Practice Sessions, FP1:
Another race after a week’s gap in between, this season has seen lot of gaps between races. Final European race of the season and one of the best track to race in. This was probably the last track where Red Bull would have faced some issue considering the nature of the track. Hamilton go in top with Alonso P2 & Rosberg at P3, no RBR in the top 3. A difficult start for SFI as di Resta only managed P15 as he did only 13 laps due to some gearbox issues, while making his F1 debut James Calado finished P17 who did a lot of laps getting familiar with the VJM06 during a race weekend.
It took only 2 hours for RBR to get back to where they belonged to dismissing some doubts as to if they will face any big challenge from their rivals. Vettel took P1 while Webber ended P2 as Kimi ended P3 bringing Lotus too in the game. SFI fixed di Resta’s gearbox as he looked better in the afternoon session ending P11. Sutil was back in the car after sitting out in the morning and ended P13 behind his teammate not by much.
A hot day at Monza as Vettel continued his dominance, throwing out any indication that RBR would face lot of competition. Alonso brought his Ferrari closer at P2 with a strong showing by the Spaniard as Webber rounded off at P3. It was some struggle for SFI as the team tried their best to overcome the pace issues, Sutil managed P16 only in the end after surviving a scary moment in Ascari. While di Resta’s run was cut short when he crashed out as his brake disc broke, thus he ended P17 only.
Pole battle was likely playing in the hands of Vettel mostly. Rest of the field with the likes of Hamilton, Alonso, Kimi were only playing the catch up game and hoping for some kind a miracle as such. SFI were facing issues, no doubt but I was still hopeful of one car in Q3, if not both of them. Certainly, I wasn’t hoping that either car would bow out in Q1 itself.
A warm and sunny day as Q1 begun and all the cars went out to get through to Q2. Vettel lead the pack with the Mercedes duo of Rosberg & Hamilton followed. SFI duo made it through to Q2 improving on the last lap of their run, I wouldn’t term it as an easy going but they were in. Esteban & Bottas along with the Caterham & Marussia duo were out in Q1.
Much tighter session this as we see always in the qualifying session. Q2 is tighter because of the midfield team, they could make or break into top 10 and in turn disrupt the big teams plans. This is what happened as two big guns Kimi & Hamilton bowed out in Q2 only. Along with them the SFI duo too didn’t make it to Q3. Sutil only managed P14 while di Resta a further back at P16, not the best of qualifying run indeed from the Indian team.
The top 10 shootout became rather easy in one way for Vettel with two big guns being out in Q2. On the other hand it gave a good chance to the likes of Hulkenberg, STR duo to finish as high as possible. Vettel took a comfortable pole as Webber lined up alongside him and with them came the surprise of Sauber’s Hulkenberg in P3, a superb lap from the German & ex-SFI driver. Ferrari’s tactics backfired as Alonso ended up behind Massa.
The pole battle went easy in the end with Vettel securing the pole comfortably. Race prospects were good with Hamilton, Kimi being out of position. An ordinary day for the SFI duo which was somewhat expected. A bitter end as Sutil was pushed down to P17 after receiving a grid penalty for impeding Hamilton during Q2. Surely, the aim for the team was to score some points whether it is double or one of them scoring.
It was surely an interesting long wait for the race, certainly because of the threat of the rain. But then again there was that feeling it might not rain because you expect something and it doesn’t happen, specially with rains. And that’s what happened in the end, it rained before the start of the race but it stopped by the time race was to begin and it never came back again. All the high hopes with regard with rain bringing in some drama was dashed. Vettel took a comfortable lead at the start after a moment of lock up with Massa moving up as Webber & Alonso fought each other off. Hulkenberg made a steady start with dropping just to P5 while at the back Kimi bummed into Perez for which the Finn had to pit for new front wing thereby pushing him dead last. Sutil had a good start as moved up 5 places to be at P12 fighting with Grosjean at the start while di Resta’s unfortunate mistake costed him another DNF, his second consecutive DNF. With Sutil & Grosjean ahead he had no where to go as he braked hard and hit Grosjean, thereby suffering the DNF.
Vettel was enjoying the comfortable lead as Alonso was playing a catch up game after winning the battle with Webber and getting a helping hand from Massa. Webber was always on the toes of the Ferrari but just couldn’t pass him, perhaps due to the straightline speed. Behind them Hulkenberg stayed P5 for the most part of the race as Rosberg chased him all through the race without much success. Ricciardo & Grosjean were in a fight of their own as Hamilton & Kimi started making inroads to salvage some points after a poor qualifying. At the back Caterham were winning the new teams battle as Pic lead the way.
Sutil was sole remaining SFI driver who was running strong or a touch better than what the team looked during Friday, Saturday. He was in a real fight with Esteban most part of the race, this is for the second race in a row that he has been fighting with the Mexican driver. For a brief moment he was in points but bad qualifying and a penalty pushed his chances back with few faster cars ahead. With Hamilton & Kimi behind, it was all the more difficult to score some points for the German but he was out there fighting hard doing as much as he could.
In the end it was maybe an easy victory for Vettel though there was some tension with regard to the gearbox ratios, the same issue which Webber was suffering which I think was the reason that Webber couldn’t overtake Alonso. Hulkenberg ended brilliantly with a P5, much needed for him as well as his team Sauber while Hamilton scored two points after gritty effort. Unfortunately, Kimi couldn’t score any points in the end. Sutil retired with a lap to go after suffering a brake issue as the team said, he was fighting for P13 with Esteban. Pic took the honours for the new team battle ending ahead of the remaining 3.
I think both the DC & CC, all but over and decided with Vettel & RBR firm on top. People talk that anything can happen but the situation, points gap and end of the season time, it isn’t easy for other driver and teams to close the gap specially with the form Vettel is having. P2 in both the places could be the battle to watch out for maybe then. The P5 battle in CC too is close now, McLaren only managed to score 1 point which is good for SFI as the gap is still manageable with 5 points difference. All down to consistency now, who can be among points on a longer run and score good points. A podium for either team would turn the table to that team. Interesting end to the season lined up and all 7 fly away races to go with the end of the European leg. Next time it’s Singapore, switch on the lights, guys.
Thanks for reading,