F1: Rosberg Cuts The Gap To Two

Nico Rosberg won his seventh race of the season
(Photo from: www.formula1.com)

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Nico Rosberg cut the gap at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship to two points with victory at Monza, his seventh victory of the season. It was a dominant display by the German, who controlled the gap to his teammate Lewis Hamilton, after the Brit had a sluggish start which dropped him to sixth.

Rosberg did not have the weekend all to himself though as a masterful display in qualifying meant that Hamilton took his 56th pole position ahead of Rosberg in second. Behind the Mercedes duo was the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen who performed well in front of their adoring fans. Fifth was the second Finn of Valtteri Bottas who was joined on the third row by Daniel Ricciardo. Seventh and eighth were Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez with Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez rounding out the top 10. Incidentally Gutierrez became the first Haas driver to make it into the third part of qualifying.

Race day and as the lights went out it was Rosberg who got the best start as Hamilton bogged down and dropped to sixth by the end of the chicane. Behind drivers squabbled for position though by the end of the first lap the order was Rosberg followed by Vettel, Räikkönen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, Felipe Massa in the second Williams in eighth as Fernando Alonso and Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10.

Lap 2 and Hamilton made his first move as he overtook Ricciardo for fifth heading up to the first chicane. He quickly pulled away from the Red Bull and set his sights on Bottas in the Williams, however he would take until lap 11 to pass the Finn.

Behind the top group and incident occurred between Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Nasr in the Renault and Sauber respectively as Nasr attempted an overtake on Palmer around the outside of the first chicane and on the exit squeezed the Brit until the two collided. Both would attempt to carry on however both would eventually retire, with Nasr being handed a 10 second stop go penalty for causing a collision.

Lap 14 and Bottas was the first to make a pitstop, switching from super soft tyres to softs. He was followed a lap later by Verstappen and Alonso who both mirrored the strategy. Lap 16 and the first Ferrari was in as Kimi Räikkönen chose a different option and stuck with the super-soft tyre with his teammate following suit a lap later.

It wasn’t until lap 25 that the leader made his first and only stop, pitting for the medium tyre after starting the race on softs. He was able to rejoin in second only behind his teammate Hamilton who pitted a lap later. However Hamilton rejoined fourth behind the two Ferraris who were yet to make their second stops. Like Rosberg, Hamilton would be able to run until the end, as he too opted for the medium tyre to ensure he drove a one stop race.

The race was relatively quiet until the lap 31 when those on a two stop strategy began to come in for their second stops with Bottas leading the way, pitting from fifth and returning to the race in eighth. Three laps later and Vettel was in, switching to soft tyres with Räikkönen doing the same on lap 35. This briefly promoted Ricciardo to third, though he pitted on lap 38 and came out behind Bottas which had now become sixth.

With the top four comfortable the biggest battle on the track was for fifth with Ricciardo closing in on the Williams steadily each lap and on lap 47 he made his move at the chicane, diving up the inside of turn 1 and excellently controlling the car on the brakes to make the move stick, having come from a long way back, almost taking Bottas by surprise.

However at the front no one could touch Rosberg who won his first Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton finished second, with Vettel rounding out the podium places. Teammate Räikkönen was fourth, followed by Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappen in the second Red Bull and Sergio Perez in eighth. Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10.

It was an uneventful race which was surprising considering the history of great racing at Monza however once Rosberg got a clean start the race was won. Next time out is Singapore, a circuit that Mercedes really struggled at last season, which could spring up a few surprises.