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GP Week : Issue 100
right, squeezing Fernando. It was never going to happen -- and his poor judgment, you could argue, was a function of McLaren applying a little bit too much 'technology and analysis' and not enough 'thinking through the basics'. Or was it? You could also contend that McLaren as a team need to do nothing to guide a driver like Lewis through first-lap cacophonies like the second chicane at Monza; Lewis knows what he's doing. He's a racer's racer. Yet he did this amazingly silly thing, and while his human-ness was in some way relieving to see, the points he lost to Mark and Fernando were not funny at all. One thing's for sure: Lewis didn't make this mistake because he was in any way concerned about Jenson. He made it because he didn't read Felipe's mind -- didn't read the mind of an underdog Ferrari driver on the opening lap at Monza. With Fernando possibly to pass, the last guy Felipe Massa was going to care about at the second chicane was Lewis Hamilton. The win (and Fernando's hat-trick -- his pole, fastest lap and win) came when McLaren noticed how much quicker Robert Kubica's Renault was lapping on new Bridgestone primes after its pit stop on lap 33. Based on this, McLaren decided to bring Jenson in for primes a couple of laps later (on lap 36). Fernando stayed out for one lap more, as he was always going to do -- and drove both a perfect pit lane exit and first chicane braking zone to take the lead from Jenson. From this you will surmise that Monza was an unusual race -- a Ross Brawn race, if you like, given that Ross last winter expected all events in the non-refueling era to feature pit stops spread right across the race distance. Well, Bridgestone's two compounds for Monza were abnormally closely-matched, which meant that the strategies for Monza could be both creative and decisive. Jenson and Fernando ran around at the front of the race, each waiting for the other to stop. It was fabulous to watch and to second-guess. The right call, as Sebastian Vettel proved, was probably to change to options on the last lap -- but that was only going to work if the bulk of the field stopped at around two-thirds distance and thereby allowed you to surpass them. When Jenson was leading, and Robert was flying, the temptation was great for McLaren to bring Jenson in. In future, then, Jenson's engineers may remind themselves that what applies to Renault will not necessarily be relevant to McLaren: on his new primes (and unlike Kubica) Jenson actually felt less grip, not more. Mark Webber passed Seb Vettel on lap 20, when Seb's engine seemed to lose power a little, but lost out to his team-mate at the end by 3.3 sec (Vettel fourth, Webber sixth). It was a bit like Hungary in reverse, in other words, and went this way (a) because of Seb's aforementioned fast and consistent drive into a last-lap tyre change and (b) Mark being trapped for many laps behind Nico Hulkenberg's Williams-Cosworth. Nico straight-lined the chicanes too many times to be acceptable in his defence of sixth place but (amazingly) was not penalized by the stewards for doing so. (Additional FIA steward for the this race: 1972 Italian GP winner, Emerson Fittipaldi.) If Ferrari thought so much about points at Hockenheim that they were prepared to go to the length of clearly breaking the 'team orders' rule, what price, one wonders, will Mark Webber pay for the time (and the points) he lost at Monza when by any standards he should have been on a free road, running at his own pace? Yes, he is back in the lead of the World Drivers' Championship. No, it is not by any means over. F1 MONZA >>