Hamilton's supremacy at Monza fails to lift oppressive mood at McLaren
FORMULA ONE ITALIAN GRAND PRIX:LEWIS HAMILTON climbed the victory podium with the demeanour of a man ascending the scaffold. His victory, the 20th of his career, was his first in Monza and lifted him into second place in the world championship on the heels of Fernando Alonso.
This has been one of his finest weekends, for apart from winning the Italian Grand Prix he came top in two of the three practice sessions and scattered his rivals to win pole on Saturday afternoon.
And yet, in one of Formula One’s grandest theatres, and in the brilliant Lombardy sunshine, he remained in the shadows of his own introspection. Head down, he answered questions in the dejected tones of someone helping the police with their inquiries. In contrast Jenson Button, whose retirement with fuel problems on the 33rd lap realistically ended his championship aspirations, was a much jollier figure after the race.
Having won here, Hamilton has now won all the “classics” – Silverstone, Spa, Monaco and Monza – but, when reminded of this, he merely said sullenly: “I haven’t got a clue.”
He celebrated with his team in the aftermath of his victory but it was not with the same frenzied joie de vivre that attended Sergio Perez’s coming together with his Sauber colleagues after his brilliant second place.
If Hamilton’s win was the trigger for a rapprochement for the driver and his team, there was no sign of it. Instead the atmosphere remained oppressive, with continued rumours of Hamilton’s move to Mercedes and his recent tweeting of McLaren data still contaminating the otherwise celebratory air.
Perhaps, instead of criticising Hamilton for his dejected attitude, we should compliment him for being so magnificently undistracted by his woes once he finds himself at the wheel of a racing car. At the start of the race Hamilton fended off a flying start from Felipe Massa, who had already jumped Button, and at the end of it he denied Perez in his thrilling thrust for a heroic victory. In between he was simply imperious and very fast.
He may have been reminding McLaren of what they could be about to lose; McLaren, though, may be in the mood to tell their star driver that they have the quickest car in Formula One, for this was a hat-trick of wins for the team and their fifth of the season. They have narrowed the gap to Red Bull at the top of the constructors’ championship to 29 points.
Mercedes did not advertise themselves to Hamilton as an exciting new home. Michael Schumacher, who had won here five times, was only sixth, immediately ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.
If Mercedes had an indifferent race, Red Bull had a stinker, with both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber failing to finish, the first time the team had failed to score points since the South Korean race two years ago.
Vettel’s failure will have pleased Alonso, whose third position has strengthened a hold on the lead that had been loosened in the previous race in Spa. There his lead of 40 points was cut to 24; now it is back to 37.
Strangely, Kimi Raikkonen is in third place, even though he has not won a race. He is a single point behind Hamilton, who has won three. The Red Bulls are still in there but Button, now 78 points behind, is adrift once again.
Button got past Massa to regain second place but came to a halt as he approached Curva Parabolica. His retirement restored Massa’s second place but by now the Brazilian had Alonso – who started in 10th place but worked his way up the field – in his rear view.
Vettel still looked good for sixth but five laps from the end was told to stop his car to prevent a technical problem becoming worse. Webber spun out of the Ascari chicane a short time afterwards.
Perez went past Massa, who had been overtaken by Alonso, and then Alonso himself. Hamilton, though, remained indomitable.