8 things we learnt from the Italian Grand Prix

Rosberg capitalised on Hamilton’s error for Italian Grand Prix victory and seven other talking points coming out of Monza.

Hamilton had mastered the Temple of Speed on Saturday as the Brit secured his third-straight Monza pole. But a launch error for Hamilton sent him down to sixth, while Rosberg walked off into the sunset with the 25-points in his pocket. In Rosberg’s wake also laid the retirement of Massa, the retirement/non-retirement of Button and a potential new owner of Formula One.

1) The title fight starts here

From the start of the season, Rosberg was able to amount a sizeable lead in the driver’s championship whilst Hamilton struggled for reliability.

But as the summer break approached, Hamilton overturned the deficit he faced to leave Germany with the championship lead. Yet the challenge remained for Lewis as a grid penalty was in the works after using his allotted power units prior to Belgium.

Then, since the summer break, Rosberg has taken both victories to reduce the gap he then faced to just two points. While Hamilton banked power units for use in the remaining races.

With Rosberg leading all but one of the 97 racing laps since the summer shut down, and Hamilton now with power units in store, the title fight starts here. With just two-points separating the Mercedes drivers with seven races to go.

Lewis Hamilton, Italian GP Practice 2016. Copyright: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Lewis Hamilton, 2016 Italian GP Practice. Copyright: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

2) Start error not Hamilton’s fault

Despite taking pole in commanding fashion, Hamilton would go on to lose the lead of the Italian Grand Prix before any driver had approached the first turn. With Lewis struggling to get off the line and falling from first to sixth – behind his team-mate, the Ferraris, Ricciardo and Bottas.

Yet despite apologising to the team over the radio, Hamilton later claimed the start error was not his fault. Rather his sluggish start was due to the clutch.

It was not the first time this year, either, that a Mercedes suffered a poor start – with Hamilton also losing the lead into the first corner back in Australia before falling to sixth.

“I was told the procedure was done exactly how I was supposed to do it,” said Hamilton following the Italian Grand Prix. “But unfortunately we just over delivery of torque, and the wheels were just spinning from the get-go.
“Of course, we never stop improving and learning. Today we would have learned again. But yeah, this year has been a harder year for us with our clutch. They’ll be working very hard.
“It’s not a quick fix, something you can change for the next race. We have made improvements, so we have seen more consistent, better starts, but we are still caught out by the random variation that we have from one weekend to the other.”

Nasr - Credit Franziska

Felipe Nasr (BRA), during the 2016 British Grand Prix. Photo Credit: Franziska.

3) Sly Sauber cheekily serves penalty

In the early stages of the Italian Grand Prix, a collision between Nasr and Palmer would go on to rule both cars out of the race. But as Sauber tried to keep their Brazilian in the race, race control issued Nasr with a 10-second penalty for causing the collision with the Renault.

Then, after deeming the damage too severe to continue racing, Sauber pulled their driver into the garage. But by doing so, Felipe would not be able to serve the penalty, which left a possible carry over for Singapore. Something Sauber sought to avoid.

To avoid the possible carry over, Sauber sent Nasr back out with the car in a fit to lap state. Felipe then completed an out-lap, pitted to serve the penalty, returned to the track for another out-lap, before coming back into the garage to retire from the race.

A sly move by the Sauber team, but not an illegal move.

Felipe Massa (BRA). Copyright: Williams F1 Team.

Felipe Massa (BRA). Copyright: Williams F1 Team.

4) Massa’s time in F1 has come to an end

After 15 years in the sport, Felipe Massa has announced his retirement from Grand Prix racing.

His career began back in 2002, making his debut for Sauber at the Australian Grand Prix. A race he would, unfortunately, retire from.

But 15 years down the road, a dignified Massa announced his departure in the dignified manner you’d expect from the Brazilian. Paying respect for Michael Schumacher, the man who stepped aside so he could continue racing at Ferrari.

“Why I chose to announce my Formula 1 retirement at Monza is not an accident,” said Massa. “Ten years ago in Monza, a driver announced he was leaving too – and he is one more than any other that had an influence on my career: Michael Schumacher.
“I had been promoted to Ferrari at the beginning of the season, but I had been told already that in 2007 Kimi Raikkonen would be arriving – so my experience in ‘red’ could have been limited to just a single season.
“Then Michael made the decision to stop and I was certain that I could continue with Ferrari for the following seasons.
“Ten years on from that day, and in the same paddock, I decided to announce my decision.”

Massa will now see out the remainder of the 2016 season at Williams, before moving on and opening the door to a new challenger in the Williams team.

Felipe’s final race, officially, will be the Abu Dhabi season finale. A race that coincidentally will be the Brazilian’s 250th Formula One Grand Prix.

As for his replacement, rumours were strong that Button would return to the team he debuted in Formula One with. But as that is no longer an option, Felipe’s successor is likely to be fellow Brazilian, Felipe Nasr, or the young contender currently leading the Formula 3 championship, Lance Stroll.

Jenson Button (GBR). Copyright: McLaren.

Jenson Button (GBR). Copyright: McLaren.

5) Button’s time in F1 has and has not come to an end

After Massa announced his time in Formula One was coming to an end, it seemed as if Jenson Button was too. As the 2009 Formula One World Drivers’ Champion announced he would step aside at the end of the season for Stoffel Vandoorne to race in 2017.

But Jenson’s announcement that he was stepping aside in order to have a break from the sport he has dedicated the past 17 years too was not a retirement announcement.

Jenson will remain part of the McLaren team for the next two years, spending 2017 as reserve and development driver while also serving as a McLaren ambassador.

Then in 2018, McLaren have the option to bring Jenson back to F1 racing. Replacing either Fernando Alonso, whose contract expires at the end of 2017, or Stoffel Vandoorne, the 2015 GP2 champion.

Tifosi set of smoke at Monza during the 2016 Italian GP. Copyright: Force India.

The 2016 Italian GP at Monza. Copyright: Force India.

6) Monza secures three-year deal

In a weekend of announcements, Monza and Bernie Ecclestone confirmed the Italian Grand Prix would remain at Monza for the next three years.

The deal has not been officially signed, yet, but the official announcement confirmed Monza’s future in Formula One has been secured.

“Regretfully legally we can’t sign it here,” said Ecclestone.
“There is no problem in having the race here. The contract will be for three years but I hope we are here for 100 years.”

7) Liberty Media’s potential buyout from CVC

The ownership of Formula One has been speculated for many years, with CVC’s 35% stake in the sport regularly touted as being up for sale.

Previous potential buyers have included Qatar Sports Investments and Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL team. But the latest potential buyer is Liberty Media, a US-based media and entertainment group, with stakes in several sports including the Atlanta Braves Major League baseball club.

Although an agreement is yet to be reached, and other parties remain in talks, any buyout of CVC’s shares by Liberty Media would be worth $8.5bn (£6.5bn) [according to German magazine Auto Motor und Sport].

Pierre Gasly (FRA), Red Bull Racing Team display during the 2015 World Series by Renault at Nurburgring. Copyright: Renault Sport

Pierre Gasly (FRA), Red Bull Racing Team display during the 2015 World Series by Renault at Nurburgring. Copyright: Renault Sport

8) Gasly eyes F1 drive

Challenging for the GP2 title, and hunting for a Formula One race seat, Gasly threw a spanner in the works in Italy as Spanish media reported he claimed he’d race in Singapore.

The Red Bull backed Pierre Gasly later denied claiming he’d replace Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso, rather hoping his chance in F1 comes as soon as possible. But a future swap remains on the cards with Kvyat struggling for form following his demotion from Red Bull.

As for Gasly, the Frenchman finally broke his winning drought earlier this year. Claiming his first win in GP2, over 1,000 days since his last victory in single seaters.

Right now, Gasly remains competing for the GP2 title. Holding a 10-point lead over his rookie team-mate, Giovinazzi. With the Italian victorious on four occasions this year, compared to Gasly’s three.