Sunday, 7 September 2014

Italy: post-race analysis

Both Lotuses finished. Bit miffed. Both failed in Belgium, Grosjean at Hungary and Germany (Maldonado didn’t finish at Silverstone but the reliability failing was so late on he was still classified). First time since Austria in June neither Lotus had a problem. Oh well. None of the early Williams bets came off either, and whilst they don’t count in the ‘official’ records it’s still a bit disappointing.

The start was terrible for Bottas and Ricciardo and pretty bad for Hamilton. The Briton slumped to 4th, from pole, Bottas went from 3rd to 12th and Ricciardo lost many places as well. Great start for Rosberg and Magnussen (1st and 2nd respectively) with Massa getting up to 3rd.

Magnussen began a long afternoon of drifting backwards through the field (not always gracefully, as his late moves defending from Bottas saw him earn a 5 second stop and go penalty). Massa claimed 2nd but was soon dispossessed by Hamilton. Rosberg failed to stop for the first corner twice, the second occasion enabling Hamilton the most contact-free form of taking the lead, after which the order of the top three was settled.

Bottas climbed inexorably through the ranks, but a very slightly slow, and perhaps mistimed, pit stop put him down around 9th, meaning he had to do it twice. Eventually he finished 4th, but if he (rather than Massa) had been 2nd early on one wonders if he would’ve been able to claim victory.

Vettel had a great start, in stark contrast to Ricciardo. Red Bull split their pitting strategy (just one stop for everyone) which ended up screwing the German. He was pitted early, which meant his tyres were shot by the end. Ricciardo was pitted late (due to being out of position following his bad start) and he had fresh tyres at the end, enabling him to pass everyone save the Mercedes and Williams (including Vettel, who might feel somewhat disgruntled).

Magnussen drove pretty well, but moved perhaps too swiftly too late too many times defending against Bottas, earning himself a 5 second stop and go. The time was added at the end of the race, as he didn’t have another pit stop to make. He ended up 10th with Button 8th, just behind Perez.

Perez pitted early, and drove well on old tyres (with clouds of brake dust, somewhat alarmingly) to defend against Button. Hulkenberg had a poor showing, managing only 12th.

Alonso had his first non-classified finish (reliability failure of ERS which shut off the engine automatically, as without that there’s a chance of the engine literally exploding) since 2009. Raikkonen finished a mere 9th.

Kvyat was on for 10th (bearing in mind Magnussen’s penalty) but very late on his brakes gave up and he had to drive very slowly to reach the finishing line without crashing. Bit of a shame for the talented Russian. Vergne’s 13th won’t necessarily help him find a drive next year.

Other than Alonso, Chilton (for the second time in his career) was the only driver to have a non-classified finish.

Incidentally, it was confirmed shortly before the race that Williams will be retaining both drivers for next year. Not too unexpected, and probably makes sense.

It was a fairly entertaining race, no major crashes or controversies, good for Hamilton, not so bad for Rosberg, solid for Williams but perhaps an opportunity missed. Ferrari very much on the back foot versus their rivals.

Rosberg 238
Hamilton 216
Ricciardo 166

Singapore’s up next in a fortnight. Expect Red Bull to be far more competitive. However, unless Rosberg starts having DNFs and Ricciardo starts regularly beating both Mercedes drivers I do not think he will be able to have a realistic shot at the title. He’s 72 points off the leader right now.

Mercedes 454
Red Bull 272
Williams 177
Ferrari 162
McLaren 110
Force India 109

The top two places are effectively done and dusted, I think. Williams might’ve been able to close the gap with better results in the past, but as things stand I don’t think it’ll happen. The Ferrari duel for Williams will remain, but the white car is simply faster.

For McLaren, I think they’ll end up winning the tussle with Force India. The McLaren seems to have been improved a bit, and Force India have been off the pace for a while.

There are six races left, and Rosberg leads Hamilton by 22 points. I still expect this to go down to Abu Dhabi. I just hope the title doesn’t depend on the stupid double points on offer there.

Morris Dancer

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