Sunday, 3 September 2017

Italy: post-race analysis 2017

The weekend bet just about came off, making it the first green weekend since Spain, which was quite some time ago. My general prediction about this being great for Mercedes (both team and engine) was correct. The early bets were only one for three, down just under two stakes. But you can’t have everything. I also had a small sum, not tipped but mentioned early elsewhere, on both Force India to double top 6 (didn’t happen) and all Mercedes-powered cars to score, which did. Only had a little on, but it was 11 (and I’m a bit miffed I didn’t specifically tip it, but there we are).

Off the line Ocon made up a place on Stroll, but Hamilton retained the lead. The biggest gainer was Verstappen who had leapt up to 8th or so by the end of the first lap. However, the Dutchman then got a puncture and had to pit very early. Later this required a second stop, ruling out his participation at the sharp end.

Bottas picked off Stroll and then Ocon, and from then on the Mercedes cruised around Monza, lazily increasing their lead until the end.

Ocon and Stroll were subsequently passed by the Ferraris and a rather racy Ricciardo, settling in at the lower end of the points, just ahead of Massa and Perez. The white and pink cars were very evenly matched, circulating in a convoy that became very tasty (and tense, if you had money on them) on the final lap. But all managed to finish without terminal drama.

Verstappen, given he had a very slow lap on a puncture to pit and an extra stop, did well to carve his way through the field and claim the final point. He might also be relieved to have actually finished a race.

No such relief for Alonso, who was greatly aggrieved at Palmer going off-road and staying ahead of him. The Briton got a 5s time penalty, which the Spaniard described as ‘a joke’, but subsequently had to retire. In less justified bitching, Magnussen whined persistently that Verstappen had forced him off track. Nothing of the sort happened. Magnussen was clearly behind and needlessly left the circuit, then blamed Verstappen over the radio with all the melodrama of Rivaldo clutching his face at the 2002 World Cup. Increasingly unimpressed with Magnussen’s attitude.

Ericsson and Vandoorne, who had Honda’s newest power unit, also retired. Apparently, an announcement on whether McLaren will stick with Honda or switch (probably to Renault) is likely on Monday or Tuesday.

A perfect day for Hamilton, getting the win with his team mate 2nd. Vettel grabbed the final podium spot but his pace was nowhere near Mercedes’ today, and he loses the title lead for the first time this year (he trails by 3 points). Ricciardo was 4th, and Raikkonen 5th. Ocon was 6th and Perez 9th for a good Force India result, and after some weak races Williams must be happy Stroll was 7th and Massa 8th. As mentioned above, Verstappen was 10th, .

I did predict this would be a great circuit for Mercedes. A little surprised how good the Red Bull was, though. For Singapore, the next race a fortnight away, Ricciardo and Verstappen might fancy the win.

Anyway, here are the driver standings:
Hamilton 238
Vettel 235
Bottas 197

Realistically, Bottas needs both great performances and both title rivals to drop a race to have a credible shot. He’s pretty much out of it now. The three points is a minuscule gap, and I expect Vettel to retake the lead in Singapore. If Mercedes, in a dry race, can beat the Ferrari without luck playing a role then Vettel’s got little chance of contesting the title.

Mercedes 435
Ferrari 373
Red Bull 212
Force India 113
Williams 55
Toro Rosso 40
Haas 35
Renault 34
McLaren 11
Sauber 5

Williams pulled away from their many rivals for 5th, but Singapore could be a good opportunity for Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault to score. McLaren must be even more hopeful, as the slow speeds minimise the impact of their power deficit whilst playing to the strengths of a good chassis.

From a title perspective, I expect Ferrari to beat Mercedes in Singapore. The big question is how fast will Red Bull be. They were damned tasty today and may fancy their chances of upsetting the Prancing Horse. If that happens, it’ll aid Mercedes a lot, but if Red Bull are between a winning Vettel and Hamilton, that’ll only widen the points advantage for Ferrari. Of course, I could be wrong, but that’s how I see things playing out at this stage.

Morris Dancer

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