The tifosi were full of hope when the F1 circus moved to the legendary Monza. The home favourite Ferrari arrived in Italy with an engine upgrade, which cost the Italian-based team their three remaining tokens.
Grandstands were red, and there was magic in the air when it was time for qualifying. There was no stopping Mercedes this time, either, but I was absolutely delighted to notice that Ferrari was back at being Mercedes’ number one challenger! Red Bull was struggling with their pace on the long straights of the legendary Monza - which was kind of expected. Q2 saw different tyre strategies. Mercedes was the only team able to set a competitive lap time on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. Red Bull tried to repeat the Silver Arrows’ strategy, but at the end of the session they finally had to opt for the super soft compound to make it through into the final segment.
Once again, Hamilton was stamping his authority all over the place in the decisive last session. The Briton took provisional pole by three tenths of a second, but he ended up seeing off teammate Rosberg by nearly half a second! It was the world champion’s third successive pole in Italy, making it his seventh for the season. Once again Rosberg had to settle for playing the second fiddle for Mercedes. The red-suited drivers locked out the second row, with Sebastian acing the Iceman this time. Williams seemed surprisingly competitive for a change, and Bottas qualified as high as fifth. Red Bull duo, Ricciardo and Verstappen, were left 6th and 7th. The home heroes, Sebastian and Kimi, were the only drivers to get within a second of the rapid Silver Arrows!
The start was by far the most exciting moment of the race. Hamilton on pole got an extremely poor start, and the British Mercedes pilot lost five positions immediately. Teammate Rosberg thanked him and stormed to the lead. Sebastian was right at the German’s tail. It was so close that Sebastian would have been able to challenge Rosberg for the lead. Kimi was right behind his teammate Sebastian, and Williams’ pilot Bottas was fifth. Red Bull’s Ricciardo managed to get past Hamilton on the opening lap as well, so the reigning world champion was dropped down to P6. But for the Briton it was only the start of a long and determined battle upwards...
The crucial factor in terms of the race was the tyre strategy. Mercedes started to the race on the more durable soft rubber, whereas Ferrari had to start on the super soft compound. There was another significant difference between the tyre strategy of these two teams - Kimi pitted already on lap 16 for a fresh set of super soft Pirellis. Teammate Sebastian came in a lap later and opted for a similar tyre choice. Mercedes drivers, on the other hand, were able to make their first stint longer due to their tyre choice. Race leader Rosberg pitted only on lap 25 for a fresh set of medium tyres. Teammate Hamilton, who had made his way already up to P2, pitted a lap later for a similar set of tyres. This meant that both Silver Arrows were on a 1-stop strategy. Hamilton re-joined the track behind Sebastian and Kimi, but, unfortunately, the Ferrari duo had one more pit stop to make!
In their second pit stops both red-suited drivers opted for a fresh set of soft tyres. Unbelievable but true, once again Kimi re-joined the track right behind the "flying Dutchman" Max Verstappen! Those two have had so many hair-raising duels this year! This time around things did not get heated though, as Verstappen pitted soon after the Iceman. Teammate Ricciardo did not pit until lap 38. The Australian "smiling avenger" opted for a fresh set of super soft Pirellis, which meant an aggressive last stint.
To my disappointment, the race turned out more boring than I had expected. The only battle for positions happened between Williams’ Bottas and Red Bull’s Ricciardo for the 5th place. Six laps before the chequered flag, Ricciardo made a courageous move on the Finn at the end of the finish straight and made it past Bottas! Rosberg took his first victory at Monza and decreased Hamilton’s lead in the drivers’ championship standings to just 9 points. It’s quite amazing that in spite of almost a catastrophic start, Hamilton was still able to finish the runner-up! That wouldn’t have been possible for any other team than Mercedes. I guess it tells all about Mercedes’ superiority at the moment. Sebastian made all tifosi (me included) overwhelmed with joy by completing the podium. It would have been a dream come true to see both Sebastian and Kimi on the podium, but unfortunately Mercedes was too strong this time (again).
Now things are getting more and more heated between Hamilton and Rosberg - probably both on and off track. The season in Europe is now over, and the time has come for the fly-away races... Singapore has always been magical for Sebastian, so I’m really looking forward to the night race under the shining artificial lights. I’m confident that Ferrari is able to maintain their position as Mercedes’ number one rival also in the upcoming races! Forza Ferrari! Forza Kimi! Forza Sebastian!
With passion for racing red,