I have been so busy that I have not yet properly turned my attention to many of the notable events of the Italian Grand Prix.
Apart from Sebastian Vettel, the star of the show was probably Lewis Hamilton. He was severely compromised by yet another odd McLaren tyre strategy call. Hamilton took a risk that he certainly did not need to take. In Q2, you only need to finish in the top ten to progress. Goodness only knows why in this situation Hamilton and his engineer decided to take a risk to put on intermediates when it was far from clear that the circuit was dry enough.
Hamilton was trundling around on inters while everyone else was setting the fastest times of the session on extreme wet tyres. By the time Hamilton managed to get onto the desirable extreme wets (and after losing a lot of time by being randomly called to get weighed), the track had become wetter and he was no longer in a position to set a fast time. Game over. 15th on the grid.
Not that that was an excuse, mind you. Even while he was on wets, there were people setting faster times than him. But clearly for some reason — brake temperatures, whatever — his car just wasn’t coping well enough with the conditions. At least Kimi Räikkönen was just one position ahead of him.
It promised to be a mouthwatering midfield battle, with two of F1’s biggest stars making their way through the field in wet conditions. In the event, Raikkonen yet again disappointed. He did climb a few places, but Hamilton made a few more and made those passes with more style and bravery. Kimi seemed his (nowadays) usual sleepy self. Up until the last few laps, that is. Ho hum.
But while many of Hamilton’s overtaking manoeuvres were damned impressive, yet again Hamilton’s driving came under the spotlight. I have been critical in the past of Hamilton’s overly-aggressive driving style and the Italian Grand Prix brought up three major examples of this nasty side of Hamilton’s character.
First of all, there was an incident during his move on Fernando Alonso which the Spaniard complained about after the race. I have to admit that I saw little wrong with Hamilton’s move on Alonso. What concerned me more was the other two major incidents.
Towards the end of the race Hamilton made a breathtaking blocking move while Mark Webber was lining up to pass him in the run-up to the first chicane. At first I thought that Webber was being too optimistic. But when I saw the replay from Webber’s on-board T-cam, I found myself becoming much more concerned about the way Hamilton appeared to barge Webber straight onto the grass. Hamilton says he was just going for the better line into the corner, but that doesn’t matter. Barging someone off the track — especially when conditions are as damp as they were — is a big no-no in my book.
But it was his swipe on Timo Glock earlier on in the race that really took the biscuit for me. Hamilton’s initial move (again, into the first chicane) on Glock was brilliant, but the Toyota driver got better traction coming out of the chicane. Glock was catching right back up to Hamilton and was just coming side-by-side with the Brit along Curva Grande when Hamilton swiped straight across and forced Glock onto the grass.
At that point of the race, conditions were still quite horrrific and Hamilton’s move seemed at best reckless and at worst downright dangerous. It was suggested at the time by ITV commentator Martin Brundle that Hamilton may have been unable to see Glock in his mirrors due to all the spray, and I can only hope that that was the case because it is not nice to see a driver playing dirty like that. I criticised Michael Schumacher for this sort of thing, and I will criticise Lewis Hamilton for it.
You can see a video of the controversial incidents over at Axis of Oversteer, with whom I agree on this matter. All-in-all I think Hamilton’s driving may even have been worthy of a punishment. Certainly, his incident with Glock could well have earned him a drive-through penalty if different stewards were in place. We can’t forget that all of this was happening in the immediate aftermath of the controversy surrounding Hamilton’s penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix.
No doubt the stewards were slightly wary of punishing Hamilton for fear of another backlash or yet more accusations of the FIA’s pro-Ferrari bias. For me, though, the fact that he escaped punishment for dangerous driving at Monza goes a long way towards making up for the injustice of his penalty in Belgium.
A lot of people have been talking recently about how Hamilton appears to have matured in recent races. He now knows when to settle for second rather than needlessly go for the win. But he has only matured to an extent. I have long argued that Hamilton’s greatest flaw is his impatience — his inability to pace himself and know when to hold back. His swipe on Glock was an instance where he could have done with relaxing a bit more and letting the situation unfold in its own time rather than forcing the issue.
Craig at Craigblog has speculated that Lewis Hamilton’s attitude could end up costing him the world championship. I certainly think this is an aspect of his racing that he needs to have a serious think about. If it doesn’t stop him from winning the championship, it will stop many fans from being able to support him. Reminds me of a certain M. Schumacher.