By Sean Kelly, C4F1 statistician
Ferrari had led every dry session since the summer break.
Their 18 wins at Monza were a record for any constructor at any circuit.
They secured a first front-row lockout at Monza since 2000…
... and nobody had won the Italian Grand Prix from below the front row in this decade.
Yet somehow, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton emerged as the winner, capitalising on a collision between himself and Sebastian Vettel on the first lap and high tyre wear on Kimi Raikkonen’s sister car to increase his championship advantage to 30 points, as the F1 circus departs Europe for another season.
While Hamilton had started from the front row on eight previous occasions at Monza, he’d never before been on the second row – indeed, nobody had won from third on the grid at the royal park since Michael Schumacher back in 1996 – although he did have the knowledge that Mercedes were unbeaten in Italy in the turbo hybrid era, having led every lap there since 2014.
Vettel would inevitably be at the centre of Hamilton’s attention, but P1 in qualifying went to the other Ferrari of Raikkonen, who took only his second pole in the last 10 years, following on from the 2017 Monaco GP. Raikkonen’s time of 1:19.119 equated to an average speed of 163.785 mph (263.587 km/h) – a new F1 record.
THE FASTEST LAP IN FORMULA 1 HISTORY. A watershed moment for global hybrid automobile design as it now surpasses anything ever done by any F1 car powered purely by fossil fuels #ItalianGP— Sean Kelly (@virtualstatman) September 1, 2018
Since Keke Rosberg first broke the 160 mph average barrier in qualifying at the 1985 British GP, the record had only been advanced at two subsequent races – the 2002 and 2004 Italian GPs. The first three on the grid this weekend – Raikkonen, Vettel and Hamilton – all surpassed Juan-Pablo Montoya’s previous record of 162.950 mph (262.242 km/h) set in Q1 at the 2004 race.
Going into Sunday, Ferrari and Raikkonen knew that starting from pole was no guarantee of leading into the first corner. The Finn has had a dreadful run of poor starts (no positions gained since 2016, positions lost in six of the previous seven lights out), but a clean getaway this time saw him lead his first lap at Monza in this decade.
Kimi Raikkonen might have missed out on what would've been a popular win at Monza - but the Iceman still put his name in the record books! ⚡️— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) September 3, 2018
Take a look at the fastest lap in F1 history, as @karunchandhok analyses the onboard footage ⬇️https://t.co/Zo1HjTcj0H
Raikkonen went on to lead more laps in this race (28) than he had done in the rest of the 2018 season combined (17), and claimed his 100th career podium finish. He is the fifth man to reach this total in F1 history, following (in chronological order) Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Hamilton and Vettel.
Although Ferrari were on the podium at Monza for the seventh time in the last eight years, victory eluded them yet again. In the past 10 years, they still have as many home wins as Toro Rosso (whose 2008 success ironically belongs to Vettel, who missed the Monza podium on Sunday for the first time in his Ferrari career).
Instead, Hamilton took the appreciative cheers (!) from the tifosi, scoring the 199th race victory for an English driver in world championship history.
Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to win at Monza from P3 since Michael Schumacher way back in 1996— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) September 3, 2018
Here's the championship leader himself explaining his race to our very own @LeeMcKenzieTV #C4F1 #ItalianGP https://t.co/JeRQVi1773
Mercedes’ fifth consecutive Italian GP win was a team effort, as Valtteri Bottas assuredly played a role in backing Raikkonen into Hamilton during the latter part of the race, before the championship leader sprung his winning move with nine laps remaining.
Hamilton’s fifth Monza win moved him level with Michael Schumacher for the circuit record, but when he crossed the line on Sunday it was more than just victory. It was also his 218th lap led at the venue, breaking a record astonishingly held by former Ferrari racer Alberto Ascari since 1954.
Bottas – who had celebrated his 29th birthday earlier in the week – was relatively anonymous in the first half of the race, but by running much longer before his pit stop he was able to contain Raikkonen as Hamilton chased him down, leading his 250th career lap in the process.
He finished fourth on the road after a collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, but when the officials penalised the Dutchman, Bottas was elevated into his sixth podium of 2018 – and the first that was not a second place.
There's never a dull moment when Max Verstappen is around— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) September 3, 2018
The Dutchman was on course for a podium finish at Monza, until he squeezed Valtteri Bottas off the road at Turn 1 and incurred a penalty #C4F1 #ItalianGP https://t.co/qVCl2UPwy0
Verstappen’s altercation with the Finn cost him more than just third place. The five-second penalty also dropped him behind Vettel, leaving him fifth. This has implications within the ‘House of Verstappen’, as it means Jos still has a better finish at Monza than his son (his father was fourth for Arrows in 2000).
That penalty was handed down while the race was still running, but another change to the finishing positions came several hours after the chequered flag. Romain Grosjean was sixth across the line on Sunday, claiming what was his best-ever finish at Monza, and his fifth points finish in the last six races.
Just as he was ready to celebrate reaching a highest-ever points total in his Haas career (his 35 points eclipsing the 28 points scored in 2017, and 29 in 2016), Renault filed a protest against the legality of the Haas chassis. Perhaps it wasn’t coincidence that this came just as Haas had moved level on points with the Régie for fourth in the constructors’ championship.
Grosjean’s car was eventually disqualified, but the US team said they will appeal the stewards’ decision.
The ruling moved the Racing Point Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez into sixth and seventh places. After flirting with going out of business during the summer break and then losing their 59 constructors' championship points, they’ve now scored 32 in two races – more than they managed in the first eight races of the year combined.
The ‘new’ Force India are now seventh in the championship, 20 points adrift of McLaren, who haven’t scored at all since Hungary. The intra-team battle is also finely balanced, with Perez leading Ocon by a single point (46-45), despite the Frenchman clinching the qualifying head-to-head battle on Saturday, out-qualifying Perez for an insurmountable 11th time this season.
During the opening few laps there was a lot of close-quarters racing, particularly between Perez and Magnussen— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) September 2, 2018
Ben: "Oh, there was big contact between them in the end.”
Both drivers managed to keep racing, albeit with Magnussen being forced to pit #C4F1 pic.twitter.com/GLZ4wiiJBg
Renault had of course benefited from the Grosjean exclusion by default, but Carlos Sainz Jnr was also elevated to eighth place, scoring points at Monza for the first time in his career on the weekend in which he celebrated his 24th birthday.
Monza was a cathartic weekend for Williams, the bottom team in the championship and (until this weekend) the only team who had not appeared in Q3. Lance Stroll put that statistic right on his return to the track where he became the youngest-ever front-row starter in 2017.
The Canadian proved his qualifying pace wasn’t a fluke by running in the points for 46 laps and coming home 10th on the road, giving Williams a first point since Stroll's P8 in Azerbaijan back in April.
Did someone say... double-points finish?— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) September 3, 2018
With Grosjean disqualified, Sergey takes P10 and his first point of the season, with Lance scoring two points in P9
That will make the boss happy this morning #ItalianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/1uKQ8dbvKa
It then got even better for the team after Grosjean was excluded. Stroll was promoted to ninth and team-mate Sergey Sirotkin moved up to 10th place, giving the Russian the first point of his F1 career in the same circumstances that Jenson Button did for Williams back in 2000. Good omens and all that!
It also means that, as of right now, every driver to compete in the 2018 world championship has scored a point, a first in F1 history. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the driver line-ups will remain the same until the end of the season…