Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

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.

Vettel a class apart // Championship leader runs amok in Monza

Published

I can no longer do it. Sebastian Vettel has all but secured his fourth title in four years, as well as his place amongst the all time greats in the sport. I don’t think that there can be any doubting about that. The man is arguably the best in the history of the sport at leading from the front and proving untouchable if he leads at the end of lap one, especially when you consider that he has to contend with DRS, whereas his predecessors didn’t.

Vettel leads the charge

Vettel prepares for a run in Italy
The untouchable VettelCredit: Thompson/Getty

It was a particularly exciting start to the race for Sebastian Vettel, especially when you consider the fact that he began alongside teammate Mark Webber. The Aussie’s was surprisingly good, and bad for Seb. It provided Vettel with a rear gunner, stopping Fernando Alonso getting involved into turn one. However, as we all know, Webber isn’t going to do Vettel any favours and challenged the German going into the first corner. The combination of Webber and Massa left Vettel perplexed and he locked up heavily, compromising his first stint as he had to deal with a fifty pence piece for a right front tyre.

But he managed the gap to the Ferraris well, and while there was widespread panic on the Red Bull pitwall, Vettel managed to stay out much later than expected, pitting on lap 23 when many speculated that he would be lucky to last until lap 17. And as soon as he pitted for a fresh set of tyres, he put the hammer down and a six second lead doubled to a twelve second lead by the time Ferrari implemented their flawed strategy on Fernando Alonso, trying to leave the Spaniard out for a longer first stint.

Even then, it wasn’t plain sailing, as Vettel had to deal with a gearbox issue, but as always, he nursed the car home to a 32nd victory, one which was clearly unpopular on the podium.

Hülkenberg the man of the hour

Having not taken up his option at Sauber, the Hulk knows that he needs to prove himself to the top teams. Though he will never admit it, Hülkenberg knows that he made a mistake joining Sauber, thinking they were a team on the up, when in fact they are a small outfit in desperate need of funds, though his Italian GP performance will do them the world of good.

Now, having wasted another year of his F1 career fighting in the lower end of the midfield, he knows it is time to force through a move to the upper echelons of the sport, be it at Ferrari or Lotus. And Monza may prove to be the ideal building block for that stage of his career. No one saw Hülkenberg coming in qualifying until he posted a blistering time that was good enough for third place on the grid, half a tenth ahead of both Ferraris with Luca di Montezemelo watching, on Italian soil.

No one saw Hülkenberg coming in qualifying until he posted a blistering time that was good enough for third place

I have to say that I expected Nico to fall back through the pack fairly quickly, much like Valtteri Bottas did in Canada, but the young German had no such plans.

Despite a poor start that allowed both Ferraris by, Hülkenberg held his own and stayed in fifth for much of the race, only dropping back during the pitstop phase. Although he lost out to Lewis Hamilton at the stops, Sauber were confident that the Brit would have to stop again, having pitted early to repair a slow puncture.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Hulk's race was winning the battle of the Nicos at the end of the afternoon as he held back the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for fifth place, a particularly impressive feat given the fact that Hülkenberg clearly had to ration his fuel reserves late in the race. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sauber had underfuelled the Hulk, expecting a slower pace but had to change their plans as Nico stayed up at the front.

It was a big result for Hülkenberg, and with his competitor for the seat, Paul di Resta crashing out in rather embarrassing fashion on lap one, it can only boost his chances for a Ferrari, having shone in their backyard.

Crunchtime for Grosjean

Romain Grosjean knows that he needs to step up his performances if wants to continue with Lotus next year, particularly if he is expected to lead a team in the absence of Kimi Räikkönen. And while it wasn’t a flashy podium, as Grosjean has shown he is capable of on occasion, it was a good under the radar drive on a day when Kimi Räikkönen showed that he too is capable of mistakes.

Grosjean puts in a lap at Monza
Lotus' joker in the packCredit: Glenn Dunbar/Lotus F1 Team

Grosjean may have been outqualified by Räikkönen on Saturday on an incredibly disappointing day for the team as both drivers failed to make Q3. In his desperation to make up places, Räikkönen outbraked himself into turn one and broke his front wing as he punted Sergio Pérez off.

While Kimi pitted and fought his way through the field, Grosjean was in the main pack, fighting with Daniel Ricciardo and the McLarens. He may have ended up just five seconds ahead of his teammate, but Räikkönen had the benefit of running in clear air in his first stint, allowing him to set faster times and take care of his tyres. And while Grosjean wasn’t the star of the show, it was just the performance he will need to keep his job.

Ricciardo comes up with the goods

It wasn’t Ricciardo’s biggest result, but it will certainly do him some good getting seventh place just after announcing his big move to Red Bull. It was well-documented that Sergio Pérez struggled to secure a points finish after signing for McLaren last year, and a strong drive for Ricciardo was just what the doctor ordered to show that he is a proven driver, rather than all potential.

It was also a result that leapfrogged him ahead of teammate Jean-Éric Vergne in the championship, something that, despite his impressive pace, Ricciardo has struggled to do since moving to Toro Rosso.