Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Monza, 2018

Hamilton wins again as Mercedes break Ferrari hearts at home

2018 Italian Grand Prix review

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Sebastian Vettel went into Ferrari’s home race in good shape. He’d returned from the summer break by winning in Belgium and was poised to hack more points out of Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead.

But his good work at Spa was undone within moments of the Italian Grand Prix beginning. That paved the way for Mercedes to wrench victory from Ferrari’s hands, to the crushing disappointment of the home crowd.

Hamilton versus Vettel

It’s been 18 years since Monza reshaped its first corner into a single, brutally tight chicane. For the first time since then, both Ferrari drives had a clear view of it from the grid.

The charge to the Rettifilio chicane is long and narrow, presenting ample opportunity for Ferrari to choreograph how they would keep their rivals behind and potentially manoeuvre Vettel, second in the points and on the grid, into the lead. But either there was no plan or it wasn’t heeded.

Vettel kept his counsel over precisely why his failure to claim pole position rankled so obviously, as his clipped “speak later” on the radio after qualifying showed. But if Ferrari got something wrong on Saturday, Vettel’s error on Sunday was far more costly.

The SF71-Hs got away as well as ever, but Hamilton tracked them on the run to the Rettifilio. They emerged line astern, and on the run to the Della Roggia chicane Hamilton was poised to strike.

Vettel came out of the Curva Grande in Raikkonen’s slipstream but Hamilton was closer to his target and he moved first, darting to the outside. But as they approached terminal velocity the Mercedes couldn’t draw alongside. Vettel, however, moved to the inside, where he was blocked by his team mate.

Start, Monza, 2018
Vettel’s bid for the lead backfired
“I wanted to get down the inside,” Vettel explained. “I think I had the space but again Kimi opened the brakes which is absolutely fine for him to do. I could’ve done the same but then the apex is coming very rapidly and I think it would’ve been a nasty one. So I tried to get out of there.”

But with Hamilton on his outside Vettel had nowhere to go. Surprisingly, when contact was made it wasn’t the driver on the outside – Hamilton – who spun, but Vettel. Although Vettel had sight of Hamilton’s car and was better-placed to anticipate the contact, his wheels were still pointing left when they touched; Hamilton seemed at the very least braced for impact and had plenty of room to gather up his car and make the apex for the second part of the corner.

Vettel accused Hamilton of not leaving him enough space. But the Mercedes driver was under no obligation to, and Vettel had plenty of room on his left when they touched, so the stewards correctly ruled it a racing incident.

Hamilton had scored a quick win over one Ferrari. But it would take most of the rest of the race and the combined efforts of the Mercedes team to dislodge the other.

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Hamilton versus Raikkonen

The luckless Brendon Hartley didn’t make it as far as the first chicane when he was pincered between Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson, destroying his front-right suspension. The Safety Car was summoned and Hamilton limbered up for a pop at race leader Raikkonen.

Raikkonen went early, flooring the throttle at the exit of Ascari. This was a risky move – the Safety Car only just made it back to the pits before the Ferrari hammered past, Hamilton’s Mercedes poised to strike, Max Verstappen’s outgunned Red Bull slipping back.

They crossed the start line and Hamilton popped out from Raikkonen’s rear wing to the outside, squeezing the Ferrari and occupying the middle of the track to dissuade a counter-attack. But Raikkonen wasn’t done for. A clean exit from the Rettifilio set him up for a run on the outside at the Della Roggia. Hamilton, not wanting to repeat Vettel’s misjudgement, let him go and lived to fight on.

But the straight-line speed advantage Ferrari enjoyed over Mercedes at Spa seemed little in evidence at Monza. Raikkonen couldn’t pull away – Hamilton consistently matched his lap times. Further back, Valtteri Bottas found he was unable to displace Verstappen from third. And with Vettel beginning a recovery drive from the back, there was still everything to play for at Mercedes.

Mercedes versus Raikkonen

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Monza, 2018
Bottas backed up Raikkonen
On lap 20 the Mercedes and Ferrari mechanics appeared in the pits. Raikkonen headed for the pit lane and Hamilton didn’t follow him – to do so would be a clear strategic error. Instead he pressed on, hoping to wring enough performance from his tyres to gain a few seconds on the Ferrari, or even benefit from another Safety Car deployment.

It looked like he might get one when Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull came to a smoky stop on lap 24. But race control elected against summoning the Safety Car, and by now Raikkonen was lapping more than quickly enough that Hamilton’s chance of ‘overcutting’ him to take the lead was gone. Four laps later he was in for fresh tyres, the late pit stop having cost him five seconds to the net leader.

Raikkonen hadn’t regained the lead yet because the other Mercedes had moved ahead. This was clearly a tactical ploy by Mercedes to hinder Raikkonen, it worked: Hamilton closed back up to the Ferrari and, though he couldn’t immediately pass, it meant Raikkonen was forced to run in the dirty air of his fellow Finn’s car for several laps. He’d already pushed his tyres hard immediately after his pit stop – when they are most in need of saving – and soon he would be in real trouble.

Bottas finally pitted on lap 36 and the seven laps Raikkonen spent behind him had taken a further toll on his tyres. Hamilton followed him closely, and race engineer Peter Bonnington urged him to play the waiting game. “This race will be won and lost with tyres,” he said. “It looks like Raikkonen’s killing his tyres. Don’t you do the same.”

Raikkonen sensed the inevitable. “There’s no way to save tyres if you want to keep ahead,” he warned the pit wall.

Inexorably, Hamilton chipped away tenth by tenth on each lap. Finally by lap 45 the Ferrari was on the ropes. Raikkonen ducked and feinted as far as the rules allow, trying to deprive Hamilton of a tow on the straight. But it was to no avail – the Mercedes lined him up on the outside of the Rettifilio, got to the corner first and took the place cleanly. This time there was nothing left in Raikkonen’s tyres for him to retaliate with. Tifosi hearts sank.

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Monza, 2018
Raikkonen gave Hamilton racing room
Hamilton created his rival afterwards. “He moved to the right and then I thought a little bit too the left but it didn’t cause me any problems and then it was just about late braking into turn one. It was very, very close. Kimi was very, very fair. Gave me space. It was tooth-and-nail, whatever you call it, as racing should be.”

Raikkonen lost as much as 1.5 seconds per lap on the run to the chequered flag. “I have massive vibrations,” he warned. “Nothing that I can do.” Luckily for him Mercedes’s strategy of using Bottas as Hamilton’s wingman again meant he was stuck behind Verstappen. Earlier on the Red Bull driver had got away with cutting the Rettifilio chicane while resisting Bottas, but his swerve into the side of the Mercedes approaching turn one was a clear violation, and earned a five-second penalty. This paid off doubly for Ferrari, as Bottas remained contained behind Verstappen, while Vettel inherited another place without having to pass the Red Bull.

Nonetheless it left Ferrari counting the cost of a wasted opportunity to take points of Hamilton, and a squandered chance to take their first home win at eight years despite having swept the front row of the grid.

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Grosjean thrown out

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Monza, 2018
Grosjean finished sixth… temporarily
Vettel fell to 18th after bouncing off Hamilton and restarted immediately behind Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver had started at the back due to reliability problems earlier in the season and failed to see the chequered flag due to yet another failure, though not before Vettel swept past in another display of Ferrari power.

Another driver making who made gains through the midfield was Sergio Perez, who ultimately finished behind team mate Esteban Ocon. This meant another best-of-the-rest one-two for the team formerly and still known as Force India.

The pink cars were promoted to sixth and seventh in the final classification after Renault successfully protested against Romain Grosjean’s Haas, whose floor dimensions were found not to conform to the rule book. During the weekend Force India said they have designs on fifth place in the championship, which at their rate of scoring since the summer break isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jnr therefore moved up to eighth and Renault stayed ahead of Haas in the constructors’ championship. The Williams pair rounded off the top 10, Grosjean’s disqualification handing Sergey Sirotkin his first world championship point.

Charles Leclerc endured a poor weekend at a track where Sauber looked potentially strong. McLaren ran true to their recent form: Vandoorne limped in 12th, Fernando Alonso retired. And there was no reward for Pierre Gasly after he heroically dragged his Toro Rosso-Honda into Q3: out-gunned on the straights, he slumped to 14th behind Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault.

Hamilton’s strong run

Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Monza, 2018
It took everything Mercedes had to win this one
Hamilton’s victory was his fifth in the last seven years at Monza and the crowd made it quite clear they have had enough of watching him, Mercedes, or anything which is painted red winning Italy’s round of the world championship.

Since the blows of the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, Hamilton has rallied magnificently, taking three wins and a second, and pulling 30 points ahead of Vettel. But it took everything he and Mercedes had to win this one: the strategy was faultless, his racecraft peerless, and in Bottas he had a willing wingman – one who might not have been in the right place at the right time had he not spent the early stages stuck behind Verstappen.

The championship now heads to Singapore – previously one of Mercedes’ weakest circuits. Will the track where it all started to go wrong for Ferrari last year give Vettel the chance to recover his lost points?

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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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27 comments on “Hamilton wins again as Mercedes break Ferrari hearts at home”

  1. In my viewpoint, the three main points of the race:

    1) Second big mistake from Vettel. He destroyed his and his team’s race by getting in a totally unnecessary contact. Being 1-3 they could easily work something strategy-wise, like pitting number 5 first and forcing Lewis to come in. By losing Vettel they had no choice: they had to cover for the undercut since Kimi couldn’t create a nice 2-3s buffer and that was essentially “game over”. This mistake and one at the German GP equals more than the championship lead. Vettel seems to break under the immense pressure to win it, having finally a car in par with Mercedes. Ferrari might have made a mistake not snatching Ricciardo and placing all their bets in one horse for the next couple of years.

    2) Ferrari need to get their act together if they want to have any chance for the WDC. Kimi needs to be a clear number 2. Irvine and Massa style. Their strategy for the start of this race should have been “lets get Vettel ahead and keep Lewis behind”, not fighting for position with his teammate, being 50+ points back. Mercedes used Bottas exactly like that and it gave them an advantage. Yes I get how great Kimi winning his last Monza GP with Ferrari would have been, but sentiment and F1 championships don’t go together often.

    3) Lewis seems to be on a different level from the rest of the field. Where was Bottas, in a track that he likes? 0.4secs back in quali and fighting with a Red Bull for 3rd all race long. If reliability doesn’t play a part, and Mercedes can keep this close performance – wise, he is the great favorite for title number 5, and not just because of the 30 point lead.

    1. @afonic I entirely agree with you on all of the three points.

    2. Great comments, @afonic. The title of this article should be “Hamilton wins again as Vettel breaks Ferrari hearts at home”. He’s thrown this championship away. I am really quite surprised. All he had to do was keep it on the straight and narrow this year and it was his for the taking. In terms of keeping his cool, he seems to be going backwards the older he gets, not the other way round. Very strange.

      1. No, Sebastian didn’t throw world championship away. He is not guilty even if it happens.
        There is no Ross Brawn around. Here is Maurizio Arrivabene.
        Tactic changer. Undecisive. A lot more
        But Sebastian Vettel has all f1 driving capabilities of Michael Schumacher.

  2. Ferrari should have pitted Kimi as soon as he lost the lead. That would have given Vettel 3 extra points, which might come handy at the end of the year.

    1. @paulk I was half-expecting them to. But if the Leclerc rumours are true, denying him a podium after that race to help Vettel might have been too much for even his equanimity. They do need him onside for the rest of the season.

  3. Still too early to be sure, but it seems that right now Ferrari and Mercedes have swapped places from last season, with Ferrari quicker in qualifying, Mercedes quicker in the race. If so then Vettel’s racecraft (and Raikkonen’s continuing interest) are going to be hugely tested. Both Hamilton and Bottas are looking ready.

    1. It’s amazing that were only 7 races from the end of the season and it’s still too early to tell isn’t it @david-br

      I completely agree the last few results have been hard to work out.

      Ferrari have had the single lap pace advantage over Mercedes in Germany,Hungry,Spa and Monza with only rain changing the results.

      That said, the Mercedes race pace in Hungry and Monza has surprised me. Vettel was driving away with it in Germany until the rain and won easily in Spa too. I still think he’d have had the pace to win in Hungry had he started on pole but i think Monza could have been a close one.

      I don’t think we will find out next race either as Mercedes usually struggle in Singapore. I’m sure people will still disagree by the end of the season but if I had the choice I’d be sat in the Ferrari… Just..

      1. Tom, yes, even Wolff added the proviso that they hadn’t seen Vettel’s pace in an undamaged car, so maybe Ferrari were still quicker in the race. Hamilton was clearly a bit quicker than Raikkonen though and the Mercedes both picking up less blistering and able to follow closely, again reversing the trend earlier in the season. Given how close it is, I just hope the season continues to be decided between the performance of the drivers, rather than mechanical or engine issues.

  4. Grands Prix in which Vettel made mistakes or underperformed:

    Hungary (Qualifying)

    All of which races Hamilton WON. He is ALWAYS there to capitalise on Vettel’s shortcomings. So luck is on his side, no doubt about it. And needless to say, his performance this season is better too.
    But I think it’s his luck and Bottas’s help that have provided him such a comfortable lead in the championship so far. Since France, Kimi is doing much better than Bottas but is harming Vettel instead of helping.
    I support Ferrari, but I wouldn’t mind if Vettel lost the championship. What I do mind is Ferrari losing the constructor’s. Their car is the fastest and most reliable. It would be good for the sport to see Ferrari back on top.
    Having said that, I hope Ferrari headquarters are concerned with their team’s performance. Late reactions, poor coordination and a few bad pit stops have plagued them this season. They are obviously behind Mercedes and Red Bull in this regard.

    1. @carbon_fibre Hungary doesn’t really fit in that category, though, as the reason for his starting position there, which subsequently compromised his chances to beat Hamilton was down to the weather conditions rather than him making an error or something.

      1. Yeah I forgot that weird Hungary qualifying where it only rained for Vettel -_-

        I’m sorry but you can’t claim it wasn’t the drivers fault when everyone had the same conditions. Raikkonen himself said Ferrari had a car that would comfortably take pole, Vettel didn’t because his driving was worse than the 3 drivers who qualified Infront of him.

        tl;dr yes it fits, Vettel underperformed.

    2. “But I think it’s his luck and Bottas’s help that have provided him such a comfortable lead in the championship so far”

      Can we please stop with this “luck” nonsense.

      Vettel has been extremely “lucky” that he has not had any race affecting reliability issue. Contrast Hamilton:

      Austria- feul pressure DNF
      Bahrain-gearbox issues & grid penalty
      Canada- engine/cooling problems
      Germany qual-hydraulics problem
      Australia-software problem causing the pitwall to mis-time his pitstop

      So not only does Seb have the marginally faster car, but he has rock solid reliability too. Perhaps Seb is the “lucky” one

  5. Monza and the crowd made it quite clear they have had enough of watching him, Mercedes, or anything which is painted red winning Italy’s round of the world championship.

    I don’t usually point these out, but this colemanball is a classic!

  6. Vettel needs to win in Singapore. He has no more excuses after literally ruining Ferrari’s weekend here.

  7. This loss by Ferrari, after Vettles off in Germany, is really going to haunt them if they dont win either championship. Between Vettles rookie mistakes and the teams crappy strategy calls, even if they were a second faster at the remaining races, I doubt they will pull it off. It pains me as a longtime Tifosi.

  8. Vettel?
    Can’t handle the current modern F1 pressure cooker environment very well at all.
    His ill tempered petulance leads him regularly to red mist/losing the plot moments, at crucial times in the season.
    He’s cracked more than once last year.
    This year he’s mentally broken down 3 times already.

    Current pressure on him should be nil.
    Ferrari have made massive progress compared to Mercedes.

    Yet the mentality of SV isn’t suspect anymore. His head has a deep & ingrained massive flaw in it. He is not fit for purpose.
    As such he’s his own worst enemy.
    This past weekend he spat his dummy right out over Kimi claiming pole.
    I now know the impending arrival next year of Charles Leclerc is haunting him big time too.

    I politely suggest that SV isn’t the real deal.
    Ferrari should be shot of him now.
    Keep Kimi & put CL in the car right away.
    Then & only then will Ferrari progress without a prima donna, continually throwing away golden opportunities.

    For the record I am a dyed in the wool Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes fan.
    That doesn’t detract in any form or fashion, from my simple critical path analysis of Ferrari’s biggest problem.

    1. @wildbiker Vettel’s undoubtedly brilliant in qualification (dry track anyhow) and leading a race. Hence 4 championships and still maybe a fifth. He’s also gutsy and combative, capable of some great overtakes, and he doesn’t give up. In my view, those qualities make champions. I can see them in Verstappen, easily, but I’m not sure about Leclerc yet. Vettel does seem to lack control over his driving at critical moments, and makes too many poor critical decisions, so in a tight battle like last year and especially this, he can come out second too often. But it’s an open question whether Leclerc has the other ingredients Vettel has. He started well this seasons but has seemed lacklustre in recent races and not particularly impressive in wet conditions. But maybe there are other reasons for that.

  9. I watched the race, so… Tldr.

  10. you need a sub editor for these pieces, some of the typos change the meaning completely. Just one example:

    “.. the crowd made it quite clear they have had enough of watching him, Mercedes, or anything which is painted red winning Italy’s round..”

  11. It’s interesting how hot and cold Grosjean blows. Sometimes he’s atrocious and others he gets the car into great positions. I used to be a big fan and had high hopes for him but inconsistency is no good in F1.

  12. Vettel often looks like his head is elsewhere this year. Hamilton seems to have laser-like focus. Ricciardo – how unlucky can you get?

  13. Karma is an interesting thing… At SPA, Vettel was aided in the first lap by Charlie… This time Hamilton aided by Vettel, karma paid back…

    SPA Conspiracy: The Hamilton fans suspected Charlie had waited until the overtaking maneuver to help Ferrari. FIA race director Charlie Whiting denied on demand: “Spa is a long lap. We take more time with the decision than with shorter routes such as the Red Bull Ring, where the cars come back much faster after a lap. For example, Spa was about whether we should pass the field at the scene of the accident or divert it via the pit lane. All we needed was information from the marshals. ” Yeah thats why you deploy VSC first, slow the cars down first, then make SC decision or not… It was clear as day SC was needed! In 2012 SC was decided before cars passed Eu Rogue! 2018, they have to take all the time in the world to “aid” cough not stop racing… Yes Ferrari was fast, yes vettel could pass after SC, but then tyres would be warm? maybe vet caught napping who knows? What if someone injured in the accident? Racing more important than serious accidents? I guarantee that if it was Vettel leading and Ham in the overtake position, VSC and SC deployment would be mighty fast! As in the past…

    1. Yes that’s true because the leading car got to the top of the Kemel straight before deploying the SC, in 2012 the SC was deployed the moment a car went over Fernando’s head

  14. If I had power and influence in Ferrari management, I would SACK KIMI with IMMEDIATE EFFECT.
    He is disaster for Ferrari and he is the third Mercedes driver on the track currently.
    He broke in front of Vettel and contact between Seb and brit occured.
    What a shame that Italians do not see this trouble man.
    Where is Ferrari strategy?
    Are they mad people in Ferrari?
    Children would better put team strategy…
    Toto Wolff can have very calm sleep withot worries.
    2013 year proved the same.

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