Max Verstappen on the gas in Monza
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What happened at the Italian Grand Prix?

After defeat in Belgium, Lewis Hamilton hit back in the Formula One championship battle with solid victory at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza over Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas.
By Matt Youson
7 min readPublished on
Monza is chaotic, noisy, messy and quite possibly the finest spectacle Formula One has to offer. La Pista Magica is F1's Temple of Speed. Today, at the Italian Grand Prix, that temple worshipped – grudgingly – at the feet of Lewis Hamilton after the Mercedes driver won by 8.7s over Ferrari's Kimi RäikkönenMax Verstappen crossed the line third, but a five-second penalty for the Dutchman elevated the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to the final podium position.
Ferrari’s front row lock-out in qualifying drew a bumper crowd to Monza, but in a race that featured a lot of good old-fashioned drafting, grid position didn't count for much.
Kimi Räikkönen maintained his first place through the first chicane, with Sebastian Vettel tucked in behind, but third placed Hamilton got a better exit out of the Rettifilo and was able to attack his championship rival into the Roggia. Vettel covered the inside as Hamilton went to the outide, they touched, Vettel spun and Hamilton was through into second. The Safety Car came out for a start-line incident that put Brendon Hartley out of the race and left debris on the straight, and everyone drew breath.
Qualifying suggested there wasn't much to choose between Ferrari and Mercedes, and so it proved. At the restart, the advantage swung one way and the other, with the benefit of the tow outweighing any technical advantage. Hamilton passed Räikkönen early in the piece, but Räikkönen took the lead back a little later in the stint.
While the pit stop strategy was always going to be a one-stopper, the window for that stop was very wide. Räikkönen and Hamilton held station through their stops, but Mercedes were able to leave Bottas out as a blocker, allowing Hamilton to stay on Räikkönen's rear wheels. When Bottas pitted, Hamilton was able to pick his moment, make a clean pass on Räikkönen, and pull out enough of a gap to break the tow and gain a decisive gap.
Behind them, Bottas emerged behind Max Verstappen. While the Red Bull Racing driver had never been in the race for victory, he was in with a shot of a podium. Bottas had the faster car, though, and got a good run into the Rettifilo chicane. Verstappen defended rather too robustly, shoved Bottas wide into the escape road and picked up an inevitable five-second penalty. It dropped him behind both Bottas and Vettel.
Vettel’s eventual P4 was a case of points salvaged. The safety car had allowed him to recover from his spin, pit for fresh rubber and get on the back of the pack. In the early stages he ran with Daniel Ricciardo, who'd started at the back after engine penalties and will probably face more later in the season after a mechanical DNF today. Vettel did a competent recovery job, but now goes into the last seven races of the season with a 30 point deficit to Hamilton in the Drivers' Championship standings.
Behind Vettel on track, Romain Grosjean appeared to have another good day for Haas to cross the line in sixth position – but after a protest from Renault and an onerous stewards enquiry, both Haas cars were excluded from the result for geometric infringements relating that to their floors; that meant Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez continued Racing Point Force India’s recovery with sixth and seventh, Carlos Sainz was eighth for Renault and Williams completed the top ten with ninth for Lance Stroll and a first F1 point for the well-deserving Sergey Sirotkin who was promoted to tenth.
"It was a tough race, but a thoroughly enjoyable race," said Hamilton after cheerful enduring the boos from the Ferrari faithful on the podium. "The season is shaping up to one of the best, because it really is that close between us."

The story of the weekend

Monza's fastest lap ever

Formula One's hybrid engines have come in for a great deal of stick since their introduction in 2014. Too quiet; too complicated; too expensive has been the mantra parroted out at regular intervals. These criticisms are not unreasonable, though the corollary that the hybrids are somehow not exciting is perhaps wide of the mark. The hybrid engine is very, very responsive, flexible in how it delivers performance and ridiculously powerful. The latter point was proved at Monza, when first Sebastian Vettel and then a host of his rivals broke Juan Pablo Montoya's highest average speed record that had stood for 14 years.
In 2004 Montoya, driving a Williams FW26, fitted with a BMW P84 V10 engine revving somewhere north of 19,000rpm lapped Monza at an average speed of 262.242kph. He did this in the qualifying prologue, setting a time of 1m 19.525s.
The Italian Airforce perform a fly past before the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 3, 2017 in Monza, Italy.
Flying high
Before this weekend, there was a sense the record might go. The centreline distance hasn't changed at Monza since Montoya's time (though the lap is slightly more difficult now with the addition of more vicious kerbs) so it was simply a case of going faster than Montoya. Vettel ran it close in Q2, and then smashed through with 1m 19.479s on his first Q3 run. He held the record for a split second before Räikkönen beat it with 1m 19.459s, and then Hamilton with 1m 19.390s. They all went faster in their second Q3 runs, but it was Räikkönen's last-gasp 1m 19.119s that established the new benchmark with an average speed of 263.587kph. That's the fastest F1 lap, ever.

He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy

Speed records aside, qualifying at Monza had the added interest of a near collision between Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen, followed by their team bosses, Zak Brown and Guenther Steiner, having a chat in the pitlane. Both drivers were asked to account for themselves to the stewards, who decided neither was guilty of an infringement. 
The court of public opinion blamed Alonso for trying to make a pass at the Rettifilo chicane, but ex-drivers pointed fingers the other way, saying Magnussen had ignored one of F1's gentlemen's agreements by barging past Alonso and taking his place in the queue at the Parabolica, where all the drivers were backing up to make space for their runs. Alonso laughed in his rival's direction once both had returned to parc ferme. Magnussen complained that Alonso "thinks he's God." The Dane continuing, saying, "I can't wait for him to retire." He's probably not planning to buy Alonso a gold watch when the double world champion bows out at the end of the year.

Marcus Ericsson goes large

Pity Sauber's crew, who are having a lot of late nights recently. After Charles Leclerc was the victim of somebody else's crash at the Belgian Grand Prix, five days later it was Marcus Ericsson's turn to destroy a C37.
Ericsson had the unpleasant experience of a jammed-open DRS going into the (twitchy regardless) braking zone at the first chicane. The absence of meaningful downforce saw the Swede slew into the barriers at high speed and then barrel-roll down the escape road. Happily, he was able to climb out, give a thumbs-up to the crowd and totter into the medical car under his own steam. After the mandatory checks in the medical centre, he got back in a rebuilt car on Saturday morning to resume his weekend. If you wonder what F1 spends all that money on, this would be it.

100 podiums for Räikkönen

Second place wasn't what Kimi Räikkönen had in mind when he got up on race day morning, but he did manage the consolation of scoring his hundredth F1 podium. Räikkönen scored his first at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix, and this is his 49th rostrum finish for Ferrari. Räikkönen being Räikkönen, he scotched the notion of this being something to celebrate. "There's not a lot of difference between 99 and 100, it's just a number," said the Finn. He may have had a slight smile when he said it, though.