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F1: Kimi was robbed in Monza but not by Hamilton

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

In 2010, in the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Jenson Button's McLaren Mercedes did not have the pace of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. At his best, with a car that is good enough, Button was one of F1's fastest drivers and he proved it with a pole position that took everyone, including his team-mate Hamilton, by surprise. His only chance for victory in the race was to get in front before the first corner and hold position for the entire race, knowing that he would be under constant pressure from the Ferraris in particular....

Button delivered. And for many laps held back the best Alonso had to offer, knowing that, if Alonso slipped past, he would scamper off into the distance. At the pit stops for the mandatory change of tyre compounds, McLaren took 0.8 of a second longer than Ferrari. Alonso came out of the pits only metres ahead of Button but it was all over. Button trailed in a disconsolate second, almost three seconds behind, more than a second ahead of Massa. Hamilton was punted out on the first lap when an optimistic overtaking move on Massa's Ferrari ended with tangled wheels and terminal damage to Hamilton's right front steering which didn't steer at all. In fact, that was the last year Ferrari won at Monza. In the hybrid era, Mercedes, no longer powering McLaren, the team where careers go to die, have, according to David Croft of Sky F1, led every racing lap since 2014 and won (obviously) every race, three of them as first and second.

So, fast forward to 2018. Ferrari were clearly the faster car. Vettel was putting a brave face on the fact that Kimi had at last got the pole position that he has been threatening all year, usually missing out due to an error on the last bend in the last run. Worse, Raikkonen, who in 2010 was taking a break and going rallying, has in recent races suffered from poor starts. But once he's got his head down, he's been sensational. He's not won races because the team have told him not to so that Vettel could accumulate more points. That is clearly beginning to rankle as his radio chat has shown. At the beginning of this weekend, Kimi was 85 points behind Vettel, reflecting the points he's donated to the "Let's make Seb a Champ" charity. The fact is that, left to race, Kimi would be closer to the top of the table and Vettel would be lower down.

It would be wrong to give the impression that Kimi had it easy in qualifying. The top four ranged from 1:19.119 to 1:19.656. Yes, that's less than 15 hundredths of a second covering four Raikkonen, Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas. Kimi, ever the iceman (except he's not and he has been showing more and deeper crevasses this year than ever before), Kimi was taciturn. His wife, Minttu, though, broke down. We can't know what's in her mind but there's a fair bet that at least some of it was relief that, at last, Kimi had neither cocked up the last corner nor been ordered to compromise his position.

Vettel was, well, Vettel. He tried to smile for the cameras but he was secretly throwing his toys out of the pram. When he was told that his own amazing lap had been bettered by Raikkonen, his response was "We speak after." It's lucky his team didn't at that point tell him what the gaps were. In fact Kimi was far clear - more than a tenth, in fact, whereas Vettel was only just less than one hundredth ahead of Hamilton. Vettel thinks he should have had the slipstream Kimi had but Hamilton had no slipstream help and Vettel followed Hamilton. Yes, Kimi had a bit extra, being the third of the cars, but he also had more dirty air to contend with.

And so, as the race started, all eyes were on Kimi. Could he convert pole position into a lead or would he get away slowly again? In almost every race this year, he's lost places on the first lap. But his pole position was a reason for great confidence: he is now the oldest pole sitter since Nigel Mansell in Australia 1994. Mansell was 41, positively geriatric by today's wunderkind standards but Raikkonen is no spring chicken with only five weeks before his 39th Birthday. Until this weekend, the fastest ever lap of an F1 circuit in an F1 car was also at Monza where Juan Pablo Montoya, one might almost say "ironically" but it's not, driving a Williams in free practice in 2004. Well, maybe a bit of irony: Lance Stroll took a Williams into its first Q3 this season. Montoya average speed: 162.9MPH, Kimi 163. Vettel and Hamilton also set record beating times but their efforts won't go into the record books. If Kimi finishes on the podium, it'll be his 100th : only four drivers have done that before - and he's racing two of them.

The cars came around from the warm up, unusually tightly bunched. Monza is a strange track: it's not very long but it's got one very long straight : the main, pit, straight. It's so long it looks empty when 20 cars are on the grid. It's more than 600 metres to the first corner, a tight right-left chicane where, on approach, Ericsson had the biggest crash seen for some years in F1 in FP2 on Friday. The red lights came on slowly, the man with the green flag was tentative then ran across the back of the field. The tension builds in the 40 supersoft Pirelli tyres in the top ten and, seemingly a split second after all five lights are lit, it's that Murray Walker moment: The Italian Grand Prix is GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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