Ross Brawn today once again proved why he has long been known as The Maestro. While the top three qualifiers, Hamilton, Sutil and Raikkonen all gambled on a light fuel load, and a two stop strategy, Brawn ran his cars with a heavier load, sacrificing grid position, but reclaiming the lost ground during the race, with a one-two finish by drivers Barrichello and Button, respectively. The Brawn pair turned in clean, faultless drives, and essentially waited for the race to come their way — which it did.
While Hamilton broke away from the pack in the opening laps, he didn’t have quite enough pace to make the two stop strategy work. After his second stop, he slotted in behind Button, for third. It was a position he wasn’t to keep, however. On the last lap, while pushing hard to catch Button, Hamilton lost control of his car in the Lesmos, and crashed into the Armco.
As Hamilton later explained to the BBC, “Every lap I was pushing like a qualifying lap. It’s to be expected.” Pushing to the limit to the very last lap was one of Michael Schumacher’s well known traits, although Schumi generally pulled it off without crashing.
As flawless as the performance of the Brawns was today, the real story of Monza this year seems to be the Mercedes powerplant. Monza is a low downforce power track, the fastest in the series. Most of the circuit is run flat out. While at a high downforce circuit, where grip is key, teams can find ways to copensate for deficiencies in pure grunt, at Monza there’s nowhere to hide. The current Mercedes engine, mandatory development freeze not withstanding, is said to be 25 bhp up on its rivals. At a track like Monza, this margin becomes more exaggerated. Note that six of the top seven qualifiers were running Mercs. According to rumor, Red Bull have been mulling over a switch to Mercedes power for 2010. They barely managed an eight place finish today (if it hadn’t been for Hamilton’s crash they would have finished out of the points). Perhaps that will help them reacha decision.
Image by misw, licensed through Creative Commons.