. He was catching me a lot, he was quicker than me. The only problem was the traction: he has better traction. So, I managed to fight, and getting to the podium was tough."
Bottas had a problem with his MGU-K on the final lap.
"My pit stop lost me too much time which was crucial for the second part of the race," he said. "I managed to get extremely close in the end but it was too late. As I saved my tyres and brakes I was able to attack in the final laps but we had system issues on the last lap, so we need to investigate what happened because I also lost an opportunity there. It's a shame for me that I couldn't be on the podium but it's still good points for us."
Kimi Raikkonen qualified a marvelous second, but problems with the clutch caused the car to go into anti-stall mode at the start of the race, and he dropped back to 14th. He recovered to take fifth place.
"As far as I know I did everything correctly, but the car went into the anti-stall and did not move at all," Raikkonen said. "I still don't have the right explanation about what happened, but it's a really bad thing that cost us a lot today. If you start from second place and after a few seconds you're in last position it's not easy to see the positive side of the race: we wasted a big opportunity to fight at the front. The car has been working well all weekend and also in the race the behavior was good.
"Overall we had a pretty good speed all weekend so in a way we have to be happy for what we have done because here we were expecting more difficulties. Today I was positively surprised that we could get through some cars that are very fast on the straights, this shows that we are doing the right things, pushing the car in the right direction and improving in all areas."
The Force India team had a strong performance with Sergio Perez taking sixth place and Nico Hulkenberg seventh place.
"I had a really enjoyable time today," Perez said. "I had very strong pace from the beginning to the end; I managed the tire degradation well and I feel we got the maximum that was possible from the race. The first stint was fairly calm: I found myself in clean air and I managed to open a gap over the cars behind so I wasn't under any pressure.
"After my pit stop, I knew Kimi (Raikkonen) was closing in behind me: he was really quick and there was nothing I could do to keep him behind any longer than I did. I am very pleased with our performance over the whole weekend and the team really deserves these points. Today's result is important because it moves us back to fifth in the championship with a nice gap over our rivals. We did a good job and we deserve this result."
Hulkenberg said he finished the race feeling a little bit frustrated because the car didn't have the pace they team knows is possible.
"I actually think we had a problem with the car," he said, "and it's something we need to investigate because I was losing downforce, the car was sliding and the rear tires were heating up too much, all of which really hurt my pace. The second half of the race was quite difficult defending against (Marcus) Ericsson and that's when we were considering changing to a two-stop strategy because I was struggling so much with the tires. In the end we decided against it and I was able to hang on to seventh place for some important points."
Daniel Ricciardo went from 19th to eighth in his Red Bull.
"It was a great result for the team considering where we started and the characteristics of this track," he said. "It was sweet taking that eighth place on the last lap from Marcus Ericsson. I am very happy with the chassis, the car was handling really well, and we were able to fight with a Ferrari and a Mercedes-powered car on a track where we lost out a lot on the straights. It wasn't an easy weekend for us, but I think the race was positive and the energy in the team is good. I will probably celebrate with one more pizza."
And what did Sauber driver Ericsson think after ending up ninth?
"I was pleased with my start and first lap," he said. "We were expecting to fight against our direct competitors here in Monza. Throughout the race I had a good pace, therefore, I was able to pressure Nico (Hulkenberg) for the whole race distance. Surely it was one of the strongest races so far this year. Obviously it is frustrating having lost a position in the very last corner on the last lap. I pushed my tires a bit too much trying to overtake Nico (Hulkenberg), so then I was not able to defend against Daniel (Ricciardo). A bitter sweet ending to a strong race."
Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10 after starting 18th in his Red Bull.
"Monza was always going to be a tough weekend for us," he said. "Our race wasn't too bad considering where we started on the track, because of our penalties. I didn't see much action during the race but it was a positive result to finish in the points, down to good teamwork."
The Italian Grand Prix was the 12th race of the season and the last one in Europe. The Formula 1 circus now heads for Singapore and Japan.