This F1 title fight continues to confound. Just like in Spa last week, the Monza winner was as expected. It is a high-speed track that could be designed for Mercedes, perhaps even more so than that in Belgium.
Just like in Spa, the pointer for the championship instead lay in the victory margin – only this time, the other way around. This time the Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari – or rather Lewis Hamilton’s over Sebastian Vettel – was gaping rather than just scraped.
Calm After the Storm
The fun started early in this one. The starting grid was far from standard, not only due to a session run in heavy rain but – in an unrelated event – because almost half of the pilots had penalties for changing gearboxes and engine parts.
But one part of the grid was utterly standard. As far as everyone was concerned if pole-man Hamilton (indeed this one meant he became the most numerous F1 pole bagger ever) led off the line, that would be that.
He did, and that was indeed that.
Underlining what a topsy-turvy campaign this has been, he is the first this season to win two races on the bounce.
After the chaos of qualifying – Valtteri Bottas then the Ferrari pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel started fourth, fifth and sixth respectively – order was quickly restored. After just eight laps, we had the ever so standard-looking top three of Lewis, Valtteri and Seb in that order, and the day was set from there.
Valtteri gave good chase of his team mate, but tended to hit the usual dirty air buffer in another’s wake – and overtaking at Monza is oddly difficult even with its many straights. The Mercs finished in order at the front.
But as intimated it was not a good day for the home team. No one at Ferrari sought to point to qualifying’s chaos as the reason for not winning. From that eighth lap Merc streaked clear easily, even in cruise mode from around quarter-distance. Seb’s third place was the best he could have hoped for whatever happened. The smiles of a week ago are suddenly strained.
Indeed it might have been worse for the Italian squad. Red Bull, without its own penalties, would have started second and third. Daniel Ricciardo even from starting 16th split the Ferraris in fourth by the end and was harassing Vettel late too. He likely was driver of the day.
Max Verstappen would at least have been somewhere in the mix as well, but his wretched luck in 2017 continued as he picked up a puncture early in battle with Felipe Massa. He recovered enough to take the final point though.
It all means that Lewis leads the table for the first time this season. But – again keeping with the year no one is jumping to conclusions – as Singapore is next, where Ferrari is expected to be on top. Then again, this F1 title fight continues to confound.