MONZA again lived up to its reputation as the top Formula One race of the year, but the weekend’s Italian Grand Prix was a bewildering affair.
Lewis Hamilton ran out an easy winner for Mercedes-Benz, but a command from his team to ‘drive harder than ever before’ on the second-last lap had the Briton puzzled, as he was already 25 seconds clear of second-placed Sebastien Vettel in the Ferrari.
Team boss Toto Wolff gave no reason for the strange instruction, other than to say ‘we’re studying data’. But he and Niki Lauda wore very worried looks.
Third at that stage was Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes then suffered its first failure of the season with a spectacular engine blow-up. That gifted the final podium spot to Williams driver Felipe Massa, who finished fractionally ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.
As Hamilton sprayed champagne on the podium, it was announced that race stewards were investigating his Mercedes for illegal tyre pressure. One tyre was said to be 0.3psi under the prescribed pressure.
But in a statement three hours after the race, stewards said they had determined the pressure in the tyres were at the minimum pressure recommended by Pirelli when they were fitted to the car.
Perth’s Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull Renault teammate Daniil Kvyat started from the back row of the 20-car grid because they had changed engines during practice. The move was apparently to give them comparatively fresh engines for the tight Singapore track, better suited to the Red Bulls.
But they did very well, with Ricciardo scything through the field to make up 11 places in finishing 8th, and Kvyat 10th.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen qualified second, but stalled on the grid and got away third last. He recovered, drove hard and finished fifth, while at the other end of ill-fortune, the two Lotus cars of Roman Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado qualified well in 8th and 10th, but both retired on lap 2.