Hamilton Makes a Point at Monza
After an action-packed and controversial Belgian Grand Prix, the Italian event this weekend had a hard act to follow.
Initially, and predictably, the race began with all the Mercedes engines lined up at the front of the grid – Mercedes themselves, Williams and then McLaren – closely followed by the Red Bulls. The fast pace of the Monza circuit allowed the power of the turbo-charged engines to really come to life.
However, at the beginning, Hamilton was struck with a clutch problem and he slipped from pole position down to fourth, while everyone lined up behind him on the grid was held back by the Mercedes' failure to get away.
Hamilton and Rosberg continue the battle © Red Bull Content Pool
This changed the fortunes of many of the drivers on the first lap, most notably allowing new McLaren signing Kevin Magnussen to slip into second and Felipe Massa, who has been notoriously unlucky this season concerning mechanical issues and collisions, to push into third.
The Rosberg Mystery
Following the first lap, the race itself was largely uneventful; the speed and power of the Mercedes engine was undeniable and Rosberg opened up a comfortable lead from the beginning while Hamilton clawed his way back through the pack from his disadvantaged start.
However, controversy erupted on lap 9 and lap 22 – on both laps, Rosberg mysteriously missed the chicane and lost a lot of lap time navigating his way back onto the track.
Officially, and according to team statements, it was just Rosberg making mistakes, but there has been a media backlash claiming that Rosberg is too experienced a driver to make novice errors like that, and especially not twice, in the same place on the same track; there have been many raised eyebrows over the incident.
Some people have accused Mercedes of issuing team orders that Rosberg was to allow Hamilton to win at Monza, following Belgium when Rosberg clipped Hamilton's tyre and effectively ended his race, supported by the fact that Rosberg missing the chicanes conveniently allowed Hamilton to slide past him into first place.
Sebastian Vettel leads the following pack © Red Bull Content Pool
Mercedes have, of course, denied all allegations and said that it was purely a mistake on Rosberg's part. The outcome of the debate is yet to be seen, but it is unlikely that Rosberg would obey team orders to deliberately lose the race; after all, he is competing for the driver's championship against his rival and even on team orders would not be willing to hand over points.
The Best of the Rest
Notably, Felipe Massa came in third and managed to keep ahead of his Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas. It comes as a welcome relief for Massa, who has been plagued with mechanical and technical faults, as well as a long run of bad luck concerning collisions happening around him, and he will be glad of a podium, particularly since Bottas has had a lot of success recently. Williams' climb to power continues!
The Red Bulls had a fairly mediocre race, the only noteworthy event being Ricciardo's fight to fifth place; he was affected badly by Hamilton's start on the grid and had to race hard to get back up among the top runners.
Once again, he outraced his teammate and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who came in sixth place behind him. Christian Horner, the team chief of Red Bull, had said before the race that Monza would be damage limitation for them; the high speed circuit lent an advantage to Mercedes' superior engines.
Daniel Ricciardo in the pits © Red Bull Content Pool
He added that there are some friendlier tracks for the Austrian team approaching at the end of the season, and he did not count Daniel Ricciardo out of the title race just yet; so watch this space!
Fernando Alonso at Ferrari also suffered his first DNF due to a mechanical failure since his exit from the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2010.
Hamilton celebrates victory at Monza © Red Bull Content Pool
Stay tuned for the continuing rivalry between Rosberg and Hamilton, hotting up amid a sea of controversies – and the lingering possibility of a late Red Bull comeback – all the action in Singapore on September 21st. Don't miss out.