Mercedes, Williams lock out Top 4 at Monza

Monza, Italy – Monza can be described simply by one word: fast. The 53 lap grand prix tested not only the cars, but also the physical and mental abilities of the drivers. From the starting grid Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg took the lead, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton having an ERS problem that put him down from 1st to 4th as he was passed by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Felipe Massa. By Lap 3, Hamilton began to battle Massa for 3rd, forcing Massa to overtake Magnussen for 2nd on Lap 5.

Lap 6 saw the first retirement of the race as Marussia’s Max Chilton went into the wall at the second chicane. By Lap 8, the general theme of the race was beginning to unfold with the standings as: 1. Rosberg, 2. Massa, 3. Hamilton, 4. Magnussen, 5. Vettel, 6. Button, 7. Alonso, 8. Pérez, 9. Räikkönen, 10. Bottas. The pack of drivers fighting from 4th to 11th generally stayed quite close together throughout today’s race, resulting in some fantastic overtaking.

Rosberg made his first major mistake of the race on Lap 9 when he missed Turn 1, choosing to weave between the obstacles on the escape-way. This soon was capitalised by Hamilton’s overtaking of Massa on Lap 10, leaving only Rosberg between the Briton and 1st place. Both Hamilton and Massa were quite smart to avoid colliding, as both drivers are working for top points this weekend. By Lap 11, Hamilton had set the fastest lap of the race, narrowing Rosberg’s lead down to 2.1 seconds.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas’ start was hardly what anyone at Williams was hoping for. Having fallen back from 3rd to 10th, it took until Lap 13 for Bottas to overtake his fellow Finn Kimi Räikkönen for 9th, after which Bottas began making his way past Pérez, Alonso, Button, and Magnussen taking 4th on Lap 21, which he would hold for the remainder of the race.

By Lap 17, tyre degradation was becoming a major factor in lap timing, leaving many with no choice but to pit. By this point, Hamilton was a mere 1.4 seconds behind Rosberg, ever closing the gap. The first to pit for fresh tyres was Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who did so on Lap 19. Choosing the hards, Vettel resumed his race, taking 5th from Magnussen upon track reentry.

On Lap 22, Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso pitted together, rejoining the field in 9th and 11th respectively. Lap 24 saw Sergio Pérez and Felipe Massa pit. Pérez rejoined in the middle of the pack, whilst Massa returned to find himself in 5th. Rosberg pitted on Lap 25, followed by his teammate Hamilton on Lap 26.

At Lap 28, Lewis Hamilton began to put more and more pressure on his German teammate, taking the race lead on Lap 29 as Rosberg cracked, missing Turn 1 yet again. At Lap 30, the local Italian fans found themselves aghast as Ferrari’s superstar driver Fernando Alonso was forced to retire at Turn 1 due to an engine shutdown. At Lap 31, an equally daring Valtteri Bottas attempted a pass on Magnussen, but to no avail as Magnussen forced Bottas off the track, resulting in a 5-second stop and go penalty for the young Dane.

By Lap 32, Hamilton had increased his lead over Nico Rosberg to 2.9 seconds with Felipe Massa a good 10 seconds behind Hamilton and Rosberg in 3rd. In 4th was Sebastian Vettel. Laps 39-42 saw an excellent battle between former McLaren teammates Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo joining in the fun and games as well. Pérez won the duel at Lap 42, however Ricciardo had already left the pair in the dust, passing Magnussen at 6th to take on the Australian’s 4-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel for 5th. Lap 47 saw the Aussie make his move on the German, making quite a spectacle. No doubt Ricicardo will be heard from again in the years to come.

At Lap 51, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez had a puncture after clipping the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. This was soon followed by the hair raising run off of Toro Rosso’s Russian Daniil Kvyat at Turn 1 on Lap 52 when his breaks failed, resulting in the Russian running far off the track into the grass. Amazingly though he was able to return to the track and finish the race with decent points.

The race finished with Hamilton taking the win followed by Rosberg in 2nd, Massa in 3rd, and Bottas in 4th. They were followed by Ricciardo (5), Vettel (6), Pérez (7), Button (8), Räikkönen (9), and Magnussen (10). With today’s results, Williams has jumped Ferrari in the constructor’s championship to take 3rd behind Mercedes and Red Bull.

Formula 1 returns on the 21st from the famed night race in Singapore.

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