Well, that was a surprise. The Italian Grand Prix seemed destined to be dull. Monza is an anomaly in today’s Formula 1. It is a fast slipstreaming circuit in an age where slipstreaming is effectively discouraged by the aerodynamic features of the cars. We saw last year how it is impossible for F1 cars to follow closely on a circuit like Monza.
But the funny thing about Formula 1 is that whenever you are ready to give up and declare overtaking to be officially impossible, away they go and start overtaking each other! Suzuka 2005 springs to mind as well. Okay, so Monza 2007 cannot hold a candle to Suzuka 2005. But it was still a pleasant surprise to see what was expected to be a processional race turn out to be quite interesting.
Most impressive of all was Lewis Hamilton. He might not be the nicest person, but his racing is absolutely superb. His start line battle with Felipe Massa was firm but fair, and a joy to watch.
And his amazing lunge on Kimi Räikkönen towards the end of the race is surely a contender for move of the year. It was not just the move itself, but the fact that it was so unexpected. After the race Räikkönen claimed that he saw Hamilton coming the whole time, but I’m not convinced. Räikkönen panicked and moved to the left as soon as Hamilton came up the inside.
It is interesting to note that Räikkönen’s instinct was to immediately move to the left to avoid a collision with Hamilton. Meanwhile, yet again, Hamilton saw an opportunity, pounced, and completed the move with 100% commitment. There is no hint that Hamilton will ever get intimidated by any situation. Most drivers who try that kind of move end up completely missing the chicane. But Hamilton negotiated it with perfection.
But, despite the impressive start and the flashy overtaking manoeuvres, Hamilton finished 2nd. Alonso won the race because he put his foot down and kept it down for the entire race. Alonso’s second stint probably shows where he is more experienced. He just drove off from Hamilton, who seemingly fell asleep a bit. Alonso rightly saw that as the opportunity to tie the race up.
There is also the plain fact that Alonso was faster than Hamilton at Monza. Alonso qualified ahead of Hamilton despite having a heavier fuel load. Yet again, despite all of the hype surrounding Hamilton, there was somebody who was doing a better job (albeit not putting on a better show) than him.
As for Ferrari, it looks all over for them (on the racetrack at least). I think most people must have been expecting them to dominate at Monza, but there were well off the pace. The decision to put Räikkönen on a one-stop strategy was a clever risk that they almost pulled off. But Hamilton’s amazing overtaking manoeuvre put paid to that, and Ferrari had to make do with 3rd.
And then there are the strange things going on with their cars. Massa got a suspension failure (although this may have been down to a first-lap collision), and Räikkönen had that strange (and scary) accident during free practice. (I would put a video here, but FOM have taken them all off YouTube. Great way to promote the sport, guys!)
BMW will be disappointed. I expected them to do better at Monza — to perhaps even be on the podium like they were last year. But both cars ended up being a minute behind the leader by the end of the race. The gap was less than half of that last time round.
Conversely, Honda will be pleased. They got into the final part of qualifying, which is just amazing given the season that they have had so far. And Button managed to bring the car home in 8th, without any major retirements (apart from Massa) ahead of him. If only all those other circuits didn’t have those pesky corners!
All-in-all, Ferrari look as though they are out of contention. I did not expect that. On balance, McLaren have been the stronger team for most of the season, but Ferrari always looked like they were going to bounce back. But that bounce has always turned out to be a damp squib.
We did have an exciting four-way title fight, but now that is at best a three-way fight. And who would have expected Massa to be the first to drop out after the season he has had? Now Ferrari will have to throw their weight behind Räikkönen who has had plenty of off-days this season.
The saddest thing of all though is the fact that the World Championship could be won and lost in the World Motor Sport Council hearing on Thursday. After the exciting championship we have been given on the track, it would be terrible for it all to be taken away off the track.