Monday, September 7, 2015

Hamilton Wins Monza Despite Formula 1-Style Deflategate Investigation

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The 11th race of the 2015 season for some of the top open wheel drivers in the world, 53 laps around the fastest track Formula 1 assembles in a season is a potentially torturous test of machinery. The high-speed, low downforce setup around the 5.793-kilometer Autodromo Nazionale di Monza pushes teams to extract peak engine performance from their vehicles. Before weekend, Honda and Renault added numerous components to the point affiliated teams received grid place penalties assessed after this weekend's qualifying. Even the favored Mercedes AMG team came to Monza with enhancements made to their power units.

Surprising few, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG sat on the pole for the 2015 Italian Grand Prix. What was a matter of bewilderment was the Hamilton's fellow front row occupant. In a Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen started the race as the main focus of the patriotic Italian fan base who would have loved to see the Prancing Horse win on the Monza circuit. It was a short-lived moment of appreciation in Sunday's main event for Raikkonen. When the lights went out at the start of the grand prix, the Ferrari for the Finnish driver stalled at a precarious instant as the field launched. Kimi Raikkonen's car finally got up to speed only after the entire field had flown by. After potentially being in a situation of contending for an easy podium or even a win at Monza, Raikkonen and the Ferrari race car fought a difficult uphill battle.


While Lewis Hamilton faced an immediate challenge from the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, the Mercedes AMG race car quickly pulled away neutralizing the chance for an Italian team winning on its home track. In less than 15 minutes into the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton had a 5.5-second gap over Vettel.

As Lewis Hamilton was enjoying a Sunday drive in Italy, his teammate Nico Rosberg fought in a weekend that had gone the way the German wanted. After suffering engine issues in final practice, Rosberg's car ran an older spec power unit layout that put him in a potential handicap to Hamilton. Qualifying fourth, a poor start by Nico Rosberg opened the door to the pair of Williams-Mercedes race cars. Thanks to a quick pit stop made on lap 18 courtesy of the Mercedes AMG crew, Rosberg leapfrogged the Williams machines when drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas came to the attention of pit lane a few laps later. Elevated to third, Rosberg spent roughly half of the race's distance narrowing the interval between himself and second place's Sebastian Vettel.

After 53 laps, the commanding authority Lewis Hamilton raced would not be challenged. Hamilton crossed the line more than 25 seconds ahead of second-place Vettel. Potentially the seventh win of the 2015 season, the Italian Grand Prix victory came into scrutiny short after the race.

By crossing the line to the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton defended his 2014 race win at the track. However, Lewis Hamilton's 40th grand prix victory would be placed in jeopardy in post-race when it was revealed tire pressures on his Mercedes AMG tested below the mandatory limit. While an underinflated tire was detected on left-rear corner of Hamilton's race car, the amount of the violation was 0.3 PSI. A clear breach of technical rules as well as being a potential safety risk, a deflated tire could potentially provide an advantage in regards to grip. Tire pressures on the second Mercedes AMG driven by Nico Rosberg also had an underinflated tire that was 1.1 PSI under the limit. Since Rosberg's race ended in retirement, there was no concerns for a penalty. In the end, Lewis Hamilton's race stood as official in a weekend the defending British Formula 1 champion described as a perfect one.

In post-race, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff described the ordeal with the deflated tire. "As Mercedes-Benz, our number one priority is to operate our car within the prescribed safety limits and this is not something we would ever take a chance on. Indeed, we worked very closely with Pirelli since Spa to help define these limits for the race weekend in Monza, and we saw today that there were no problems in a very high-speed, hard-fought race; my compliments go to Pirelli for the job they have done here in Monza", said Wolff. With Hamilton's win, the points gap between the Mercedes AMG in the 2015 drivers' championship has widened considerably. The Italian Grand Prix becomes the second in a row for Formula 1 where tires were the talk of post-race analysis. At the last race on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Sebastian Vettel leveled criticism at Pirelli for a tire failure late in the event. In truth, the tire wore out because of excessive distance.

The podium at Monza was immersed by an emotional atmosphere as a loud, the Italian crowd cheered the drivers of three separate teams (the first time such an occurrence happened this season). Mercedes shared the Italian Grand Prix podium with Ferrari and Williams. Sebastian Vettel was unable to keep pace with the exceptionally fast Lewis Hamilton but maintained the second-place position for much of the event even resisting Nico Rosberg's late challenge.


Collecting his second podium finish in 2015, Felipe Massa was a benefactor of Rosberg's late retirement. By little more than 3/10th of a second, Massa fended off his teammate Valtteri Bottas. "It's really emotional to have been on the podium. It was a difficult but fantastic race, I didn't have the best start but I was still able to pass cars so it was good enough. I worked hard to open the gap to Valtteri, but when I pitted early it gave him the advantage on tyres at the end of the race. It was hard to keep him behind as he really wanted it, but I just about managed it." said Massa in post-race.

Starting on the front row but falling to the back by the first corner of the Italian Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen and his Ferrari hoed a difficult road for 53 laps. At the checkered flag, Raikkonen had climbed to fifth place. Behind Raikkonen's Ferrari, the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg delivered a favourable performance at Monza. While Force India had a low-yield start of the 2015 Formula 1 season, the recent grand prix races have shown some progress for the team. The Italian Grand Prix was the third time in five events that both cars finished within the points.

After suffering a poor qualifying and a grid position drop to the second-to-last place at the race's start, Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull Racing team had an eventful outcome. From 19th, Ricciardo surged to 8th place. Teammate Daniil Kvyat emerged from 18th place to take 10th in the second Red Bull-Renault. Though the result would not completely satisfy observers concerned with Renault's competitiveness against the Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari machines, the Monza event was nonetheless a decent points showing for the outfit. Splitting the two Red Bull Racing cars, Marcus Ericsson's Sauber-Ferrari accomplished his third consecutive points-scoring run. Every vehicle appearing in the top-10 utilized a one-stop strategy.

Only four cars were record to have not finished the 2015 Italian Grand Prix. Two of the retirements were the Lotus F1 Team entries of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado that occurred early in the race. With each passing grand prix, the Lotus F1 Team is continuing to dodge rumours that the team will be unable to finish the season. Besides Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso's McLaren-Honda suffered what was diagnosed with an electrical control board fault after 42 laps.

With the visit to the fast Monza circuit now completed for 2015, Formula 1's European tour has wrapped for the year. Next on the schedule is the Grand Prix of Singapore set for September 20th.


2015 Formula 1

Italian Grand Prix

Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
3 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
5 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
6 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
9 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
10 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault
11 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
12 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
13 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
14 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
15 28 Will Stevens Manor Marussia Ferrari
16 98 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia Ferrari
17 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
18 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
19 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes-Benz
20 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes-Benz

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