2015 Italian Grand Prix Recap: Not the Result the Tifosi Were Hoping For
A few days before the race weekend, it was announced that Mercedes had used its remaining engine development tokens for the Italian Grand Prix, despite already having the most powerful engine on the grid. Most F1 fans figured that was the end of any team’s previous hopes of challenging the Silver Arrows, should they have even had any.
But when Räikkönen and Vettel qualified less than two tenths behind pole-sitter Hamilton and ahead of Rosberg, everyone was ready for an upset. It would be difficult, but it seemed Ferrari had the engine power to do it at a track where it mattered most.
More importantly, the Italian Grand Prix is home to the most zealous Formula 1 fans the sport has ever known—the tifosi—who almost exclusively root for Ferrari. Seeing a red driver step on top of the podium would surely have made Monza explode with pride and excitement.
Sadly, it was not to be. In fact, the disappointment was brutal. Räikkönen’s clutch did not properly engage at the start and he was immediately passed by every single car on the grid. Vettel was side-by-side with Hamilton in the first corner, but the latter simply zipped away and that was the end of that battle. Hamilton and his Mercedes were simply too good to beat.
The other Mercedes, though, didn’t have such a good time. A leak in Rosberg’s cooling system forced him to switch to an old engine, which meant he was down on a significant amount of power throughout the weekend.
Then it got worse: by having to dodge Räikkönen’s immobile car, he lost three places right off the start. Despite all this, he managed to get himself back into 3rd place and in position to challenge Vettel. But this can be a cruel sport: with only two laps to go, Rosberg’s engine went up in flames—and some of his championship hopes with it.
Still, that meant Vettel finished 2nd, a good enough result for the tifosi, who roared and cheered in delight during the podium ceremonies, leaving Vettel so happy as to claim it was the best second place he ever had.
That left both Williams drivers—Massa and Bottas—to fight it out for the last spot on the podium. Massa (a former Ferrari driver) ultimately prevailed, also to the tifosi’s delight.
Next in line was—surprise—Räikkönen, who steadily made his way through the pack during the 78-minute race, caught and overtook Perez in the final stages for 6th place, and then moved up one more spot when Rosberg retired.
Perez’s teammate Hulkenberg secured a difficult 7th place after struggling with his tires while under immense pressure from Ericsson. The latter fell victim to a charging Ricciardo on the final lap. All three of them finished within 3 seconds of each other, with Kvyat a bit further behind to round out the top 10.
Toro Rosso’s Sainz and Verstappen followed (the latter still as enjoyable to watch as ever), and then Nasr, who had to play catch-up after being forced to make a pit stop at the end of the opening lap, due to a previous penalty.
After securing a podium at the last Grand Prix, it was a disastrous day for Lotus. Maldonado was forced off-track at the first corner, breaking his floor in the process. During that commotion, Grosjean’s rear suspension was broken by an over-optimistic Nasr. Both Lotus drivers were retired less than a minute after the race had begun.
Once again, McLaren-Honda wasted their drivers’ potential with a terrible car. One broke down and the other could barely cinch 14th. Despite Honda’s claim that its engine has more horsepower than Renault (who itself is under fire for its lackluster engine), Button couldn’t even get close to overtaking a Renault-powered Toro Rosso on the main straight with slipstream and DRS.
A lot of this weekend’s drama occurred off the track. With just five laps to go, Hamilton was given a highly unusual order to go even faster and not ask questions even though he had more than a 20-second lead over 2nd place. The pit wall and news crews came alive with speculations and controversy surrounding the cause, which in the end had to do with tires and turned out fine for all those involved.
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Other matters have not been resolved so cleanly. After mostly bad performances last year and even worse ones this year, Red Bull is reportedly breaking contract with Renault. Meanwhile, McLaren is allegedly requesting that Honda replace its chief motorsport officer after so many failed promises. Both suppliers are suffering from intense criticism, to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to leave the sport. Honda certainly underestimated the challenge of building a competitive hybrid power unit for Formula 1. But if they leave, who will supply McLaren and Red Bull with engines?
For now, we’ll just have to see how the next Grand Prix turns out. See you in two weeks!
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.