Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Monza, 2014

Rosberg lets victory slip into Hamilton’s hands

2014 Italian Grand Prix review

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After two weeks of recrimination about the collision between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the Belgian Grand Prix, their latest encounter could hardly fail to feel like an anti-climax.

And so it proved. The Italian Grand Prix was decided when Rosberg, under pressure from his fast-closing team mate, locked a brake scooted into the run-off area at the Rettifilio chicane.

It was a significant moment in the context of the championship battle, however. With Hamilton once again having to chip away at his team mate’s point lead, today he demonstrated that even with a handicapped start he can still show Rosberg the way home.

Slow start for Hamilton

Start, Monza, 2014Although Mercedes have performance to throw away, reliability is one area where they are regularly found wanting. Before the race began Hamilton had already lost an hour of running on Friday due to an electrical problem and a gearbox glitch confined Rosberg to the garage on Saturday morning.

Shortly before the race again another gremlin struck, this time on Hamilton’s car, leaving him unable to selected his Race Start mode which optimises the car’s settings for a quick getaway.

“We never practice a start like that where you don’t have the launch sequence in,” he said afterwards. “I had no idea really what I was supposed to do, so I just floored it and hoped for the best.”

His start wasn’t great, but it could have been worse. While his title rival motored off into the lead Kevin Magnussen made a superb getaway from the third row, and passed Felipe Massa for second place at the chicane.

Hamilton tucked in behind them, no doubt grateful that the other Williams of Valtteri Bottas had made an even worse start than he had. Having started third, he was down to eleventh by the end of the first lap.

Rosberg slips up

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Monza, 2014McLaren had expected to come under pressure from their row three starting positions, so it came as no surprise to see Magnussen’s second place swiftly under attack from Massa and Hamilton.

They both got by on lap four – Massa using the DRS zone on the start/finish straight, Hamilton motoring by on the short blast from the Roggia chicane to the Lesmos.

Massa’s Williams proved a tougher task for Hamilton and it took him five more laps to find a way by. The move was a credit to both drivers, who picked their way side-by-side through the Rettifilio chicane, looking nothing like the pair who couldn’t stop crashing into each other three years ago.

Rosberg was finding it hard enough to get through the chicane without another car alongside him. On the eighth lap he felt the car wasn’t going to stop in time, and not wishing to lock up his brakes he took to the run-off area.

Before the race the drivers had been warned that if they went off there they had to weave their way through the polystyrene blocks on the Tarmac run-off strip. Rosberg took care to do just that – which was also the sensible thing to do from a point of view of his race strategy, as his team mate explained afterwards.

“There was only one risk and that’s really if you lock up, that’s generally why you’ll see drivers going [straight] on at the first corner,” Hamilton explained, “because they don’t want to try and make the corner, lock up because then they have to convert to a two-stop [strategy] which is much slower.”

Weaving between the blocks costs time as well, however, and Rosberg’s lead was almost halved to two seconds. And despite having taken more life out of his tyres while making his overtaking moves, Hamilton was able to chip around two-tenths of a second per lap out of Rosberg’s lead – the kind of margin he had over his team mate all weekend long.

As usual Mercedes gave strategic priority to the leading driver, and that meant Rosberg. He came in for his single stop on lap 24, Hamilton the next time by. The pursuing driver gained a tenth in the pits but lost more than that because Rosberg was the first onto fresher rubber. But that soon became academic.

Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington issued the usual advice that by dropping out of Rosberg’s slipstream he could look after his tyres and attack at the end of the race. But Hamilton felt the time to strike was now, and he went for it.

His out-lap was seven-tenths of a second quicker than Rosberg’s and Hamilton gained the same amount of time on his first flying lap. At the start/finish line Hamilton was within DRS range and the tension was building on the Mercedes pit wall.

Then, for the second time, Rosberg went too deep at the chicane and had to take to the escape road. That handed the lead, the victory and a vital seven-point swing in the championship fight to Hamilton.

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Bottas and Ricciardo fight to the front

Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Monza, 2014Aside from a brief lock-up late in the race Hamilton’s lead never looked threatened from that moment on. Massa also enjoyed a secure hold on third place thanks to his team mate’s troubles, but the fight for the remaining points positions was fierce.

As at Spa, Bottas wielded the Williams’ straight-line prowess to excellent effect. Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso all fell victim to him in the first stint. He consolidated most of those position gains with his pit stop, but had to retake Perez afterwards.

That done, he spent 11 laps battling Magnussen, and having got his nose ahead at one point was eased onto the run-off area at the Rettifilio by the McLaren driver. Magnussen was later given a five-second penalty for his trouble, and though it could be justified under the rules it was a tough call.

Bottas eventually passed Magnussen for good on lap 37, and three laps later reclaimed fourth from Vettel. Though Massa was 20 second up the road and out of touch, Bottas kept up a quicker pace over the remaining laps.

Given the performance Bottas had shown on Friday it was a disappointment his race had been spoiled at the start. Over the last 16 laps he lost just 1.6 seconds to Hamilton, though of course the Mercedes driver was conservatively-minded at this point.

Another of this year’s stand-out drivers, Daniel Ricciardo, also impressed by working his way forward after a poor start. He ended the first lap one place behind Bottas and finished there, thanks to Red Bull’s strategy of leaving his pit stop until late.

Ricciardo had the distinction of setting the highest top speed seen in F1 for some time – 362.1kph (224.9mph), 21kph higher than last year’s maximum – as he overtook both McLarens and Perez in the space of five laps.

But his move on his own team mate was a touch of brilliance, notwithstanding Vettel’s eight-lap-older tyres. Approaching the Roggia chicane Ricciardo feinted right as if he had backed out of the move – then sent his RB10 screaming up the inside to claim fifth place.

Ferrari struggle at home

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Monza, 2014That was the last decisive move at the front. Behind Vettel, Magnussen crossed the line in seventh but the three drivers behind him all knew they would move up a place once his penalty was applied.

That would have included Daniil Kvyat as well, who had latched on to the rear of Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the dying laps. But as the penultimate tour began a brake failed on the approach to the Rettifilio, and only the Toro Rosso driver’s incredible reactions kept his car from spearing into the Ferrari or the barriers.

Tenth for Raikkonen became ninth after Magnussen’s penalty. But Ferrari’s home race was a wretched affair, Fernando Alonso retiring before half-distance when his Energy Recovery System failed.

Kvyat limped home in 11th, followed by Hulkenberg’s wounded Force India and Jean-Eric Vergne, who had started the race nine places in front of his team mate.

Pastor Maldonado brought his Lotus home in front of the Saubers. And Kamui Kobayashi capped an impressive return for Caterham by seeing off Jules Bianchi’s Marussia – Max Chilton having left the other car in the Roggia gravel trap on lap five.

Cautious Rosberg picks up points

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Monza, 2014The Italian Grand Prix weekend highlighted three important points about the championship battle within Mercedes. It is clear their reliability woes are from from solved and could yet prove decisive – three significant problems hit their two cars during the event.

Hamilton gave a reminder that even on one of the most straightforward tracks from a driving point of view, he can locate the last few tenths of a second, hundredths even, that Rosberg cannot.

And it illustrated how aware Rosberg is of the importance of bringing the car home and piling up the points.

He was gifted an golden opportunity to tighten the screw on his team mate in the championship – and he squandered it. But with half-a-dozen races left, Hamilton could lead Rosberg home in the same fashion at the next three events yet would still trail him in the points table.

The points situation is clearly on Rosberg’s side, and his ever-cautious approach shows he is well aware of that fact. When Chilton’s car was being recovered he was quick to point out to his team how much he’d backed off for the yellow flags, anxious to avoid a penalty.

Rosberg’s performance today may have inspired little confidence in his ability to beat Hamilton in a straight fight on the track, it showed he knows he can still finish ahead in the championship.

Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Red Bull/Getty

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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95 comments on “Rosberg lets victory slip into Hamilton’s hands”

  1. Interesting how the boo boys have followed Rosberg for the last 2 races now! A cheer for Hamilton in Italy as he took the lead? I couldn’t believe my ears!

    1. Well Hamilton does have a sizeable group of fans at every race, don’t think the tifosi were being very noisy this time so the cheers weren’t drowned out!

    2. Despite all arguments to the contrary it seems a lot of fans still cling to notions of sportsmanship and fair play, long may it be so.

      1. 100% true.

    3. Maybe the tifosi just felt that Lewis had been hard done by Rosberg’s mistakes?

    4. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
      8th September 2014, 9:50

      The ‘boo boys’? Rosberg’s getting his comeuppance from spectators who pay a great deal of money to see wheel-to-wheel racing. Rosberg might win the championship by cheating, but he isn’t automatically owed respect for doing so.

      1. Rosberg’s rookie mistakes is making his fans panic now because people are starting to question that he may have been overrated and not championship material at all and leading because of his team mate’s 3 DNFs and car reliability problems.

        This is further empasized that Rosberg has yet to beat Hamilton in a proper race on equal terms hence his overzealous move in Belgium to try to show something which of course fell flat on the face. I think Rosberg might have a harder time moving forward as long as Hamilton’s car dont break down.

        1. Unfortunately, championship wise, swiping Hamilton out of the lead may proove his best mistake to date. (from -7 to +18 points). Compared to previous mistakes (Monaco, +7), it’s actually a boon. -just to be clear, I am not saying he did them on purpose, but how many drivers can say mistakes GAINED them near 30points over their rival ?-

      2. Slightly harsh to call it cheating… But I agree with most of the first part of the post’s sentiments — booing is a natural reaction. In this race, it was almost certainly undeserved, but anyone who pays to be there has the right to voice their opinion.

  2. Another very good race and summary .

  3. I do hope that Hamilton’s bold -and right- call to go racing when the strategist called for the usual “keep your tires alive, we’ll see what we can do in 20laps” killjoy message sticks in all the drivers’ minds in future races. Of course it worked well because tires weren’t over degrady here (begs the question as to why they should be) but this order to hold station for now is for me one of the worst part of post 2010 racing

    1. @tango, here, here, for highly questionable marketing and entertainment purposes we have had these ridiculous tyres foisted on us with the highly predictable result that drivers found it more important to look after their tyres than to pass a marginally slower car on track. This was a very good race with continuous action all due to the lack of pitstops and tyres that could take some close racing without melting away.

      1. I think for all their criticism, Pirelli have got the tyres spot on this year in general. And we’ve seen great racing because of it.

        1. I would prefer that drivers only suffered a tyre disadvantage if they made a mistake and locked up, not from driving at the limit and attacking cars in front, this year the tyres and the racing are better, extrapolate the trend and you can’t avoid the conclusion that bad tyres make for bad racing.

        2. Deserved criticism if you look the damage their tyres did to F1 the last few years.

        3. I’d say this race shows how deserved the criticism was.

          I for one don’t buy the “FIA asked us to do this” line from Pirelli, because Pirelli said that they were going to do this from the get go. Well before the FIA said anything about it. Michelin wanted bigger rims to be more relevant and Pirelli wanted rubbish tyres to “improve entertainment”.

          Initially the Pirelli tyres were just poorly designed. Nothing deliberate about it. Just like the early Bridgestones. I remember Vettel complaining in Melbourne that it was lucky they were wearing helmets because of all the marbles slamming into his face. That was about the Bridgestones before they had had years to perfect the tyres. Then Pirelli came in and the same trouble started again. Seems they finally got the hang of desiging tyres that don’t fall apart so much though.

          More importantly, Pirelli brought rather harder compounds to Monza and these lasted pretty much forever. Astonishingly when they gave the drivers tyres that last, the racing was great.

          Who would have thought that tyres that disintegrate when you look funny at them would kill off any chance of doing a fight on those tyres? Or alternatively, when the drivers are given tyres that last, that they can actually fight for position on them?

    2. I’ve never really understood the ‘wait til the end’ tactic. Sure you might save your tyres a bit by not being in dirty air but all your doing is saving them as much as the guy in front… you know, the leader… who is also in clean air. The net difference in tyre wear between the guy in second and first is nil. Satying back is stupid, especially when there are no more stops. What insane strategist would chose to wait to overtake for when your tyres are worse, becuse naturally they will be in 15 laps time. You then have less grip to use to get the move done and risk much easier lock ups, plus when you do get up behind the guy in front to make the move you then suffer the dirty air with worse tryres as well! I mean what the heck was Lewis’ engineer thinking with that call??? Honestly I don’t even recall a time this tactic worked in a straight one vs one when both cars are in clean air (provided 2nd place hangs back etc), feel free to point these out to F1Fanatic?

      I thought the same as Lewis, get the move done now while the tyres are good, defend and put Nico in the dirty air so he would then have to overtake with bad tyres if he tried to come back. why make the decision to leave the overtake to the last 5 laps of the race, especially if you the find you would have need 6 to make it…

      1. @nick-uk totally agree with you. There’s was absolutely no reason to wait for the overtake. How can Lewis be confident in his race engineer if he’s giving him this type of advice?

        1. Given that these guys are not stupid nor insane I would suggest there is something about the nature of the tires that you are missing. You are arguing for a pass to be made when the tires are better, but so were Nico’s, just as you are arguing both driver’s tires would be worse near the end. I believe the thinking was merely that theoretically an out and out duel, which didn’t happen but could have, would have killed both driver’s tires prematurely, whereas by hanging back LH would have had more tire than NR near the end and would have made the pass easily. Just turns out that LH was gifted the pass anyway, so it’s moot. But I trust the decisions made by the team are sound at the moments they are being made based on having way more data on their tires, by the lap, than us fans are privy to. They knew LH was quicker and so by hanging back would only be driving 9/10 whereas NR was having to drive 10/10 to stay ahead, as evidenced by his two offs. LH would have had more tire near the end.

          1. Perhaps the call was more in consideration of the team than an individual driver. Maybe they thought, lets get both cars to pull out a bigger gap to the following pack before they start scrapping, giving them a buffer should they touch, etc.

      2. And if Hammy had blown his tyres trying the overtake and been overtaken by Rosberg in the closing laps?

      1. @keithcollantine Thanks for the additional tidbit. Turns out the Merc guys are not stupid nor insane and were in fact giving LH some lattitude.

  4. I am really not into conspiracy theories. But somehow I had the feeling that Nico’s “mistakes” seemed unnatural. If true (and I doubt it), it might be an explanation why Nico was so crest-fallen this whole weekend. Obviously one can equally think that his down-beat demeanour and unusual mistake was a sign that the whole saga took a toll on him.

    1. I wondered how long it would take for someone to bring up this most ridiculous of all conspiracy theories.

      Rosberg just wouldn’t do it, even if he was asked…which he never would be!

      1. What if he was forced to? There could have been more severe punishments if he refused, e.g. not letting him race in Monza and lose 25 pts instead of 7, or worse having his contract terminated.
        Again, I am not believing in this theory but just playing the devil’s advocate to your rebuttal.

        1. @ifelix so Nico expected to be leading after turn 1?

          1. @jcost: if they had decided that the punishment was to deprive him of the win, the order would have been: “if Lewis appears behind you, you WILL let him pass or else”, which might explain he was so crest-fallen the whole weekend.

            If (and that’s a big if) this is true, Nico surely found a good way to spur these kind of rumours, he could have just allowed to be overtaken in a straight with DRS.

            But I don’t think though Nico is such a genius evil to do everything calculatedly (as I don’t believe Monaco or Canada or even Spa move were deliberate). It might simply be that because he was warned against another collision he was pushing the car to pull away from fast charging Lewis and break the DRS and missed the braking point.

        2. Not letting him race would be worse for the team and for Mercedes PRwise, it would also jeopardize their constructors from the FIA striping them of all constructor points in the season. So I don’t think they would use that option even if they wanted to. Forcing him is possible but a different strat mode would be more likely, I doubt Nico would ever obey a slow down and let Lewis by order, and if he ignored it there would be nothing Merc can do but fire him at the end of the season.

      2. This “conspiracy theory” is unbelievable. Is more or less as thinking that a driver could deliberately crashed his car, after receiving such an order from his bosses, to bring in the safety car at the proper time, thus helping his teammate.
        …umh… a bell is ringing in my mind…

    2. In Hollywood Rosbergs angst at having so badly affected the campaign of his poor friend from a disadvantaged background could lead him to secretly fake errors to allow truth.justice and the American way to prevail, but this ain’t Hollywood (although some believe it should be).

    3. this is what i was thinking the entire time. Rosberg is too good a driver (I am a Lewis supporter)…
      I think Merc’s motivation (esp. as they have such a strong position) is to try save the boo-ing and negative ties to merc…i.e. try to bring Nico back to public liking…(remember how Vettel was booed last season) public has chosen someone new. Even Pastor is coming out better than Nico at the moment.
      Nonetheless if it is PR related…it is not working.

      1. The thing is that this is not the first time Rosberg has locked up like this, he did it in austria twice and almost lost out to Bottas and Hamilton. He did the same in Canada and had they used a similar system of polystyrene bollards he had to negotiate he would have lost his 1st place and those few laps of being in the cool air may have meant Hamilton avoided a DNF. He did it at Monaco during the race as well so it is not like this is the first time he has made this sort of mistake, it is just the first time it has cost him.

      2. Something people fail to notice is that Rosberg made the same mistake twice in Monaco. So it’s not unusual to see at all.

        He locked up in qualifying and did the same mistake in the race. If it was lap 1 with high fuel I’d understand more, but that also took place mid race while under pressure from Hamilton.

        Those saying he’s too good to not make the same mistake twice are wrong. He’s a great driver, but a lock up is extremely easy to do.

        We’ve seen his style is to free the wheel and cut corners/run wide rather than hold the lock up, so again nothing unusual here.

        It was a mistake. That is all.

    4. The problem for Rosberg is that every time he makes a mistake, for the rest of this season at least, there will be elements of the general public that will interpret it as premeditated. We’ve mentioned the most prevalent ones, and Hamilton recorded a DNF in this instance but, was the missed chicane at Montreal really an accident, or a calculated effort to maintain advantage?

      1. The logic jumps with the conspiracy theorists are fascinating. Talk about ‘does not compute’:

        a) Rosberg makes error on purpose at Monaco to gain advantage

        b) Rosberg makes error on purpose at Monza to lose advantage

        Pick one

        1. I’m not sure about the conspiracy, but to answer your logic jump

          a) Rosberg makes error on purpose at Monaco to gain advantage – clear advantage obtained – pole and win

          b) Rosberg makes error on purpose at Monza to lose advantage – perhaps the advantage was not in winning the race but in appeasing the team he angered with a “mistake” (potentially?) in Spa.

          Common denominator – self interest. Logic congruent.

          Just playing devil’s advocate.

          Pick one

        2. @newdecade interestingly, Nico’s fans believe b) and don’t believe a)…

          1. Interestingly, Lewis’ fans believe a) and don’t believe b)…

          2. @jcost and not so surprisingly, Hamilton fans believe a) and don’t believe b)

          3. Or you can just disbelieve both as I do — mistakes are rarely on purpose. Nico’s consistent, but not all that good — there’s your explanatio.

      2. The issue with Montreal was that he used the chicane run off to accelerate (echoes of Raikkonen at Spa 2008 where he ran off while racing Hamilton but used the chance to gain speed on what was a more adhesive surface in the rain). He should really have been ordered to cede position or penalized, since he only kept position because he ran off and then pulled away from Hamilton. That’s what bugs me about Rosberg, his repeat tendency to transform his own driving failures into advantages. I think Monaco was the same: he realized he’d briefly lost control of the car, and so lap time, and turned that into ‘having’ to leave the track. And Spa I think was a moment of ‘what the hell’, risking contact after he’d misjudged the overtake when as he himself said that he could have avoided it.

  5. @maestrointhesky I don’t like booing generally but in Rosberg’s case it gives me a sense of living in a just world.

    I was irritated all weekend by the constant attempts by pundits to deny Rosberg did Spa on purpose, when he’d as good as admitted it. Ridiculous claims like F1 drivers don’t know where their front wing is or it’s a small target. However the fans’ booing and now Benson’s BBC piece has cheered me up:

    And within F1 – as more information creeps out with the passing of time from conversations between team members – more and more people are coming to the conclusion that his ‘mistake’ in qualifying in Monaco, when Rosberg went down the escape road and cost Hamilton a chance to beat him to pole, was anything but.
    It was in this context, and that of Spa – where Rosberg left his nose in despite having lost the corner, knowing Hamilton would likely hit it – that the Briton’s remark over the weekend about wanting to win “in the right way” should be judged.
    Sources close to Rosberg admit he has had to do some soul-searching in the time since Spa, and there seems little doubt that his standing within Mercedes has been affected by these incidents.

    I think Toto’s grin when Lewis took the lead was part of this, and is ominous for Nico.

    1. I think I’m with Crofty on this one; spontaneous booing such as Spa is fine, it’s a natural reaction showing the emotions of the public towards things that happened in that particular race. However, premeditated booing such as we saw last year with Vettel, and to an extent today, is not really necessary.

      Also, I think Wolff has said that the shot of him smiling was actually taken before the incidents, just shown afterwards.

      1. @jleigh I saw Toto being asked about his grin on Sky and he just said he’d have to get used to being on camera all the time.

        I think booing like we’ve had in Brazil because the local favourite didn’t win is poor. I thought Vettel’s was overdone too. But in a sport there has to be respect for sporting values and, thus, the converse. I think cheats ought to be booed. The whole thing is about status, after all, and it should be earned.

        1. Yeah get used to being on camera all the time and keep a straight face or else a certain shot at a certain instance will be delayed and used at an opportune time to shade the truth. Anyway I guess if one is to believe Toto’s grin, inspite of his own admission to the contrary, was because LH took the lead, then one should retract one’s comments in many posts prior to this about the team being for NR to win the WDC.

    2. Toto’s grin was because Rosberg’s error saved them some first corner/ chicane tension

    3. Toto’s smile could have been one of relief, sense of justice, perplexity… a million things. I vote we have a caption contest for our learned group to settle once and for all the exact thought behind what could prove to be the most famous facial expression of 2014. ;)

      1. Totos thought bubble.” Excellent, the chase is on, more free and favourable publicity, the board will see the value of it.”

    4. I think the problem is with Rosberg’s ability to turn the steering wheel, I am currently teaching my 3yr old, left to turn left etc.

      I am amongst the ‘conspiracy theorists’ with regards to Monaco, too much play on the wheel and he could have easily made the corner (look on youtube). That said, the missed turns today, and in Belgium turned the steering wheel twice towards another vehicle, so perhaps a back to basics lesson in vehicle handling are in order.

      Toto, Niki and Paddy are certainly relieved, who would you choose to stay on (even if MB board would prefer an all German team)

    5. +1. But I think Nico has 2014 WDC in the bag, regardless of Toto’s enigmatic smile…just my opinion.

      In the week following Spa, Button also came out and supported Lewis in the media, reiterating the “winning fair and square” stance that Lewis commented on before the race in Spa.

    6. @lockup
      Martin Brundle of course will always be the first to call Nico’s mistake a “simple racing incident”.

      1. @jason12 it’s a curious thing but after Spa and instantly pronouncing it accidental Brundle later changed his mind.
        In his piece for Sky he showed a telling still frame of Rosberg steering hard right into Lewis’ rear wheel and called it “an instantaneous moment of anger and petulance”.

        He did kinda stick to that in Monza but soft-pedalled it so much that nobody noticed.

        In many ways it’s been up to the fans to see past the whitewash. Monaco especially was shameful IMO, with the whole circus absolutely determined not to call it what it was. Even those who accepted it was deliberate tried to present it as something clever.

        So in this case I’ve welcomed the booing as a much-needed injection of honesty.

      2. Eddie Jordan is even worse.

    7. There’s also nothing wrong with Toto smiling at what he perceives as justice, which the Stewards failed to implement.

      The Stewards investigated and punished drivers for a lesser crimes than Nico’s this weekend.

    8. Booing is unacceptable and disrespectful.

      1. beneboy (@beneboy)