Starting the second half of the season in winning fashion was always going to be crucial for Lewis Hamilton as he attempts to overthrow the points deficit to and take the championship lead for the first time this season. In Belgium, Lewis’ concentration and focus was total as he drove his way to a relatively comfortable win but this weekend the Brit has to go toe-to-toe with the Prancing Horse in its home yard.
The crowds at Monza are as vociferous as anywhere else on the calendar and the Italian fans will be hungrier than ever to help see Ferrari end their ten-year wait for a championship title. The Silver Arrows were expected to dominate proceedings in Spa yet the Ferrari’s of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen remained on their shoulder throughout. Although Lewis departed Belgium with the win, Vettel left buoyed by his team’s performance declaring there are “no circuits [Ferrari] should fear from now on”.
Hamilton’s record at Monza is strong though; enjoying pole position in the last three years as well consecutive wins in 2014 and 2015 and finishing as runner-up last year. The changing dynamic this year though is that in each of these weekends, the home favourites haven’t been close enough to Mercedes to land a punch – this year they will be. No driver so far this season has claimed back-to-back victories, but if Hamilton can achieve this he will equal Sebastian’s points tally with it all to play for in the remaining seven Grand Prix’s.
It felt as if matters surrounding Fernando Alonso, McLaren and Honda really came to a head in Belgium last weekend. It’s a relationship that has been strained right from the outset and has only exacerbated throughout this season but last weekend felt different. As usual, Fernando managed to defied the odds to compete surprisingly well in qualifying but was picked off with ease on the straights in the race. The Spaniard reported an engine problem on lap 25 and pulled into the pits; a decision which was been met with bemusement in some quarters asking if he “parked” a relatively healthy car.
It’s a relatively futile question though. The truth is that the double-world champion is running with one hand tied behind his back and watching his options for next year close off before him. None of the options that remain are particularly eye-watering; a switch to a struggling Williams team, a sideways step to a Renault side equally far off the pace or a move to IndyCar full-time? One thing that is certain, McLaren are determined to hang onto their star man, more than they are their Honda power unit, and the decision will hinge on the British team’s engine supply for 2018.
Much like the Alonso and McLaren situation; the infighting at Force India reached new heights again last weekend. Esteban Ocon has apologised for his tweet “in the heat of the moment” where he accused teammate Sergio Perez of trying to kill him. Monday’s statement from the Frenchman was a clear peace offering as the team try to retain a handle on two of the grid’s most talented youngsters. The situation though is reaching almost untenable levels and the team have insisted they will impose team orders to ensure the incident is not repeated.