Kimi Raikkonen has not won a Grand Prix since the 2013 season-opening Australian round in his Lotus F1 Team E21. Today in Italy, after setting the fastest lap in Formula One history, it looked like he had a real chance to add to his victory total, but all of that was thrown away on a Ferrari tire choice gamble. Instead the Ice Man was forced to settle for second and his 100th career F1 podium, while Lewis Hamilton earned the victory and a serious points haul.
At the start it was Raikkonen from pole keeping his lead at turn one, as Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel collided with Hamilton. Hamilton recovered to stay in second, but Vettel was spun around and forced to fight his way through the field from the back. The contact was deemed a racing incident, and certainly the fault of Vettel, who moved his Ferrari into the side of the Mercedes.
A short safety car period was taken to recover Brendon Hartley’s broken Toro Rosso, allowing Vettel to rejoin the rear of the field. When the race restarted, Hamilton moved past Kimi into the lead, but the Finn fought back, taking the lead again under braking at the Roggia chicane. Raikkonen gained a lead large enough to negate DRS, but never got more than 2 seconds away from Hamilton during his first stint.
Ferrari, when making their tire allotment for the Italian Grand Prix, had chosen to bring ten sets of Super Soft tires for Kimi, and only two sets of the Softs. Because of this, they were not able to test the Soft tire during the weekend, and could not optimize the car for the tire. A rear tire blister hampered Kimi’s ability to attack in the second half of the race.
When Kimi pitted for tires on lap 20, Hamilton stayed out an additional eight laps. In that time, Raikkonen gained five seconds on Hamilton. When Hamilton pitted, he returned well behind the Ferrari, but Mercedes kept their third-placed driver Valtteri Bottas out of the pits until lap 36, using Bottas as a blocker in the lead to push Raikkonen back into Hamilton’s grasp.
Lewis moved into the lead with just a handful of laps remaining, drafting down the long main straight, and making a deep braking pass stick around the outside. His Ferrari competitor attempted to re-pass for the lead, but couldn’t make it stick, and Hamilton stretched out a 9-second lead by the checkered flag.
Hamilton, on the podium, received a cavalcade of boos from the Tifosi gathered below. To his credit, he said that he was fine with the negativity as it helped push him along in the race. Hamilton’s championship points lead is now out to 30 points over Vettel who recovered to 4th place thanks to a late race penalty for contact handed to an angry Max Verstappen.
Hartley retired from contact on lap one. Fernando Alonso’s McLaren suffered an indeterminate problem on lap 10 that forced him to stop while running in the points. Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull engine exploded in a puff of smoke at about the half-way point of the race. Lance Stroll, meanwhile, scored a rare point for Williams in 10th.