Saturday 23 September 2017 / 10:49 PM

HAMILTON SURGES TO CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH ITALIAN GP WIN

The European leg of the Formula 1 calendar came to a close at the fastest track on the circuit, the iconic Monza, for the Italian Grand Prix in Round 13. The race was besieged by several cars taking penalties due to replacing engine components and a downpour that delayed qualifying, while also having a few records set. However, it was Lewis Hamilton that picked up the win, and in the process, taking the lead in the Championship over Sebastian Vettel.

An incident free opening practice session on Friday set some familiar results, with the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas setting comfortably the best times ahead of both Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen while the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were very close to the Ferraris. Carlos Sainz had a little spin but no major drama was caused. After the session, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Sainz and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren all had elements to their power units and engines replaced, ensuring they would cop plenty of grid place penalties for the race.

Free Practice 2 was also without any major incident. Kevin Magnussen’s Haas suffered from broken suspension after riding too many of the kerbs. His breakdown was the only one of the session on the track. Lance Stroll spun his Williams but caused no damage and continued on his way. After replacing his power unit, Sainz appeared to suffer from engine failure in a forgettable opening day. The Ferraris closed the gap on the Mercedes cars, but still ran behind both while the Red Bulls remained as fifth- and sixth-fastest. Surprisingly, both McLarens came next in a very promising session.

Saturday started with FP3 decimated by heavy rain, reducing the hour session down to just 16 minutes. Only seven cars set times on full wet tyres, with the Williams cars of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll topping the times with the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg third, Sainz fourth, Palmer’s Renault in fifth, Marcus Ericsson sixth in his Sauber and Daniil Kvyat with the last of the timed laps.

Qualifying was expected to be run in better conditions, but the rain refused to budge. Despite the rain and very wet track, qualifying began on time, but after four minutes Romain Grosjean’s Haas aquaplaned off the track down the straight which saw him hit the fence on both sides of the track, forcing the retirement of his car from qualifying. His crash brought out the red flags. Qualifying was delayed by two and a half hours before the track was opened again.

Mercedes topped the times in Q1. The second qualifying session took place on a reasonably good track, with most cars on Intermediate tyres before the rain started to fall again during the final qualifying session. Hamilton claimed pole, the 69th of his career, breaking the record he jointly held with Michael Schumacher. Verstappen was second-quickest and his team mate Ricciardo third. The 18-year-old Stroll finished fourth and fellow rookie Esteban Ocon got his Force India around fifth quickest. Bottas finished ahead of the Ferrari’s while Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren rounded out the top 10.

More grid penalties to Vandoorne, Sergio Perez, Hulkenberg, Jolyon Palmer and Grosjean saw plenty of movement on the grid, most notable though was Stroll becoming the youngest ever driver to appear on the front row.

The first turn at Monza is a very tight chicane and has been known to see plenty of cars coming together on the opening lap. This year though, Hamilton scooted clear of the rookies while Bottas wasted little time to get himself into second place. On the third lap, Massa bumped into Verstappen, causing the Red Bull to have a puncture. Verstappen pitted and returned to the track dead last. Ricciardo steadily moved his way through the field, climbing from 16th and into the points.

Stroll and Ocon both succumbed to Vettel, but no one could match the Silver Arrows as the stretched out a clear lead very quickly. Ricciardo made short work of the cars in front of him as he pulled off several brilliant passes to move into the top 6. He managed his tyres better than everyone, being the last to pit, where he became the only driver in the top 7 on the faster rubber. He made good use of it as he hunted down and passed Kimi Raikkonen in an impressive move. Despite being 13 seconds behind the third placed Vettel with 13 laps remaining, however he was lapping a second quicker every lap, but was unable to reel him in.

Meanwhile Verstappen was equally as impressive as he fought from a long way back to claw his way into the top 10. Hamilton though won comfortably with his team mate Bottas just a few seconds behind him all race. Vettel was a huge 36 seconds back, just 4 seconds clear of the fast finishing Ricciardo. Raikkonen and Ocon were next with the both Williams drivers Stroll and Massa just ahead of Perez in ninth place.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
2 – Bottas (Mercedes)
3 – Vettel (Ferrari)
4 – Ricciardo (Red Bull)
5 – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
6 – Ocon (Force India)
7 – Stroll (Williams)
8 – Massa (Williams)
9 – Perez (Force India)
10 – Verstappen (Red Bull)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton – 238
2 – Vettel – 235
3 – Bottas – 197
4 – Ricciardo – 144
5 – Raikkonen – 138
6 – Verstappen – 68
7 – Perez – 58
8 – Ocon – 55
9 – Sainz – 36
10 – Hulkenberg – 34

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 435
2 – Ferrari – 373
3 – Red Bull – 212
4 – Force India – 113
5 – Williams – 55
6 – Toro Rosso – 40
7 – Haas – 35
8 – Renault – 34
9 – McLaren – 11
10 – Sauber – 5

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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