Hamilton wins in Italy despite tyre controversy
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton took a further step closer in clinching his third world title after winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday, despite facing possible disqualification over low tyre pressures.
Having seemingly all but secured his 40th career victory after producing yet another dominant display throughout the 53 lap race, the Brit was left bemused seven laps from home when asked by his engineer for an upturn in pace with no reason being provided.
Instructed not to ask questions, Hamilton responded by extending his lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Williams driver Felipe Massa to just over 25 seconds when the flag dropped, but only after telling his team while coasting back to the pits, “Those last few laps were not cool, man”.
The unexpected request only became apparent as the drivers sprayed the champagne on the podium, when a statement released by the FIA found that both Mercedes’ of Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg had been running with tyre pressures below what was deemed safe by Pirelli.
Following a response to the blowouts suffered by Vettel and Rosberg during the last round in Belgium, the minimum pressure limit had been raised to 19.5 PSI, but a pre-race investigation had determined that the rear wheels of Hamilton’s car was 0.3 PSI below the limit while Rosberg’s was 1.1 PSI below.
“You check the tyre pressures in the tyre heaters when you put them on the car. This is the moment, because you could say 'when is the moment you should check them? Five minutes? Eight minutes from the end, when the red lights go on,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky F1 moments after his team were cleared of any wrong doing.
“In terms of asking Lewis to push when we got the message that there was an investigation into tyre pressures, we didn't understand what was going on. There could have been possible penalties. And in order to gain a little bit of a margin, we asked him to push”.
Speaking to the BBC before his victory was adjudged to have been legal, Hamilton stated that the difference in pressures had no effect on his race pace, and that the awarding of a penalty or even disqualification would have been a shame.
“That small amount on a tyre doesn't do anything, it has be a much bigger amount, a half or one PSI to make a difference. If it was all the tyres, maybe you can argue it. Ultimately that's not the reason why we won. We won because we were the quickest,” he said.
Although expected to face stern opposition from Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton led away from pole as the Finn, who qualified second ahead of Vettel, stalled as the lights went out, dropping him to last.
With his main rivals being forced to take avoiding action in missing the stationary Ferrari, Hamilton once again looked untouchable as his lead grew to over 20 seconds before the call-to-push came. Having started from his worst qualifying position this year in fourth, Rosberg managed to overtake both Williams of Massa and Valtteri Bottas during the final round of stops, and was seemingly mounting a challenge on Vettel, when his engine blew with two laps remaining.
A problem with his new engine during the Saturday morning practise session had resulted in Mercedes running the same unit it used for the last five meetings. It proved to be a race to far as the German came to a halt at the second chicane with smoke and flames coming from the back of his Silver Arrow.
Promoted to third by Rosberg’s misfortune, Massa managed to hold off his teammate Valtteri Bottas by three-tens of a second for the final stand on the podium. Egged on by the tifosi, Raikkonen crossed the line fifth ahead of Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.
Having started from the back of the field due to an engine change before qualifying, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo came home eighth with final points going to his teammate Danill Kyat in tenth, and ninth-placed Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson.
Monza however proved to be a frustration for Lotus as both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean retired with accident damage before completing a single lap. Similarly, the season long difficulty for the reunited McLaren Honda outfit continued as Jenson Button finished 14th while Fernando Alonso retired with mechanical problems six laps from the end.
With the European season now over, the next round sees the F1 circus making its way to Singapore for the first night race on September 20th.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
|6.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1:12:783|
|7.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+1 Lap|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+1 Lap|
|9.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 Lap|
|10.||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull||+1 Lap|
|11.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso||+1 Lap|
|12.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||+1 Lap|
|13.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||+1 Lap|
|14.||Jenson Button||McLaren||+1 Lap|
|15.||Will Stevens||Manor||+2 Laps|
|16.||Roberto Mehri||Manor||+2 Laps|
|DNF||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||51 laps, engine|
|DNF||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||47 laps, mechanical|
|DNF||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||laps, accident|
|DNF||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||0 laps, accident|
|7.||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull||58|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||55|
|10.||Sergio Perez||Force India||33|
|11.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||30|
|12.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||26|
|16.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso||9|
IMAGE sourced from www.telegraph.co.uk
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