MONZA, ITALY - The Mecca for Ferrari Fans. The Land of the Tifosi. Great Motorsporting History!
Formula 1 arrived here with the title race wide open. The Fastest Race on the Calender promised to deliver a great weekend and it definitely did.
The Italian Grand Prix was the Last European Race of the Calender and the last 7 races are all "Fly - Aways".
Two DRS Zones ( same as 2011 ) ensured that a lot of overtaking would feature in the race! However DRS was shortened this year . The first DRS zone, located on the straight between the second Lesmo corner and the Variante Ascari, was shortened by 50 meters, while the DRS zone on the front straight was shortened by 5 meters.
Ferrari Powered and Mercedes Powered cars would have an advantage against the Renault Powered Engines ( Better Horsepower ).
Teams have to run the lowest downforce setup and Straight line speed is what counts over clean aerodynamics.
Another Race dominated by Penalties Galore!
Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean received a one-race ban for his involvement in the first-lap incident at the Belgian Grand Prix He was replaced by the team's test and reserve driver, Jerome d'Ambrosio
Pastor Maldonado received a ten-place grid penalty for jumping the start of the Belgian Grand Prix and causing an avoidable accident with Timo Glock.
Paul di Resta was also demoted five places for an unscheduled gearbox change on Saturday morning, his second gearbox penalty of the season.
FREE PRACTICE :
Ma Qinghua became the first Chinese driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend when he drove Narain Karthikeyan's HRT in the first free practice session on Friday morning. Valtteri Bottas drove Bruno Senna's Williams F1 in the same session, while Jules Bianchi took Paul di Resta's place at Force India.
Mercedes AMG driver Michael Schumacher was fastest in the first practice session, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg completing the top 3. Jerome d'Ambrosio finished the session 15th. Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso suffered technical problems and Stopped on the Circuit.
Lewis Hamilton was the fastest driver in the second session, edging out Button and Alonso. Alonso had another disrupted session with a series of technical problems surrounding the gearbox and brakes that limited his time on the circuit. Schumacher went off-track and finished the session in 10th. He was highly-critical of the speed bumps placed around the Variante della Roggia chicane, claiming they were a safety hazard that could result in serious injury if a driver hit them at speed.
Hamilton was once again fastest in the third session, just one thousandth of a second ahead of Alonso. Paul di Resta finished the session third, while Sebastian Vettel suffered a loss of power on his final lap and pulled over at the Roggia chicane. The Red Bull RB8 was consistently one of the slowest cars through the speed trap. This circuit was the one where the Red Bulls would be the weakest.
Nico Hulkenberg failed to set a lap time when his car stopped on the circuit during the first qualifying period. As he was unable to get the car restarted, he was not allowed to take any further part in qualifying. His entry to the race depended on a special dispensation from race stewards, which was subsequently granted. Q1 saw no other surprises.
Q2 saw the exit of Webber, Maldonado, Perez, Senna, Ricciardo and D'Ambrosio. Maldonado was demoted to 22nd after serving his Penalty.
Q3 dealt a big blow to Ferrari's hopes of a victory at their Home Race. Alonso who had topped both Q1 and Q2 headed out with Massa and Failed to set a competitive time in the First Run. The last run left him languising in P10!! It was later revealed that the Anti-Roll Bar had broken on Alonso's Car. This explained the lack of pace.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button made it a McLaren Mercedes 1-2. Massa qualified 3rd. Paul Di Resta was 4th but was demoted to 9th for a gearbox change. Schumacher, Vettel, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Alonso completed the top 10.
Everybody got a clean start into the First Turn. Massa jumped Button and almost overtook Hamilton into the First Corner. Button tried to retake the position after 2nd chicane but failed.
It was a brilliant start from Fernando Alonso who jumped upto 7th from 10th.
Hamilton built his lead over Massa while Vettel took the help of DRS to shoot past Schumacher into the First turn ( Lap 4 ). Rosberg and Senna banged wheels with the latter going over bumps. Alonso was now challenging Schumacher for 5th position. Senna went off-track again on Lap 8 while challenging Di Resta and lost a position to Webber in the process.
Lap 9 saw the First Retirement. The rear end of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso suddenly stepped out on him as he was braking for Turn One. The car spun around, bumped across the kerbs and sleeping policemen with a heavy impact on landing.
Paul Di Resta was now going backwards ( Lap 11 ) as he complained of tyre degradation. Schumacher too came under intense pressure from Raikkonen.
Schumacher pitted on Lap 16 and it was clear that he was on a Two Stop Strategy. Button closed in on Massa and passed him on Lap 19, the latter complaining of Telemetry Issues.
Massa pitted on Lap 20 but got stuck behind Ricciardo on his exit.
Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso pitted together on lap 21 from 4th and 5th respectively. A brilliant stop for Ferrari made him rejoin almost side-by-side with the Red Bull driver. They both exited the pit-lane just behind Felipe Massa who was trapped behind the slower Toro Rosso.
Felipe Massa finally overtook the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo to give himself some breathing space on Lap 22. Vettel almost hit the back of the Toro Rosso as it suffered from lack of Traction out of the Corner.
Jenson Button pitted on Lap 23. The Team struggled with one of the wheel-nuts and he was delayed. However the Quick in-laps ensured that he rejoined the track just ahead of Massa.
Hamilton pitted on lap 24 and Sergio Perez who had started the race in 12th on Hard Tyres was now leading the Race!
Kimi Raikkonen made a move on Nico Hulkenberg's Force India in the first corner for eighth place. ( Lap 25 )
Meanwhile Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel battled it out. Alonso tried a move down the outside at Turn One. Vettel then squeezed the championship leader onto the grass at the first Lesmo corner. The Spaniard got off the gas and eased back on track. He was quite frustrated on the Radio.
Lap 28 saw Hamilton retake the lead from Perez, the Mexican still to pit for medium Tyres ( Options ).
Alonso finally succeeded and passed Vettel on Lap 29. The incident earlier between the two was under investigation by the Stewards.
Lap 31 turned out to be the most interesting lap. Perez made his only stop and emerged 8th. Vettel was given a Drive-Through Penalty for pushing Alonso onto the grass. Then it all changed for one of the McLaren Mercedes.
Jenson Button lost Fuel-pressure in his car and retired on Lap 33! His Car simply came to a stop as he lost drive. A Potential 1-2 lost. Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez battled and the Finn had to dig deep to hold his place. However the latter muscled his way past on Lap 36. Massa Received the following Radio Message on Lap 37 : "Think about how you're going to manage the tyres. Think about how you're going to manage the tyres, Felipe. Fernando is behind."
Hockenheim 2010 anyone??
Schumacher was down to 11th after his 2nd pitstop. Alonso passed Massa who hardly put up a fight after being told that his team-mate was 0.9 seconds behind ( Lap 40 ). A lap later Vettel went past his team-mate Webber into 6th position and was closing in on Kimi Raikkonen.
On Lap 43 Mark Webber was informed that Sebastian Vettel had a car problem which might stop him suddenly. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez was taking chunks out of the Felipe Massa's lead.
Perez overtook Massa on the backstraight just before Parabolica on Lap 44. This move might just change the driver lineup for Ferrari next year. Massa drove brilliantly but Perez seemed simply better. Perez was now closing in on Alonso and passed him without fuss using DRS around the outside at Ascari. ( Lap 46 ).
Lap 48 saw another big retirement. Sebastien Vettel was asked to stop his car immediately and retire from the race. Radio Message : "Stop the car, we must save the engine."
Perez was slowly closing in on Hamilton but catching him would be difficult considering the remaining number of laps. Mark Webber suffered a big spin on lap 50 as he came out of Ascari hit the kerbs and lost the backend. However a couple of laps later he was cruising to the pits into retirement after suffering massive flatspots. The Red Bulls had scored NO Points!!!
Lewis Hamilton had done a flawless race losing his lead only for his Pitstop. The Victory also revived his championship hopes.
Sergio Perez produced a Fine Drive to finish 2nd after having started 12th!! Fernando Alonso gave the Tifosi something to cheer by finishing 3rd.
Massa, Raikkonen, Schumacher ( who was charging up the field ), Rosberg, Di Resta, Kobayashi, Senna completed the Top 10.
Alonso now had a 37 point lead ( 179 points ) over Lewis Hamilton ( 142 Points ) and KIMI RAIKKONEN's Consistent performances helped him to jump up into 3rd at 141 points.
VETTEL - ALONSO INCIDENT :
Alonso had closed in on Vettel and tried a move on the outside of the First Lesmo Corner. Vettel held the racing line trying to get the best traction out of the Corner. Vettel would have seen Alonso right behind him in his mirrors and left racing space. However that racing space dwindled as Alonso finally out of tarmac was pushed onto grass.
According to me it was a Simple Racing Incident and Alonso's Rant is unjustified. Rather he should have taken it in his stride. Ferrari is known to influence decisions and the Stewards' decision here is Questionable.
MASSA - ALONSO Situation :
"Fernando is faster than you" - Hockenheim 2010. Fernando was the driver challenging for the Championship and Ferrari deemed it fit to use such a transmission to change the result of the race to favour Alonso's Title Bid.
This Race the Transmission was slightly different but the end result same.
"Think about how you're going to manage the tyres. Think about how you're going to manage the tyres, Felipe. Fernando is behind."
Massa has been talked about a lot this season. Experts have felt that he has lost his drive and is a mere shadow of himself after his accident in Hungary in 2009.
However if Fernando claims to be the driver he is, I would prefer seeing Real Racing between the two rather than an easy capitulation by Massa caused by Ferrari's Coded Transmissions. Someone else might not accept this the way Massa does. Alonso is a great driver and is the best driver on the grid this year according to me. He just has to live up to his reputation.
With the European Races over, its now time to head to the "Monaco of the East", The Only Night Race on the Calender - The Singapore Grand Prix.
I shall be at the event. I hope you join me too!!