So far the story of the 2016 Formula 1 season can be likened to a pendulum swinging – in this case, between the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. After Italy, the pendulum has swung back toward Rosberg, who gave a masterful performance to lead from start to finish and close off a comfortable victory at the historic Monza venue. He now trails Hamilton by just two points, and will take heart from a strong weekend.
Qualifying had suggested a very different story. Hamilton claimed his fifth podium at Monza, equalling Senna and Fangio with this accomplishment, and he was .478 quicker than Rosberg in doing so, a crushing margin considering they have the same car. Instead, Hamilton got away poorly, slipping down to sixth by the first corner, and whilst he would quickly get back to fifth, he would take a little time to get by the Williams of Bottas, and by that point he was never going to be able to make up the ground lost to Rosberg. Hamilton did benefit from Ferrari’s pit stop strategy, which involved making two stops to Mercedes’ one, and as a result, would end up second.
Beyond this, the race was more noteworthy for what happened off-track than on it, with the exception of Daniel Ricciardo’s late-braking move into turn one on Bottas, which he pulled off despite coming from some way back. It was a classic display of daring from the Australian, who has made such moves something of a trademark over the past few years.
Two drivers announced their exits from F1 at the end of the season – Felipe Massa is retiring, whilst Jensen Button is taking up a new role as ambassador for McLaren, with the possbility of returning in 2018. Both men are race winners, and in Button’s case, he is a world champion. Massa came agonisingly close in 2008, and his talent up until that point was clear, but to me, he has never quite been the same since his 2009 injury. Both men have left their marks on the sport and their shoes will be tough ones to fill.