If there’s a simple way to sum-up Lewis Hamilton’s Italian GP weekend, it’s that sometimes it pays to be lucky and good.
In a class of his own all weekend, the Brit looked on as teammate Nico Rosberg struggled with an underpowered engine that eventually forced him off the podium, before escaping the wrath of the stewards in a post-race scrutiny of the tyre pressures used by his engineers at Mercedes.
With both Hamilton and Rosberg found under the minimum-allowed pressure in their left-rear tyres while sitting on the grid pre-race, the former had to wait three hours for his eventual 25-second victory to be confirmed. His seventh win of the season may not have been his most difficult, but it seems likely to become his most controversial.
Penalty-talk aside, things were far spicier behind Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa joining him on the podium, as Kimi Raikkonen and Rosberg both endured some major disappointment through no fault of their own.
A race overshadowed by the post-race drama, nevertheless the 2015 Formula One Italian Grand Prix gave us plenty to talk about, so read on for a look at some of the big stories from the race.
To quote the words of the legendary Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that escalated quickly.”
Putting together the finishing touches on his second Grand Chelem of the season (Pole, win, fastest lap and led every lap), Lewis Hamilton suddenly found himself under the gun from a mysterious threat even his pit wall refused to identify. Already 20-seconds up the road from second-placed Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton was rightfully aggrieved as he was forced to up his pace for no obvious reason.
As we now know, the Mercedes pit wall had just gotten word that the team was under investigation for failing to meet the necessary minimum tyre pressure of 19.5 PSI. Another comfortable race victory in his pocket, the real story was just beginning.
With Mercedes having to put their celebrations on hold while the stewards deliberated, initial opinion seemed to indicate Ferrari would be handed an unlikely home victory. Surely, this was an open-and-shut case of Mercedes flouting the safety rules, and particularly in the wake of the Spa blow-ups, they could expect to be penalised thusly?
In the end the FIA didn’t think so, but curiously, the reason was not because Mercedes had been cleared of any wrongdoing, but because the FIA couldn’t be sure they did their job right.
According to the stewards’ report announcing their decision, Mercedes had complied with tyre manufacturer Pirelli’s instructions in fitting their tyres on the car, but had simply had the tyres cooling for too long (with the warming blankets off) as they waited to have the pressure retested several minutes before the race start. It was Mercedes waiting on the FIA (supposedly testing the Ferraris first) that had put them under, and as such, the former couldn’t be penalised for the latter’s delayed action.
Essentially, this comes down to the FIA not knowing how to enforce their own rule. Their testing procedure was inherently flawed, as they were testing a tyre that was not only outside operating temperature in the first place, but had been allowed to cool even more in the time it took them to get a measurement.
It’s this acknowledgement of their own mistakes that led them to grant Mercedes a reprieve – meaning this is less a case of Mercedes “dodging a bullet” and more a case of the FIA forgetting to load the gun in the first place. The German team was targeted because of their blowout in Spa, but it’s difficult to accuse them of any wrongdoing under the current circumstances, and particularly when the tyre temps would be increased during the warm-up lap anyway. For the FIA, it’s a very different story, and they can now expect to join Pirelli in the tyre-discussion spotlight.
Raikkonen, Ericsson Impress
Their credentials may be at opposite ends of the F1 spectrum, but Kimi Raikkonen and his fellow Scandinavian Marcus Ericsson both needed – and got – a timely boost to their reputations on Sunday.
Beating teammate Sebastian Vettel for just the third time in qualifying this year, Raikkonen was at his brilliant best after his anti-stall saw him stationary as the lights went out. In a sterling first stint on soft tyres, the Finn went over half-distance while passing everything from Force Indias to Red Bulls, all while matching his teammate for pace.
With fresher tyres than those around him, Raikkonen’s second stint was more of the same, taking both Force Indias and Ericsson’s Sauber on his way to P5. With all the misfortune that has befallen the Finn this season, Monza provided us with a reminder of why Ferrari were eager to retain his services for 2016. Don’t be surprised if next time Mercedes falter, it’s the Finn celebrating on the top step.
Unlikely to challenge for a seat at one of the front-runners any time soon, Ericsson is nonetheless proving that he has what it takes to stick around for the long haul. With some serious financial clout behind him, he’s one to keep an eye on, especially if teams like Lotus and Force India continue to struggle making money. Compared to some of the other deep-pocketed drivers on the grid, you could certainly do worse than the Swede. Who knows? He might not be done surprising us just yet.
Should the FIA have disqualified Mercedes? Or should the blame be on them for “deflate-gate”? Thoughts on Kimi or Ericsson? Is George Lucas the worst podium interview of all-time? Let us know your thoughts below.