Hamilton leaps ahead as Rosberg suffers Mercedes’ first breakdown

2015 Italian Grand Prix review

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With his seventh victory of 2015 Lewis Hamilton has taken a significant step towards lifting the world championship trophy for the third time in his career.

The chances of any other outcome dived the moment the lights went out and 19 cars shot forward but second-placed Kimi Raikkonen failing to move. His Ferrari went into anti-stall, and although Raikkonen got away a few seconds later, the entire field passed him before the first corner.

Raikkonen’s delay was a particular inconvenience for Nico Rosberg, who had lined up directly behind him. Hamilton’s closest championship rival came out of turn one in sixth position, and it was already starting to look like a good day for the occupant of car number 44.

Rosberg pits early

Sebastian Vettel therefore took over second place but could do little more than watch Hamilton edge away. The Ferrari clearly did not have the same pace in the race it enjoyed in qualifying, and by lap ten Hamilton was almost six seconds to the good.

As lap two began Rosberg picked up one place at the expense of Perez, but he wasn’t able to make an impression on the two Williams drivers ahead in the laps that followed. Mercedes therefore turned their attention to bringing him in for a pit stop as early as possible.

The earliest any team felt they could get away with bringing a one-stopping car in was lap 18. Both Nicos arrived in the pit lane – Rosberg’s Mercedes falling to eighth place and Hulkenberg’s Force India to eleventh – but Hulkenberg found his new set of medium tyres were beginning to suffer long before the chequered flag.

Rosberg’s early stop worked beautifully in the short-term. Williams responded immediately by bringing their lead car in, but a rapid out-lap for Rosberg moved him ahead of Felipe Massa. It was therefore inevitable Rosberg would get both Williams drivers for the price of one pit stop once Valtteri Bottas came in.

Rosberg didn’t make it back into third place immediately, however. After his poor start Raikkonen ran an extra-long first stint to get back in contention, and briefly held third place behind his team mate after easily picking off the stragglers – which these days means the likes of McLaren and Red Bull. His pit stop soon dropped him well behind Rosberg, however.

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“We need to pull a gap – don’t ask questions”

Hamilton continued to lead as he pleased, waiting until Vettel had come in on lap 25 before heading in on the next lap, leaving him a 26-lap run on the medium tyres to the end.

Vettel’s pace had dropped off considerably towards the end of his first stint, so that after the pit stops Hamilton now led by over 18 seconds. It grew more slowly from then on until, with around five laps to go, Hamilton received a surprising and cryptic hurry-up message from his race engineer.

“We need to pull a gap,” urged Peter Bonnington. “Don’t asked questions, just execute.” The instruction was repeated: “Let’s just have some ‘Hammertime’ lap times, we just need some good lap times now, no need to ask questions”.

The reason why Mercedes were anxious that Hamilton not query the call became clear shortly after the race. In the wake of the blow-outs seen at Spa tyre supplier Pirelli had mandated new minimum pressure levels, and one of Hamilton’s was found to have been 0.3psi too low prior to the start of the race.

Rosberg was in similar trouble and to a greater extent – his tyre was 1.1psi too low. But the matter became academic with two laps to go when he engine died approaching the Roggia chicane. Rosberg had been forced to switch back to an old power unit due to a problem with the new-specification unit during practice, and the well-worn engine failed as he was beginning to apply pressure to Vettel’s Ferrari.

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Hamilton keeps his win

Having been kept in the dark by his team, Hamilton was somewhat surprised to take the chequered flag and then find himself being asked how much of his 25-second winning margin had been down to the slight under-inflation of one of his tyres. “Not really a huge amount on one rear tyre,” he told the post-race press conference.

The International Sporting Code spells out clearly that not having gained an advantage is not considered a defence against an infringement of the technical regulations. However the stewards were satisfied that Hamilton’s tyres “were at the minimum start pressure recommended by Pirelli when they were fitted to the car”, and that the variation had been because of the tyres losing temperature, so allowed him to keep his win.

Rosberg’s demise promoted Massa onto the podium, although he spent the final laps under strenuous attack from the other Williams of Bottas. Raikkonen zapped past the two Force Indias with DRS in his final stint.

The first he passed, Hulkenberg, was complaining about a lack of rear grip on his long second stint. However he successfully repelled Marcus Ericsson until the end, and the Sauber driver was mugged by Daniel Ricciardo for eighth place on his last lap. Daniil Kvyat also worked his way up from the back in the other Red bull to take the final point.

The two Toro Rosso drivers were next: Carlos Sainz Jnr finally saw the chequered flag after a spate of car problems and Max Verstappen took 12th on his first visit to Monza, despite having to serve a drive-through penalty at the end of the first lap following his qualifying drama yesterday.

Felipe Nasr came home 13th ahead of Jenson Button, who had been under attack from team mate Fernando Alonso until his McLaren failed.

It was a miserable day for Lotus. The Enstone team made a belated arrival at Monza due to the financial wrangling over the team at Spa but hopeful that the track would suit their Mercedes-engined E23. But just as at Silverstone both drivers incurred damage at the first corner and were forced to retire.

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The reliability factor

Last year’s championship fight between the two Mercedes drivers was shaped by a series of technical failures on both their cars.

Lewis Hamilton suffered more such problems earlier in the season, though by the end of the year it more or less evened out, particularly when Nico Rosberg’s car failed him in the season finale.

This year Mercedes has added much improved reliability to what was already an extremely competitive package, and as a result Hamilton and Rosberg have usually only left points on the table when they or the team have made a mistake. With his plainly superior speed, Hamilton had gradually pulled 28 points clear of Rosberg ahead of the Italian Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ reliability streak ended in the Italian Grand Prix, and pure chance dictated it was Rosberg, not Hamilton, who forced to give up his new engine for an old one which then failed him during the race.

Such are the fickle fortunes of motor racing: Hamilton left the circuit with a yawning 53-point margin over his team mate, but might as easily have seen his advantage slashed to just three.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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78 comments on “Hamilton leaps ahead as Rosberg suffers Mercedes’ first breakdown”

  1. Really insult to injury for Rosberg. He was being beaten soundly this year. But he deserved a chance to see if he could get on a hot streak like he had last year and make it close. 53 points this late seems like a whole lot of nails in his coffin.

    1. Was Nico really on a hot streak last year? I seem to remember Hamilton on a run of bad luck.

    2. Did Rosberg have a “hot streak” in 2014? He never even won 2 races in a row.

      1. Exactly! Was just thinking the same thing.

      2. So what? Vettel’s first two on a row was Abu’10 which is the race that made him world champion for the first time. Though, without his bad bad luck that race would have been his fourth on a row… And field was much more competitive at the time. But it doesn’t necessarily mean much.

        1. Yes, but Rosberg managed 5 wins all year. Hamilton won that number of races in a row last year. No one took more than 2 in a row in 2010.

        2. @kanan That’s the point. Nobody said Vettel was on a hot streak. Heck, he didn’t lead the championship all year.

          2011/13, however…

    3. If Merc hadn’t screwed the pooch at Monaco, then Lewis would already have a 70 point lead and it would essentially be over. Actually it’s pretty much over anyway.

  2. Looks like the way Nico tries to challenge Lewis is very “academic”. All this stuff with breathing techniques etc. simply doesn’t work. His “system” seems too complexed and energy is being wasted.

    1. I have said this before but will repeat again. Rosberg lacks the raw talent and ability to beat Hamilton consistently. This is motor racing and things happen i.e unreliability, driver/team error, mother nature…
      It seems all these things aren’t happening consistently enough for Rosberg to beat Hamilton as they did last year for the first 9/10 races which made Rosberg appear a lot closer than he actually was to Hamilton.
      With much fewer variables this year we are seeing a much more accurate reflection of the gap between the Merc drivers.

      1. They say Maldo has “raw talent”. He even thinks, he could’ve been WC in RBR dominant years. Really?
        Raw speed is just a part of this game. Lewis made a huge mental progress, He gained confidence and learned how to cut all the “noise”.
        Of course Rosberg is not as quick, but the “noise” is killing him.

        1. I think he could have if he was against Webber. Maldonado is fast…

          It’s just that he hits everything. If you put him in the fastest car and he is just in clean air pumping out lap times, he could probably do a decent job…

          I just said something ‘nice’ about Maldonado… I’m going to get my head checked

          1. I was about to agree with you then realized that is what they basically do in quali and he doesn’t do a decent job compared to his team mate.

          2. Maldonado would have been a disgrace to Red Bull. Webber would have had him. Alonso’s Ferrari would have soundly beaten him.

          3. Actually that’s a fair point @Chiunda… I take it all back.

        2. They say Maldo has “raw talent”

          WHAT? it is not a saying, it is truth! I have not seen anyone who managed DNF almost every race of the season… His talent is so RAW no fire could cook him ready :)

      2. “raw talent” is used for lots of b—s—t nowadays..

  3. It was always going to be next to impossible for Nico against Lewis without Lewis suffering unreliability as he did last year. Lewis is stomping qualifying, and making very few mistakes this year in races. Without help, Nico is toast. But it is motorsport, Lewis could get run into, or suffer a puncture, or some other such unfortunate incident which tightens the championship once again. But if his car remains bulletproof, I would say it was over in Australia for Nico….Lewis is just better than he is across the board. There is no shame in that, Lewis was on pace with double world champion Alonso as a rookie, so Nico knew it was a uphill fight the moment Lewis signed with Merc.

    1. Amazing mental work has been done with Lewis. Just a few seasons ago, he was fragile and unstable.
      It’s not only about speed as we know it.

      1. He only seems more mentally stable because he’s winning in a dominant car with a team mate who looks to be unwilling or unable to challenge him. Give Hamilton a normal car with normal reliability problems and the toys will soon start flying out of the pram.

        1. People use terms to try and make it sound bad like “toys out of the pram” but show me a driver who doesn’t do that and I’ll show you an also ran rather than a world champion.

          1. @philipgb “toys out of the pram” = “a driver I don’t like is dissatisfied about something”

        2. I don’t quite know where you get this impression of Hamilton, because when I think of crybaby world champions who have thrown toys out of prams, I think of Alonso and Vettel.

          1. That might be because until last year people have been starting to forget that Lewis Hamilton was supposed to be this big talent who was going to get lots of championships because he was that good. He wasn’t as high profile as Alonso and Vettel as the great world champion. His stock was falling while Alonso’s was rising with Vettel.

          2. His stock was falling while Alonso’s was rising

            I would say Alonso’s stock has been steadily declining since 2007 with a larger drop off in the last 2 seasons. Ferrari even paid him alot of money to buy out his contract so they could get Vettel in the car, while at the same time no other top team were clambering to get him in the car. Mercedes could have easily swapped Rosberg out for Alonso is they so wished given how long it had been rumoured Alsono was looking for another driver (before Nico signed extension), but they didn’t. Would hardly call that a climbing stock.

          3. Hamilton should have won the titles in 07 and 12 if not for the incompetence of Mclaren and unreliability. Lewis is playing catch up right now and loving every minute of it.

          4. Hamilton should have won the titles in 07 and 12 if not for the incompetence of Mclaren and unreliability.

            In 2007 Mclaren had no mechanical DNFs. Raikkonen would have still won the title, having suffered 2 DNFs. In fact, you could say unreliability cost Massa the title in 2008.

          5. In 2007 it was Mclaren’s incompetence and 2012 reliability. In 07 not pitting him earlier in China cost Lewis the title.

          6. And in 2007 Raikkonen had DNFs which cost him more points than China did for LH.

      2. The pundits keep saying so, but it never made any sense.

      3. Well. It’s easier on your mind if your car is so much faster than anyone else.

        1. Like almost a second per lap faster. Don’t over-credit LH… My grandmother could win in the W06

          1. No she could not.

          2. petebaldwin (@)
            7th September 2015, 10:13

            It’s a second a lap faster than Nico’s car.

          3. You have to look at speed relative to the team mate in that case, and in that case Hamilton is faster and is out performing his competition so credit is due. As has been the case with LH all his career, beating his team mate every season bar one.

            Every world champion in history has had a fast car, no driver has won a championship from mid field, thats just not how F1 works, so should be not credit all the champions in history because they have a very fast car or the best car on the grid.

          4. Michael is correct. even Senna in 1988 had the best car, although he had a double WDC alongside him. Prost won 7 GPs while Senna won 8.
            Button is under rated, he is now giving a good race to Alonso, or do you think Alonso is de-motivated somewhat.

          5. The point is, when I look back in 10 years on historical stats, I will look at LH’s and ignore them. His weren’t earned. He had a Sunday-drive to his WDC’s. Every race he’s won in the last two years – where there was little to no competition, I disregard. Not on the same level as the greats, let alone SV & FA. Not even close

          6. It would appear lewis is incapable of getting any credit whatsoever. Im sure the W06 drives itself to a win every Sunday, to a pole every Saturday, and fewer laps to setup in practice. But alas a top driver in a mediocre car always gets more credit (which I view as compassion above anything, Alonso is not a child) over a top driver in an amazing one. This is F1 after all. I credit Lewis for consistency, Mercedes gave him a car to bring in points and he is doing so.

            Secondly, how can you put VETTEL and Alo on a level and exclude Ham?

          7. Fp1 Lewis
            Fp2 Lewis
            Fp2 Lewis
            Q1 Lewis
            Q2 Lewis
            Q3 Lewis
            Fastest Lap Lewis
            Race Lewis
            Class dismissed

    2. Lewis was always beaten by himself in the past, throwing away countless races due to stupid decisions. He’s perhaps not the most intelligent driver out there but he’s unquestionably the most consistently fast racer so when he starts making the right decisions it’s very hard to beat him.

      1. He’s not unquestionably the most consistently fast racer. But he has unquestionably the most consistently fast race car.

        1. I think on pure pace, Hamilton is the fastest driver out there. Probably the best wheel to wheel racer too.

          He has a few racing flaws… He can push too hard and make stupid mistakes and he gets hot headed especially when he feels he has been wronged.

          Vettel is a superb ‘open air’ driver pumping out lap times with few mistakes. He is very consistent and possibly next ‘fastest’

          Alonso is probably the most rounded of them but not as fast over a lap as the other two.

          All IMO of course.

          I don’t like Hamilton all that much off track but I have a deep respect for his driving skills. I respect the pure racers in F1 and there is no doubt that he is a pure racer of the highest calibre.

          1. this comes to mind watching hamilton :) and i always chuckle, esp near the end of monza, i lmao!


      2. The only thing that went wrong with Hamilton was that he came into contact with two South American drivers a lot. Seeing how other drivers have the same difficulty of keeping their cars in one piece trying to overtake or defend against these guys, it’s pretty clear the problem does not lie with Hamilton.

  4. Now winning races isn’t even good enough for Rosberg. Hamilton could take the title with 2nd place finishes. He needs Hamilton to not finishs at least once, or needs someone else to beat Hamilton too.

  5. It’s a shame for the title race, but I think Hamilton being two DNFs clear is a pretty accurate reflection of the season so far…

  6. I said last year that this year would be Vettel vs Webber in 2011 again: Hamilton getting on top after a nailbitting fight would open the door for him to just annihilate Rosberg like Vettel did to Webber (various reasons in each case but the result is the same).

    Rosberg has been incredibly mediocre this year considering the machinery he has, and has not taken advantage of the ONLY opportunity he had to get on top of Hamilton (a podium finish at Hungary could’ve changed things).

    Now he doesn’t even have luck by his side. And ever since the start procedure was changed, Rosberg has lost a lot of places, even if this time it was partly Kimi’s fault for not getting his car off the line right in front of him.

    Appart of his engine woes this weekend, something entirely outside his control, Rosberg is seriously underperforming. Only good old blue smoke coming out of Lewis’ exhaust would put life back on Nico’s championship bid and that seems very unlikely.

    1. He might just finish the year behind Vettel if he keeps this up.

    2. With 7 races still left to go, its hard to see Rosberg challenging Hamilton, let alone beat him. Reliability might come into play for Hamilton later on, but he can play the remainder of the season by the numbers.

      @fer-no65 I agree regarding the similarity between Vettel and Webber in 2011. I always thought Hamilton would get even better after his first Merc championship. In Webber’s latest book, he basically said that RB put all its effort behind Vettel after he won in 2010… but i dont think thats the case with Mercedes and Hamilton. Lewis has just got even better on his own, while Rosberg has been flat.

      1. This just shows how much Hamilton must have been underperforming last year… I don’t think Rosberg is any better than Mark Webber.

    3. Rosberg performed just as “poorly” las season. It was only hidden by the fact that Hamilton had so many technical problems.

      Hamilton started the season with a DNF and therefore a 25 point defecit. He kept gaining (close to) 25 points on him over a couple races and then he would DNF and be behnd again.

      Rosberg only performed a little better in qualifying, but I;m sure that’s just a setup emphasis difference. Rosberg usually went too much with a qualy setup. it would give him pole, but Hamilton would have a much better setup for the race and pass him on track anyway.

      Now they both seem to have the same emphasis on qualy and race and thus Hamilton is less faster during the race, but now overall a bit faster in both sessions. Points wise the outcome is the same though.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        7th September 2015, 10:12

        No but I remember Rosberg being faster than Hamilton at several races in a row last year. This season he’s not even close.

      2. @patrickl Reminding me of WEB in 2010….albeit to a different extent.

      3. Rosberg performed just as “poorly” las season. It was only hidden by the fact that Hamilton had so many technical problems.

        Similar to Webber v. Vettel in 2010.

        In fact, Webber was genuinely closer in 2009, a la Rosberg in 2013.

    4. Why is everyone on Rosberg? The only difference between him performing “incredibly mediocre” and outstanding is beating his teammate? No. Rosberg was never a match for lewis, but I don’t see how he isn’t, at the very least, doing his job. Rosberg is still second in the standings, after all that has happened in Monza. Only after Vettel overcomes him in that regard, am I gonna start doubting Rosberg.

  7. Funny/Damning math calculation. . . If Rosberg wins out for the rest of the season, all Hamilton has to do is finish second in all of them and he’s still world champion in 2015.

    1. If my calculations are correct, he can even get 3rd place once and 2nd the rest of the races and still win by a point.

      Realistically he just needs to avoid retirements and the championship is his. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes for pole every race then dials the engine back for the race.

    2. 4 wins and 3 DNF’s, Lewis will still be champion.

  8. Realistically, Hamilton needs to do a Stefano Coletti a la GP2 2013 to lose the title after that stewards ruling. It continues to confuse me that the FIA cleared Lewis when Rob Smedley rightfully pointed out to Sky that the thermal bleed would have low in the hot conditions, and there was clearly a matter of minutes or even seconds from the tyre blankets being unplugged from the power source and the pressure reading being taken. If the procedure was the same on Rosberg’s car, which dropped 1.1 PSI (in supposedly a matter of seconds), I think you could realistically query whether that tyre was legal when the tyre blankets were plugged in.

    Returning to my initial point: it is a shame that the faintly Senna-Prost dynamic between the Mercedes drivers in 2014, has turned into a Vettel-Webber dynamic. I hope the latter enjoyed his interview on BBC Breakfast more than I did – the combination of Bill Turnball’s ignorance and the way they appeared to mistake Vettel for Alonso in a slideshow made it a thoroughly cringe-worthy affair.

    1. Yes because Williams were certainly making no attempt to stir controversy regarding the tire pressures. It’s unthinkable that a Williams engineer would partake in this. He’s quite simply wrong.

      1. Oh yes, because of course colder ambient temperatures and a lower ambient pressure would have somehow helped the tyre stay warm and to subsequently keep the pressures up. Silly me, silly Rob… #ThisPostContainsSarcasm

    2. the tyre pressures were checked as correct by pirelli before being fitted to the car
      hard to criticise the stewards for their decision

  9. what would the final standings be if hamilton finished 2nd in all the next races and rosberg 1st?

    1. Hamilton 378 or 375 if he finishes 3rd in one of those races
      Roseberg 374

      There’s also a calculator on the footer https://www.racefans.net/points-calculator/

  10. The current points margin is a TRUE reflection of how the season has gone. Remember Nico was “GIVEN” 17 additional points at Monaco and Lewis was even pitted an extra time in Spain. The team have given Nico plenty of advantages and he still finds himself down 53 points. Lewis has more than double the wins as Nico just like last year. Lewis deserves the title any way you shape it.

    1. The team hasn’t “given” Rosberg anything. They’re human: they make mistakes.

      Trying to claim that there is some vast conspiracy in favour of Rosberg is nonsense. You need only look at how they reacted to his clumsy move at Spa last year to know that they’re actually quite even handed when it comes to dealing with their drivers – when they do something stupid, they get yelled at.

    2. The team have given Nico plenty of advantages

      Your driver is better than Rosberg, your driver is winning, so cut down on your salt.

      1. It has nothing to do with “my driver”. I have noticed on many occasions that Nico was given preferential treatment. Again in Spain and Monaco Lewis was pitted an extra time unnecessarily which gave the wins to Nico. In Malaysia Lewis was pitted an extra time which gave the win to Vettel. Lewis should have no less than 9 wins so far.

        1. In Malaysia, both drivers were pitted under the safety car. Preferential treatment had nothing to do with it. In fact, Rosberg actually lost more positions than Hamilton, since NR was stacked behind LH in the pits. Mercedes lost because Ferrari stayed out and Vettel built up a gap in clear air that he maintained over the Mercs all race long.

          In Spain, the switch to a 3 stop strategy was to get Hamilton ahead of Vettel who jumped him at the start, plus the hard-to-overtake nature of the cars and track. A two stopper would have left him unable to push harder than Rosberg as he did.

          So yeah, despite Hamilton being on cloud nine with where he is right now, you’re salty about Mercedes for some reason.

          1. Your points are valid, but incomplete. The law of averages states that had Hamilton not been pitted an extra time in 3 races, he most likely wins 2 of the races. I am far from salty, just stating the facts.

          2. My point was that you have no grounds to claim that Rosberg was given “plenty of advantages” and “preferential treatment” by Mercedes, when two of your three examples (Malaysia & Spain) didn’t add up.

          3. In Spain, Lewis was pitted a 3rd time while in the lead. Rosberg inherited the lead, hence he was given a win without having to pass Hamilton on track.

          4. And the only reason he got into the lead was the 3 stop strategy which enabled him to push harder than Rosberg or the others on a 2.

  11. I could be wrong but it seems to me that only Jacques Villeneuve is the only recent example of a F1 racing driver son that inherited that “drive the wheels of it” instinct.

    Nico doesn’t have it , looking back a few years honestly Damon Hill didn’t have it either.

  12. Hamilton got a lot of points. There is no chance for the other drivers.

  13. Rosberg is a good driver but he is up against the best.Apart from Fernando Alonso put the every other driver in that second merc results will be the same.Always a close call between Ham and Alo.

    1. Agreed, and why I think those who say NR is wasting that seat are only insulting LH by implying others besides NR would do better against him. Perhaps a bit, but to beat him would be really difficult, so ‘at one’ he is in that car. I also reject the notion that NR is to LH as Webber was to SV. I think NR is way more of a threat to LH than MW usually was to SV. The last race, NR was less than a tenth behind the two Ferrari’s in quali. Give him the new PU he should have had and he’s right there behind LH, 1-2 yet again, and no Kimi in his way. Only now can LH relax a bit, not that he necessarily will, now that Nico got 0 points through no fault of his own after an already unlucky weekend.

      Anyway, going back to last year I had hoped NR would mount a bigger challenge, but that hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t mean next year is guaranteed to be more of the same. That’ll be up to NR though. Maybe he simply hasn’t it in him…or he’s just fallen victim to LH so at one with his car. But NR only has one option which is to keep pushing 10/10ths to either reel LH in and mount a challenge this season, or prove he can at least get more at one with the car like LH, and mount a better challenge next year. They’ll both be there either way.

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