13/09/2012

Italian GP, Monza- After all, pace matters


For a change, it was dry weekend and deep inside everyone would have hoped for that. It was a good race, we were spared by the first lap incident. I had a gut feeling that it will be a clean start. Although we did see some good dramas in the race. Lewis Hamilton took the win from pole while Perez ended P2, was fierce on his second stint, stunted everybody in the paddock. And final spot was taken by Alonso. SFI’s Di Resta ended P8 & Hulkenberg suffered a DNF. And Karthikeyan ended at P19.

Detailed review of weekend below:


Practice Sessions, FP1:


Friday had a different view in Monza as it was bright and sunny. Fans must be happy but more so the teams & drivers would have been elated. We saw it by the number of laps they did, most running in high 20’s. Schumacher started off the weekend with P1 with Button at P2 & Rosberg P3. Bianchi sat in for Di Resta and he must have been happy to get a drive in dry conditions. Hulkenberg ended P12 and was P3 in S1 times while Bianchi P16. Karthikeyan once again sat out, this time for Ma. I will touch upon his possible contract scenario towards the end of the blog.



FP2:


The weather continued to be great in the second session and it was time for them to check the medium tyres, softer of the two compounds. The Mercedes powered guys were doing a great job but Ferrari bounced back to top 5. Hamilton ended P1 with Button at P2 and Alonso at P3. Di Resta was back and straightaway back to pace ending P7 & Hulkenberg ended at P8 improving in morning’s pace and once again ended P3 in S1 times. Both were just about 0.250s off Hamilton’s pace. Both drivers were happy at the end of the day with the pace & progress. Karthikeyan was back as well but his car faced some mechanical problems which limited his run a bit as he ended P24.



FP3:


Yet another beautiful day and teams geared up to push before qualifying after analysing and making changes to the cars after going through the Friday data. It was very close by the end of the session as Hamilton continued to be on top with Alonso at P2 by just 0.001s and Di Resta at P3, this time he set P3 time in S1. Hulkenberg ended at P9 while Karthikeyan beat his team mate to end at P23. But there was a bitter news that Di Resta was to get 5 place grid penalty due to unscheduled gearbox change.


It was nice to see dry practice sessions and teams making the post of. McLaren, Ferrari were looking class apart specially Hamilton & Alonso. Red Bulls were far off the pace as were Lotus. The SFI’s were looking top class and double Q3 was sure shot, maybe even top 5 finish. Karthikeyan was looking good to beat his team mate in qualifying for the first time.



Qualifying, Q1:


All set for the first session to begin after three good sessions in practice. What was looking to be a great qualifying for SFI suffered an early bolt as Hulkenberg’s car came to a stop as he started his flying lap with a fuel-pressure issue throwing him out of Q1 and ending him at P24. Di Resta made it easily to Q2 with a good pace. Alonso ended P1 with Hamilton at P2 & Button P3. The usual suspects bowed out with Hulkenberg. Karthikeyan ended P22 beating his team mate for the first time, his best qualifying performance yet. He was to start P21 after Pastor’s penalty.



Q2:


Teams wasted no time as cars came out quickly in Q2 to set their first timed lap. The troubles for Red Bull continued as he was the major name to be out in Q2 along with Williams, STR, one Sauber & one Lotus. Also, Kimi & Vettel just made it in the top 10. Alonso ended P1, Button P2 and Di Resta continued an impressive run to end P3, boy he was looking good to perhaps get top 3 position?



Q3:


The session started with both Ferrari heading out together, by mid of their flying lap we saw an unusual site as Massa used Alonso’s slipstream to get some extra speed and post a decent time. At that time we all thought it was a strategic move but only in the end we came to know that he had a car failure as he ended only P10. Hamilton took a well deserved pole position with Button at P2. Massa came out and pushed Di Resta down to take the P3 spot, his first qualifying podium since 2009. Di Resta ended a superb P4 but unfortunately will start at P9. That was some lap from him.



Qualifying was fair and square, the expected things happened at the top with McLaren taking pole and Red Bull struggling. But everything didn’t go right for SFI as Hulkenberg faced car troubles. Di Resta did an amazing job but it was shame he was pushed down, otherwise P4 start would have been better, but then car had pace. Karthikeyan was delighted after beating his team mate for the first time, he would have hoped to do the same in race to complete a good weekend for him.


Raceday:


A beautiful day at Monza, perfect weather for a dry race and hot too which would give a different setting to the race. Strategies would come in handy as teams would want to stretch the tyre life and go for one stop and others to go for normal two stops. Hamilton was starting pole looking for his first ever win at Monza with Button alongside him also looking for first win at Monza. Di Resta starting from P9 & Hulkenberg P24 while Karthikeyan from P21. I was expecting a clean start and that is what we got, Hamilton took a good lead but Button lost to Massa as he took P2. Alonso passed only Di Resta but made some quick progress in the following laps. Di Resta lost a place to Alonso while Hulkenberg made super progress to come at P17. Karthikeyan started off well passing the Marussia’s but he lost to them in few laps.


The opening stint from all the front runners was fairly good. Hamilton lead the pack and Button got his P2 back while Alonso & Vettel were battling hard for P4 position. Behind this pack, the field was fairly open as Webber, Schumacher, Kimi along with the mid-field drivers were fighting for the bottom 5 positions. Rosberg was the biggest loser in the pack as he dropped out of top 10. Here, Perez was looking dangerous with his one stop after the first round of pit stops. At the bottom of the field, Caterham, HRT & Marussia were among their own fight.


Di Resta’s first stint had gone from bad to worse as he lost lots of positions. He had a bit of tussle with Senna as well which didn’t help his tyres. It was strange but the pace he had during qualifying just wasn’t there as he struggled to match pace with others but he hung on. Hulkenberg on the other hand was charging up the field from behind, he was running in points as he opted for one stop strategy and stretching his hard tyres. His pace looked good, better from Di Resta’s as he was able to lap with the teams running in top 10. Karthikeyan on the other hand was not having a great day as he slipped behind his team mate after having a   damaged his car in the opening lap.


Things changed dramatically by the end of the race. Hamilton was comfortably in a good position to win the race even though Perez was hot on heels by the end of the race. Talking about Perez, he was just superb in his second stint on the mediums, Sauber yet again showing class in managing the tyres well. By mid race, he gained loads of momentum and was lapping faster than the top 5 drivers. After Vettel’s DNF and Alonso having given P3 by Massa, Perez was right behind Massa. He wasted no time and passed him remarkably and in just few laps he caught Alonso and did the unthinkable. He overtook Alonso in Ferrari’s home ground and ended a well deserved P2. Alonso came home at P3, we can argue that he was gifted P3 but he did well. The Mercedes duo with their 2 stop did well and got to top 10.


Di Resta ended P8, he looked better in the second stint and was lapping some good times. Though Webber & Vettel’s DNF helped him but he was there to take the opportunity. Hulkenberg was running P12 and was looking good to finish in points after RBR’s DNF but a brake problem halted his run and he suffered a DNF. Karthikeyan finished P19, didn’t looked very good after having a great Saturday but he was happy that he could finish the race after s disappointing DNF in Spa.


The championship is wide open, RBR were looking good to seal CC but McLaren are catching up while gap to Alonso is still a GP win but fight for P2 has intensified as Kimi moves up to P3 in DC. SFI took P7 from Williams in Spa and stretched a bit while Paul & Nico are fighting it out for P12 & P13 positions in DC. I mentioned about Karthikeyan possible contract negotiation, from what I am seeing it looks like he has got in terms with HRT that he would sit for as many FP1 they want but he will race in all or most of the GP’s this season. He has sat out of the majority of the FP1 session when HRT gave their reserve driver a chance. Any ways, the double header is over and we now look forward to Singapore in 2 weeks time, hope to watch the FP sessions LIVE on TV.


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