By Carol M. Creasey
Monza was the next race to feature sprint qualifying, which seemed to divide opinion at the British Grand Prix. Some fans loved it, and others did not, but it’s impossible to please everybody.
With Lewis Hamilton dominating the first Italian Grand Prix qualifying session, and his Mercedes looking strong, it occurred to me that there would be extra points on offer with the sprint race as well as the main race. So, if one person won both, it would help their points lead considerably.
But when qualifying came around, although the Briton led the way all through, it was Valtteri Bottas who took pole with a mega lap. Max Verstappen appeared to struggle all the way through, but his team-mate Sergio Perez sacrificed his own position by giving him a tow, so he took 3rd, whilst Lewis was 2nd by less than a tenth from Bottas.
Lewis was prolific in his praise for his team-mate, no doubt the announcement that Bottas is going to Alfa Romeo next year has saddened him. He once again described the Finn as the best team-mate he has ever had. Next year George Russell will be joining Mercedes, and Lewis has already said he is sure they will also be able to achieve a harmonious relationship.
Ahead of the Italian Grand Prix weekend Bottas has taken his 4th engine, so he was set to start at the back of the grid on Sunday. However, for the sprint race on Saturday, he was in P1. With both Lewis and Verstappen looking to overtake him, the first corner was shaping up to be a nail biting moment.
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Lewis , once again led the way in morning practice on Saturday, but at the start of the sprint race he got wheelspin, and his bad start relegated him to fifth place behind the McLarens of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris. Try as he might Lewis could not pass Norris, who was on soft tyres whereas the Briton was on mediums. He ended in a disappointing 5th place, but because of Bottas’s penalty, was set to start the main race from P4. Bottas won the sprint race, so well done to him, and Verstappen was 2nd, but would inherit pole on Sunday also due to the Finn’s penalty.
The haters and some of the pundits on Sky, especially Paul di Resta and Nico Rosberg were sneering and spewing their jealousy and hate towards Lewis, mainly because of their failure to match him in the past. However, I would remind them that Lewis has nothing to prove, no matter what happens this year, because he has already attained unmatched glory with his pole positions and race wins. I think it’s really sad that people who are sports commentators show such bias in their reporting, and that they cannot be more gracious to someone who has had a bad day, because nobody’s perfect all the time. The champ never gives up, and he would be looking to fight back on Sunday.
At the start of the main race on Sunday, Ricciardo made a move on Verstappen with an excellent start, and took the lead. Lewis also tried to overtake him, but Verstappen in his usual aggressive manner pushed him off, so Lewis had to concede.
In the pit stop phase, Lewis and Verstappen both had long pit stops, and Verstappen was furious with his team. As Lewis exited the pits, Max tried to overtake him, and although his car was not ahead, Max would not concede. The result was he bounced over the sausage kerb, and his car went over the top of the Mercedes, with his rear wheel hitting Lewis’s helmet. But this did not worry him at all, as he tried to get his car started again, even though one of his tyres could have been against the Briton’s helmet. These are not the actions of a racing driver, but a maniac, and this was further compounded when he got out of the car and just walked off, apparently unmoved by the sight of his car on top of Lewis’ Mercedes, and not at all bothered about Lewis’ condition.
I have to say that many fans, including some of his own were staggered by his behaviour. His words immediately following the crash were “that’s what you get for not giving space”, which implied he had done it deliberately, as he would rather take himself and the Briton out than let Lewis win the race. Obviously opinions will be divided as to whether it was a racing incident, but after much deliberation the stewards deemed he is predominately to blame, and gave him a three-place grid penalty in the next race, and two penalty points on his superlicence. The race was won by Ricciardo, with Norris in 2nd, and a valiant fight from the back of the grid put Bottas on the bottom step of the podium
The most important fact is that our champion is safe, mainly due to the halo, but lessons must surely be learned from today. I would prefer Lewis to live, nevermind the championship, but Verstappen seems to feel that the title is the only thing that matters. Many people are saying they have lost respect for the Dutch driver, particularly after his callous attitude following the accident. Championships should be won on merit, and not at all costs. Lewis has many times been referred to as the cleanest driver on the grid, while on the other side Verstappen has many nicknames, which he certainly lives up to, Crashtappen and Mad Max being some of them. If Christian Horner doesn’t keep him in line, one day someone could lose their life, and judging by his actions, Max doesn’t seem to care. Red Bull needs to do the right thing and keep him under control, instead of condoning his behaviour.
As for Lewis, I hope his neck will soon be better, he was brave and he made little fuss about it, but I do hope he gets checked over at the hospital, just to be sure that all is well. God bless you Sir Lewis, and keep you safe.
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