At the Temple of Speed, only the fastest survive. And so it was at Monza where Mercedes laid down a gauntlet for the remainder of the F1 season, showing superiority not just in terms of engine performance, but also driving skill.
Lewis Hamilton moved ahead of Michael Schumacher to become the all time record holder for most poles in Formula 1 history, clinching his 69th pole in some style.
Daniel Ricciardo deserves a mention too for putting on a show of superb driving, cutting through the field to finish 4th after starting 16th on the grid.
Ferrari meanwhile floundered at its home race, unable to generate any speed during qualifying though Sebastian Vettel managed to push the car into a podium finish on race day.
If Lewis Hamilton goes on to win the 2017 Formula 1 drivers title, the Italian Grand Prix will be seen as the turning point, for it was here he moved ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the race for the title for the first time this season.
Despite wet conditions that in theory should have favoured Ferrari, it was Hamilton who dominated qualifying as the Briton turned on the style to erase Michael Schumacher from the record books and became the sole holder of the most number of poles record with 69.
The ever improving Red Bull did their burgeoning reputation no harm here as their drivers, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo came in 2nd and 3rd, though grid penalties for power unit and gear box changes meant they’ll have to start from further back.
This allowed Lance Stroll of Williams who had already driven exceptionally well to qualify in 4th place, to be bumped into 2nd thus becoming the youngest driver to start on the front row in Formula 1 history. Esteban Ocon of Force India also deserves a worthy mention, qualifying 5th and starting 3rd due to the aforementioned grid penalties. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas could only qualify 6th, a disappointing position but still better than the Ferrari pair who struggled to get any form of speed at their home circuit, Kimi Raikonnen and Sebastian Vettel qualifying 7th and 8th respectively, a situation particularly galling for Vettel who is locked in a two horse race for the title with Hamilton, and being bumped up two places would have been little consolation for him.
Formula 1 weekends are not complete without disappointments for Fernando Alonso and it was more of the same as once again, he couldn’t make it out of Q2 in his McLaren.￼
If Lewis Hamilton goes on to win the drivers championship this season, the Italian Grand Prix will mark the moment that the tide finally swung in his favour. Not content with the pole record he set just 24 hours prior, he led from start to finish to finally overhaul Sebastian Vettel at the top of the points standings.
His teammate Bottas apparently realised finally what dormant power had been lying in his engine and came home 2nd to make it a Mercedes one two.
Despite Vettel’s best efforts in making short work of the Williams and Force India cars that started ahead of him, he could not keep up with the speed of the Mercedes and had to settle for the last podium position.
The day however belonged to Daniel Ricciardo, the Red Bull driver showed some astonishing overtaking skills to cut through the field from a starting position of 16th and finished 4th, even pushing Sebastian Vettel in 3rd all the way to the end. If he continues like this, he won’t be at Red Bull for much longer. Not so good for his teammate Verstappen whose village people seem to be relentless as he suffered a puncture following a collision with Felipe Massa and could only finish 10th despite starting so well.
Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso’s anguish continued with his McLaren spluttering to another retirement with team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne suffering the same outcome.
While it is still too early to call with 7 races remaining in the season and curtain raiser Abu Dhabi offering double points, the momentum is now firmly with Lewis Hamilton as he became the first driver to win back to back races this season. He also surged to the top of the points classification for the first time, his 238 points putting him 3 ahead of fierce rival Sebastian Vettel on 235. Fat Man and Little Boy if you wish.
It will be interesting to see how Vettel will respond to playing catch up rather than leading from the front though with the Tour moving back to Asia, he still has a fighting chance as it was outside Europe he built up his now whittled down early advantage.
Watching two heavyweights with 7 world titles between them slug it out has been exhilarating at times and whatever happens, it promises to be crazily exciting.
Go home. Nothing to see here.
An 8th win of the season and 3rd one two means Mercedes has this practically sewn up.
We can all focus on the raging battle for the drivers championship now.
Singapore. Here we come. The road show moves to the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore next, the inaugural night race in Formula one. This coupled with the tricky nature of the track means that more crashes occur here than at any other Grand Prix. Since 2008, every race edition in Singapore has featured at least one safety car.
At Singapore, pole assumes greater importance as whoever is in the lead when the safety car is deployed is usually likely to win the race.
Though Mercedes won this race edition last year, Sebastian Vettel is the most successful driver at this circuit having won 4 times and he will be looking to make it 5 to immediately reclaim the lead he lost to Hamilton.
With the bit firmly between Hamilton’s mouth though, you can be assured he won’t let that happen without a fight.
All in all, fireworks won’t be in short supply in Singapore.