Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned Italian Grand Prix 2017  

THE BIG PICTURE:  The Italian Grand Prix was one of the 1950 group of original events and is still one of four actively run; they are Monaco, British, Belgian and the Italian. While the venue could change, it has not to date, with Monza Park, also known as Autodromo Nazionale Monza, hosting each time except for 1980. This one is a keeper.

EVENT:  In its current configuration, Monza runs about 3.5 miles around the lush European forested Villa Royale, once an estate of the Imperial Hapsburgs. It features fast corners and long straights, which makes for an exciting race. This is especially remarkable considering that Monza was just the third purpose built race track constructed in the world. The track is often called “The Cathedral of Speed,” And lest anyone feel this is too dignified for car racing, we need to remind you this is also home to the Tifosi.

 IN OUR LAST EPISODE: Lewis Hamilton powered to his fifth win of the year at Spa-Francorchamps, ahead of second place Sebastian Vettel by less than three seconds.

 QUALIFYING:   This was almost as interesting as the race. For starters, the time what was supposed to be qualifying was red flagged due to rain. So, the famous track at Monza was a soupy mess when the multi-million-dollar cars finally hit the grid to determine who was fastest. Immediately, Hamilton showed us that once again, he was the quickest of all, for the record 69th time. And he remained so. There is little point in reviewing the other positions as they got jumbled up due to half the field sporting grid penalties. Stupid.

 START:  The start was nearly as stupid. Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon are competent mid pack drivers and normally not a hazard to anyone. But, with their current equipment, they had no business starting second and third.  It was only through the skills of their fellow drivers that there was no tragic accident. And so it was all the way down the grid. More thought should be given to the millions of race fans who pay hard earned money to see these events throughout the world. Instead, under the current system thought is given to the potentates who control the sport. Boo.

 RACE:  There was little to no suspense in this race. Lewis Hamilton led from the start and only went out of the lead to pit and retook it to win his sixth contest of the season. It was also the first back-to-back victory this year. The action at Monza all happened behind the leader. Ferrari was, unfortunately, celebrating their 70th anniversary, but it was not a particularly successful for them, with a weak finish by Vettel in third, a full 36 seconds behind the leader. Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, was gridded back in the 16th spot and charged to the front, finishing a well-deserved fourth. Max Verstappen, who has been sharing the role of DNF King this year with Fernando Alonzo, managed to place tenth and earn a single championship point. And of course, both McLarens DNFed, likely so that they could make car repairs for Singapore instead of incurring those annoying grid penalties.

BEST TEAM:  Once again, it was Mercedes, with their cars finishing one – two.

WHAT WE WILL REMEMBER: Most memorable will be that 45% of the field had grid penalties mostly due to equipment changes. While the intention of the grid penalties was to be punitive, the reality is this many makes the event downright dangerous, not to mention, stupid. The purpose of qualifying, after all, is to keep faster cars in the front. With slower cars gridded as far up as second, the start was unusually ridiculous, even for Formula 1.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND:  “This is obviously an incredibly exciting season; the last two races have been really strong for us as a team. The way things have come together in the second half of the season is exceptional. Today, the car felt fantastic, particularly on that first stint. As we had a bit of breathing room behind us, it was easier for us to extend the life of the tyres. Valtteri did a fantastic job to get through and get this one-two. It is amazing to have the first back-to-back wins in a long, long time and claim the lead in the championship. But the fight will continue, the Ferraris have been really quick this season, especially on the high-downforce tracks. It will continue to be really close between us, so it will be ‘ beast mode’ all the way to the last chequered flag.” Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver and race victor

 QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: “I’m very, very happy about the result and loved it out there today. It was good fun. Two of my favourite races this year have been starting from the back. Silverstone and this one. Some good overtakes in the race kept me excited and I had some real pace in the end. I could see Seb and the thought of a podium was tempting me, so I was obviously trying to catch him right up to the end. The boys did the quickest pit stop and I also got the fastest lap so that’s very cool. You can almost call it a perfect day. We couldn’t have done much more from where we started. Of course I wanted to be up there on the podium as it looked unreal, but I believe it will come next year. Today has been a really good boost for everyone and we’re looking ahead to Singapore.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull driver and fourth place finisher

 SCHEDULE:  In two weeks, the fly-away races begin with the Grand Prix of Singapore, at night on a street circuit on September 17th.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

By Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.