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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Pérez stars at Monza // Mexican shows why McLaren were wrong to fire him

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Well, that livened this season up. While the Italian Grand Prix can occasionally be a bit of a damp squib, this year it proved to be one of the most dramatic races of the year with battles all the way down the field and great drives from a few men who needed to step up and prove their mettle once again to the F1 paddock.

Perfect Pérez proves his worth

Sergio Pérez, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 10th, Finished 7th

Pérez is proving his worth to the F1 paddock again
Pérez is proving his worth to the F1 paddock againCredit: Sahara Force India F1 Team

Sergio Pérez has been the better of the two Force India drivers in recent races and he proved so once again at Monza with a stellar drive. While Force India were the ugly stepsister of the Mercedes bunch at Monza, Pérez made a real stab at taking the fight to the big guys at the sharp end.

Despite Force India being the only Mercedes-powered team to qualify behind the Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, Sergio Pérez did a great job to qualify tenth. Pérez then profited from Valtteri Bottas’ startline software glitch and Daniel Ricciardo being run off the road on the outside of turn one to jump up to eighth and stay in the pack of cars who were battling behind the fast-starting Kevin Magnussen. The race pace disadvantage of the McLarens could possibly have helped Pérez to stay with the Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso but there was no holding Valtteri Bottas back, as he stormed back from eleventh.

Good work at the stops kept Pérez in the hunt in seventh as he repassed Bottas. And that then set up a stunning second stint, fighting with the McLarens, Red Bulls and Bottas, once again. On a mission, the Finn made easy work of the Mexican but Jenson Button wouldn’t have the same luck, struggling to find a way past despite being all over the back of the Force India for half the race. Button thought that he had got the job done once as he made it past into turn one but Pérez came back at him into the Roggia. And then again Button made a desperate lunge, triggering a half lap battle of trench warfare as neither of the former teammates wanted to give way. Eventually, Pérez made the decisive move into the second Lesmo.

Button made a desperate lunge, triggering a half lap battle of trench warfare as neither of the former teammates wanted to give way

Pérez's drive was completed somewhat less dramatically by how close he finished the race behind Kevin Magnussen, crucially as the Dane had a firm but fair five second penalty for forcing Bottas off track, and Sebastian Vettel. Many, including me, thought that Nico Hülkenberg would be the man to get the results for Force India but having seen his stock drop, Pérez is proving his worth to the F1 paddock again.

Brilliant recovery drive for Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing: Started 3rd, Finished 4th

What more can you say about Valtteri Bottas? As Felipe Massa said, the Finn is a future champion and while on the face of it, the Italian GP result doesn’t look like anything to write home about, Bottas was on top form, coming through the field not once but twice. Bottas' atrocious start from third was rather masked by Hamilton’s poor start from pole but Bottas fell to tenth through no fault of his own and then dropped behind Räikkönen as he struggled to get up to full speed.

Valtteri saw the red mist but used it to his advantage, carving through the field at a rate of knots, using the power advantage of his Mercedes power unit to attack the Red Bulls, Ferraris and anyone else in his way down to turn one.

Bottas picked his rivals off one by one until he passed Vettel for fourth
Bottas picked his rivals off one by one until he passed Vettel for fourthCredit: Glenn Dunbar/Williams F1

But the hard work was all undone at his only stop as others undercut him and he ended up offline as he came out right in the middle of the pack. Bottas was back down to ninth and with it all to do again. But he got on with the job and picked his rivals off one by one until he passed Sebastian Vettel for fourth on lap 39, signalling the end of his progress.

Beyond that there was just the Mercedes and Felipe Massa. While Massa put on a great display at Monza to secure his first podium for Williams, Bottas’ performance was simply better showing raw speed, great tactical awareness and fantastic racecraft, overcoming whatever was thrown at him to secure Williams' target result of third and fourth behind the dominant Mercedes. We’ll never know what would have happened had he got away cleanly but had he jumped one of the Mercedes at the start, I’m not confident that they would have got back past.

Hamilton takes first steps on road to redemption

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas: Started 1st, Finished 1st

Lewis Hamilton did everything that he needed to, even if he didn’t have the smooth weekend that he was hoping for. Having blitzed first practice, six tenths faster than everyone and eight faster than Rosberg, he was forced to sit out most of second practice, limiting his chance to perfect his race setup without a long run under his belt. But while Hamilton missed his long run, Rosberg didn’t get a qualifying simulation. It showed as Lewis was a tenth faster throughout and then completed one of the best laps of the year on his first Q3 run, four tenths quicker than Rosberg and clearly insurmountable. Rosberg did reduce the arrears to two tenths on his final run but the damage was done and the paddock and Tifosi were in shock at the Brit’s sudden turn of speed.

But the inevitable happened on the grid as Lewis Hamilton’s bad luck continued – the man must have smashed several mirrors this year – when his RS mode failed, handing the initiative to Rosberg and leaving Hamilton dropping like a stone. Lewis did phenomenally to remain fourth into turn one and then set about the fight back.

Hamilton did everything that he needed to, even if he didn’t have the smooth weekend that he was hoping for
Hamilton did everything that he needed to, even if he didn’t have the smooth weekend that he was hoping forCredit: Daimler AG

First he eased past Kevin Magnussen, who was in a rather more charitable mood early in the race than when Bottas arrived on the scene, and then he pulled a spectacular move around the outside of turn one and into turn two, showing great bravery and trust in Felipe Massa. That then set up the hunt, with Nico Rosberg playing the beleaguered fox, reacting on instinct and prone to mistakes. And that’s just what happened.

Having pushed too hard early in the race to create a gap to the charging Hamilton while Lewis was behind Massa, Nico straight-lined the first corner, costing valuable seconds. But the second time it happened, he wasn’t so lucky. Hamilton chased Rosberg down, like a predator would his prey, taking huge chunks of time out of the German each sector, let alone each lap. And just as he got within reach of DRS, Rosberg cracked and outbraked himself into turn one and conceded the lead to Hamilton. The Brit never looked back, setting a blistering speed and pulling away from Rosberg with consummate ease.

The reaction to Rosberg’s mistake is overblown as usual. I somehow don’t think that Nico Rosberg is now a blubbering mess quaking in his boots. But it was a big moment, causing a critical 14 point championship swing.