The most famous race of the F1 calendar is also the 13th race of the 2014 season, with six races to go after this. Monza is known for its high speed and therefore tough braking, rendered popular by the outbreak of F1 Playstation games in the early noughties. It is also Ferrari’s “home track”, and hence it seemed off that Alonso’s record-race-finishing-streak had to end here after a mechanical failure. But it wasn’t about him.
It was about the two Mercedes drivers that have lit up this season with their almost-violent rivalry. After the disaster to the Belgian Grand Prix—where Rosberg’s marauding car forced Hamilton into a late retirement—it was payback time. I suspect this was the team’s way of punishing their no. 1 driver, because the young German made two errors at the same chicane, the second of which proved fatal and gave his teammate the race lead. This seemed intentional in a way—the sort of “offer that you can’t refuse” laid down by the team chief. In no other way can Rosberg’s non-performance be explained, especially after Hamilton’s indifferent start to the race. The Brit fell down to 4th at the start, but charged his way up to pass Massa’s Williams and Magnussen’s McLaren, and set himself up for a one-on-one battle with leader Rosberg. Hamilton’s first pole of the season since May had to result in a win if he had to catch his teammate in the standings, and he did just that, cutting down the gap until he took the lead and never looked back.
Rosberg’s body language in the post-race conference seemed to suggest that he was extremely disappointed even though he finished second, and this wasn’t a total disaster. He is still 238 to Hamilton’s 216 points, and has the upper hand, but his downcast face seemed to reveal that the team wasn’t entirely backing him on his lead, and they may have been responsible for his ‘mistakes’ in the race. He looked like a child disappointed with the magnitude of his punishment, and will look to hit back hard at Singapore’s fabulous Marina circuit at night. Of the three on the podium, you’d think the first two were not at all happy, and have somewhere lost the singular joy of winning a race in pursuit of higher loftier championship goals and cut-throat rivalries. It was Massa, who experienced his first podium with Williams, who seemed the happiest.
It is odd that even after his sixth race win of the season, Lewis Hamilton is 23 points adrift in the title race. The team is back on track in the constructors’ standings, and Rosberg’s consistent performances (4 wins and a bunch of second-places) have kept him on top. Red Bull’s Ricciardo is the only non Mercedes driver to have won this season, with an impressive 3 wins to his name. He has a bright future, especially considering the fact that he had out-raced Sebastian Vettel in the same team. But that future will have to wait another year, for this is, in Ravi Shastri’s words, going to “go down to the wire” till Abu Dhabi.
Be prepared for a bloody slugfest. Mercedes will never be the same again.