With an all-Ferrari front row, the tifosi flocked to Italy’s cathedral of motor sport, Monza, in their droves. Kimi Raikkonen had taken a surprise pole position in the dying moments of qualifying, with team mate Sebastian Vettel next. Behind them their championship rivals Mercedes occupied row two, with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Clearly, this one was looking like a Ferrari victory.
That scenario began to unravel seconds after the start, where Raikkonen made it stick and took the lead. Behind him, Vettel and Hamilton went wheel to wheel into the second corner, the two cars touched, and the Ferrari spun off. With a collision further back also causing trouble, the safety car is called out – this would be welcome to Vettel who had to make it slowly to the pits for a new front wing.
Not Getting Away
When the race resumes Raikkonen upheld the Ferrari honour by leading from Hamilton, with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull having passed Bottas for third. This is how it would stay for the next few laps, during which Raikkonen, while not pulling out a great lead, managed to keep Hamilton out of DRS range. Vettel, meanwhile, was charging further back, taking his Ferrari past the slower cars in the midfield.
Raikkonen took the initiative to make the first tyre stop on lap 20, re-joining in fourth position. Hamilton responded with some fastest laps, and would not pit until eight laps later, during which time Verstappen also made his stop. On lap 30 Bottas – who had yet to stop – led Raikkonen, Hamilton and Verstappen, all of whom would pass the Finn when he pitted on lap 36. At lap 40, Hamilton has the gap down to one second, and Vettel is now lying in fifth position.
Tense Final Moments
Raikkonen’s team had been telling him for some time that tyre management would be needed, and a visible blister was evident on one of his rear tyres. Bottas, meanwhile, is closing fast on Verstappen ahead, and given an opportunity into the first chicane, he has ago; Verstappen moves in on him and sends the Mercedes into the run off. This would earn the Dutchman a 5-second penalty, about which he was not pleased.
With Raikkonen nursing his tyres there was little he could do to prevent a flying Hamilton, on fresher rubber, having a go at him, but he didn’t make it easy as Hamilton had to fight for it with a side-by-side moment at turn one. That would seal the victory for the day, much to the disappointment of the partisan crowd.
The Final Order
At the flag, Hamilton led a disappointed Raikkonen by almost 9 seconds, with Verstappen crossing the line in 3rd but demoted to 5th thanks a 5-second penalty. This left Bottas as the final podium man, with Vettel having come through the field to a fine 5th.
Controversy reigned after the race as Romain Grosjean, who had brought the Haas home 6th after another fine drive, found his car to be at the centre of a protest by the Renault team, who claimed its floor was illegal. The protest was upheld, and the Haas duly disqualified.
The order then became the two Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in 6th and 7th, Carlos Sainz in the Renault in 8th, and in a welcome boost for the Williams team, their drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin in the final two points-paying positions.
In the driver’s championship, Hamilton now leads Vettel by 30 points, with Mercedes 25 points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors cup. The teams now make the long trip to Singapore for the next round in two weeks’ time.