Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Meaningful Beginning: Rosberg Wins At Monza Following Hamilton's Troubled Start

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The second half of the 2016 Formula 1 season is well underway as Monza, Italy hosted the 14th race for world tour of open wheel racing's most powerful vehicles. Racing one week after Formula 1 competitors competed in Belgium completing a nearly month-long break for the summertime, the Italian Grand Prix serves as the final European round for the year. Autodromo Nazionale di Monza guaranteed a high-speed finale on the continent consisting of 11 turns and a 5.793-kilometer circuit length.


What was not promised was whether which one of the Mercedes AMG teammates could prevail in the 22-car field. In qualifying, defending event winner of the previous two years Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole at Monza by a convincing margin over Nico Rosberg. Embroiled in a championship fight with one another, the Mercedes AMG teammates have traded the championship point lead early this summer. Following Rosberg's barn-burning start to the 2016 Formula 1 season, Hamilton re-entered his true form at Monaco. The British driver eventually leapfrog his German corporate rival holding a 19-point lead on Rosberg into the mid-season break. Through past seasons, many analysts of Formula 1 would hand an advantage to Lewis Hamilton based on his instant success reflected by a championship earned in only his second full season. This year appears to be a different scenario as Nico Rosberg has been showing himself to be more resilient and a formidable match to Hamilton.

Lined up for the 2016 Italian Grand Prix, the two Mercedes AMG race cars stood at the front of the grid. As Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were positioned side-by-side, the light signals summoning the official start of the 53-lap race flicked off. It was through that initial stage at Monza where one Mercedes AMG car would rise and the other would fall almost instantly as Hamilton launched slowly. By the end of the first corner, the pole sitter of the Italian Grand Prix had fallen from 1st to 6th place as the pair of Ferraris as well as the Williams-Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo found a way by the #44 Mercedes AMG race car. In contrast, Nico Rosberg engaged in a fine start taking a strong lead into the first lap.


While the race in Italy would not have the same magnitude of collisions as what was experience last week at Spa-Francorchamps, some coming-togethers were part of the 53 circuits. Deep in the field for the first lap, Felipe Nasr's Sauber and the Renault race car of Jolyon Palmer made contact through the Variante Ascari complex of the Monza course. Fighting for 18th place at the time, Nasr's rear tire touched the front tire of Palmer's car resulting in secondary contact damaging the Renault's front wing and the tire of the Sauber. Neither drivers was able to complete the Italian Grand Prix becoming of just four competitors who didn't make it to the finish (joined later by mechanical failures on the vehicles of Daniil Kvyat and Pascal Wehrlein).

While Nico Rosberg lead the way for Mercedes AMG, Lewis Hamilton had to regain ground from the poor start. Hamilton quickly took fifth place and would later overtake Bottas' Williams-Mercedes but his rear-mounted Pirelli soft compound tires quickly wore out through his charge back to the front. Both Mercedes AMG race cars opted for a single pit stop plan and were the only vehicles that finished in the top-10 using the strategy. Since other competitors chose a two-stop tire plan, this led to a majority of runners pitting between lap 13 to 16. Following the opposing team's pit stops, Lewis Hamilton was promoted to second place in the running order.

After an eventful start, the Mercedes AMG team settled into a typical pace. Cruising to a second consecutive victory, Nico Rosberg took his seventh win of the season at Monza with a 15.070-second advantage over teammate Lewis Hamilton. Citing the race as a perfect outing for him, Rosberg stated in post-race team transcript, "It means so much for me to win here at Monza. The crowd were unbelievable over the entire weekend and especially during the podium ceremony. A momentum-building set of races for the German driver, he now closes to within 2 points of his Mercedes AMG teammate Hamilton in the current points standing. Settling for second, Lewis Hamilton had been the Italian Grand Prix winner during past two seasons.

A country containing perhaps the most energized and passionate devotion to Ferrari (understandable since the company operates in the nation), the final spot on the podium was a sentimental achievement. Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel held onto a third place spot he earned in qualifying. Vettel was followed across the finish line by teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Still hunting for a first win for the 2016 Formula 1 season, a third and fourth place result for Ferrari did provide a worthwhile reason to celebrate. Mentioning engine upgrades to the Ferrari, Vettel was proud of the effort at Monza but acknowledges challenges as the organization has been working to break into the win column for 2016 saying, "This podium here, it’s not the Adriatic sea, it is the sea of tifosi.. We had a rough season, we had high expectations, we have put ourselves on high pressure, we have also done mistakes, but the most important thing is that we stay a team, that we stay together."

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

the 5th and 6th place spots swapped positions from the starting lineup with Daniel Ricciardo taking fifth while Valtteri Bottas captured sixth. Max Verstappen had a quiet grand prix at Monza concluding 53 laps in seventh place with the second Red Bull-TAG Heuer machine.

Overall, the finishing results of the Italian Grand Prix maintained a remarkable amount of stability to the starting order. Positioned at a season-high starting spot with the Haas F1 Team, Estaban Gutierrez would be filtered out of the top-10 over the course of the 53 laps in Italy. Gutierrez would finish 13th placing two positions behind his teammate Romain Grosjean in a similarly prepared Ferrari-powered race car. With the Haas F1 Team out of the points, the second Williams Martini Racing car of Felipe Massa would enter the top-10. Taking 9th place, Massa joined fellow Williams-Mercedes pilot Bottas in the points. Scoring constructors' points with both cars, Williams Martini Racing has claimed at least one point in all but one grand prix in 2016 (the British Grand Prix in Silverstone was the only non-point scoring event for the team). Force India also enjoyed a third-straight double-point finish with drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. Perez grabbed 8th place while Hulkenberg took the final available point in the Italian Grand Prix finishing order in 10th.

Although to McLaren Honda team were not able to crack the top-10 for the Italian Grand Prix, the mid-marker team does leave Autodromo Nazionale di Monza with a small, discrete victory. Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap of the race with a 1-minute, 25.340-second lap time achieved on a set of supersoft Pirelli tires. Two-time winner at the circuit in previous seasons, Alonso finished 14th in the Italian Grand Prix.

The last race on the 2016 Formula 1 schedule takes place in Singapore. On September 18th, the unique nighttime street race at the Marina Bay Circuit will provide an illuminating next round.

2016 Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
7 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
8 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
12 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
13 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
14 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
15 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
16 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
18 31 Esteban Ocon Manor Mercedes-Benz
19 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
20 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
21 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
22 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari

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