Italian GP Review – By Bob Constanduros
After Mercedes’s domination of the Belgian Grand Prix, I don’t think the result at Monza should have come as a surprise to anyone. The Brackley team have shown they are on top of Maranello’s best on quick circuits so they would have been expected to triumph. It may have been a massive disappointment to the Italians – particularly that margin of victory – but it shouldn’t have been a surprise When we go to similar circuits, Ferrari will just have to come up with an answer.
Saturday was an immensely frustrating and tiring day. It’s tedious sitting around, waiting for something to happen and all you get is one delay after another. But there’s no doubt that there is some caution when it comes to such weather conditions. No one wants to be complacent at such a high speed circuit and as I’ve written before, drivers are the most impatient people in the world and in such circumstances, they almost have to be protected from themselves.
Sure, it was a spectacle we would quite enjoy seeing, just how the best drivers in the world cope with treacherous conditions but there’s a lot of caution on the FIA agenda these days and Romain Grosjean had already sounded that note with his dire warning over the radio and subsequent accident. The fact is that the pit straight had been resurfaced and the three strips of tarmac leading into the first corner had different properties. Grosjean wasn’t in the tramlines and wasn’t on the driest of the strips, which meant varying degrees of grip under braking. His accident was partially – if not totally – his own fault.
At least we finally got qualifying done, but then we had the farce of penalties. This really is getting worse and worse and it’s going to continue, of course. We’re only at round 13 of 20. The straight fact – that has to be admitted – is that while these engines are ingenious, they’re also unreliable and have been for some years. The FIA is planning to replace them but in the meantime we are suffering these endless penalties. The clamours are growing, even from team principles, that this situation cannot continue.
The topsy turvy grid might have produced a fascinating race but that was not to be. In spite of the best career grid positions for Stroll and Ocon, we had more bad luck for Jos Verstappen – well, some might perceive it as bad luck – and a relatively processional race. There were only 21 pit stops and relatively little overtaking.
Does Monza need a makeover, then, to make it more interesting? Let the fans decide; they only get around 75 minutes of this very quick Grand Prix so if they want more, they should raise their voices. It would be wrong to change the circuit just for the sake of it, but there are certainly aspects of the general organisation which could benefit from some changes. It took some colleagues over an hour to get into the track, even on Saturday. Apparently many fans were sheltering from the rain in the vehicle tunnel, making it impassable for vehicles. And that was before you got to the little crossroads just outside the F1 paddock.
It’s at this point that some team personnel chose to alight from their vehicles and a large crowd of fans gather here. Drivers and team principles sign autographs while chaos reins at the crossroads, with several spectator marshals blowing whistles and shouting just to add – ineffectually – to the general chaos. One day I must just stand watch; it’s pure theatre, utterly Italian, wonderfully disorganised organisation. Heroes are worshipped, they can do as they wish and the marshals will let them. It’s the complete antithesis of what we might expect in Singapore, for instance.
One colleague – who loves Italy – condemned much of this chaos, however. He spoke of the high tech of the circuit, but the low tech of the organisation. He was one of those queueing for hours. I didn’t dare tell him it had taken me minutes to get in at 8am; if he did leave it until 10am, what did he expect? However, when they closed one of the access gets for an hour on Thursday, I sort of agreed with him.
But now we leave Europe with the World Championship for Drivers poised. The battle is on, yet after the best podium of the year, Lewis and Sebastian seemed to be good buddies again, Azerbaijan forgotten. When will be the next hiccup? Surely it’s just a matter of time, because that’s the way that Formula One is. There will surely be more clashes and more rapprochements.
Is it just a two horse race? You have to suspect so. Valtteri Bottas was much happier with his race car on Sunday although he wouldn’t admit it on Saturday. Remember, he hadn’t been happy with the car in Spa. But what can he do about his teammate who is now on fire and threatens to blitz the championship from now on? Surely it’s a straight battle between Lewis and Sebastian, and I think I would back the Brit to win.
So we head overseas and on to Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and the little season-ending world tour. Singapore is such a round-the-houses scramble on quite a quick, tough, unforgiving track, it’s one to be relished. And maybe by then some of the ongoing, longlasting news stories such as will McLaren/won’t Toro Rosso have Honda engines will have been resolved. I get kind of sick of these stories, endless played out for journalists who can’t find anything else to write about – cost-capping is another subject that seems to have been around for years and is occasionally revived.
So please, give us some great racing and an enduring championship battle? It could be one of the sport’s great duels – penalties permitting, of course!