Monza…. one of the fastest circuits on the Formula 1 calendar. As it is in Italy, this is the race where the Tifosi show up in massive numbers. The grandstands are always filled with red. So they would be hoping to see a familiar red suit on the top step of the podium. Sebastian Vettel came into the Italian Grand Prix with a seven point lead over Lewis Hamilton coming into his team’s home race. However, Ferrari knew this would be a difficult weekend as the Mercedes suits faster tracks better than the Ferrari, which suits circuits that require high downforce. Qualifying would show it would be difficult for Ferrari, with a relatively poor qualifying performance in intermediate conditions. Hamilton took his 69th pole of his career, a new record, ahead of Verstappen and Riccardo for Red Bull. A surprise result, as Red Bull aren’t known for having the best straight line speed. However, both Red Bull drivers would suffer heavy penalties due to using too many engine components over the course of the season. This meant that Lance Stroll in 4th would start 2nd and Esteban Ocon for Force India would start 3rd. Räikönnen and Vettel would start 5th and 6th respectively for Ferrari. Kevin Magnussen put in a fantastic lap to qualify in 9th for Haas. Toro Rosso’s Kvyat was just ahead in 8th. Ericsson and Wehrlein also did a fantastic job for Sauber, qualifying in 11th and 12th. Sainz was down the field to where he usually qualifies, in 15th. Then Grosjean was in 20th having crashing out in Satuday’s difficult conditions.
On race day, it was dry unlike qualifying. The cars got underway with remarkably no drama going into the heavy braking zone into the tight turn 1 chicane. Not only was it Ferrari’s home race, but it was also their 70th anniversary race. The whole Tifosi in the grandstand wanted a good result. Both Ferraris got a good start, with Räikönnen battling with Valtteri Bottas until Paribolica, where Bottas was able to defend the position and stay ahead. At the end of the first lap, Hamilton led from Ocon from Stroll. Räikönnen was 5th, Vettel 6th and Magnussen rounding off the top ten. Next Kvyat and Sainz were 11th and 14th respectively. Ericsson was 15th. Grosjean was 18th but quickly stopped due to damage. Then Wehrlein was 19th. On lap 3, Massa and Verstappen collided, giving Max a puncture. The question is, when will Vertsappen’s bad luck end? Massa got away unscathed. Vertsappen pitted at the same time as Grosjean and both of them were at the back of the field due to early damage. By lap 4, Bottas had got past Ocon for 2nd place to make a Mercedes 1-2. Then on lap 8, Vettel also made his way past Ocon. However he was much slower than Hamilton and Bottas ahead and would struggle to chase them down. There wasn’t much more action until lap 14 when the pit stop window opened. Sainz stopped first, with Räikönnen stopping a lap later. After a poor stop, Stroll came out behind Räikönnen after making his pit stop on lap 16. On lap 20, Hamilton led from Bottas with Vettel in 3rd. Räikönnen was in 9th however cars ahead still needed to make a stop. Magnussen was 13th, Kvyat 15th, Wehrlein in 16th and an underperforming Sainz in 17th. After a poor start Grosjean was 19th with Ericsson in 20th. 6 laps later Räikönnen made his way past Ocon and into 6th place.
The first part of the race didn’t see much action. The second part had a little more. However there weren’t many overtakes. On lap 37, Kvyat moved himself into 11th by getting past Hulkenberg. A lap later, Riccardo stopped, and he came out ahead of Ocon. This would allow for him to chase down Räikönnen on fresh tyres. He caught up to the Ferrari quickly, and made his way past into turn 1 on lap 41. He then set off to try and chase down Vettel. However, he didn’t catch quickly enough and by the chequered flag, he had managed to finish 4th from 16th place on the grid. A phenomenal achievement. Hamilton won in a dominant drive with his teammate in 2nd and not too far behind him. Vettel got 3rd meaning that he would be on the podium for the Tifosi to celebrate. Räikönnen finished 6th in a fairly solid drive. Magnussen just missed out on points in 11th. Kvyat finished 12th with Sainz in 14th. Grosjean came home in 15th after a very difficult weekend to him and Haas. Wehrlein finished 16th and Ericsson retired towards the end.
It was, sadly, a difficult weekend for the Italian and Italian engined teams this weekend, with only the Ferraris picking up points. As Vettel could only finish 3rd, it meant Lewis Hamilton took the lead in the drivers championship. However, the next weekend should be better for Ferrari at least. Singapore is a track similar to Hungary and Monaco, where Ferrari have been able to dominate this season. It may be the end of the European season, but the season is far from over! Can Vettel bring home the championship for Ferrari this year? If so, it would be Ferrari’s first since 2007, when Vettel’s teammate Räikönnen won at the last race at Brazil. It seems this season will go down to the last race too; however unlike previous seasons, two drivers from different teams are fighting for the championship. This makes for an exciting end to the season!
*Author: Cameron Matthews