So Monza is over for another year, and this time the race was hardly a thriller. Afterwards Sebastian Vettel pointed out that traditionally the celebrated Autodromo had not been one of Red Bull’s stronger circuits, and in absolute terms he was quite right. If the cars have lacked for anything in the last few years, it has been in straightline speed, which is of course of paramount importance here.
When we speak of Red Bull, though, these things are relative – let’s remember, after all, that Sebastian last won the race only two years ago, and he did it by means of blitzing away in the early laps, so that by the time DRS came into play he was out of reach. This time, as he said, Red Bull were out-and-out quicker at Monza than ever before, and he was agreeably surprised by it.
Now, with seven races to go, Vettel leads Alonso by 53 points, Hamilton by 81 and Räikkönen by 88. Mathematically he can still be beaten to the World Championship, but the feeling in the paddock afterwards was that the time had come for rival teams to put further development of their 2013 cars on the back burner, and to concentrate on the very different cars we will see next year.
A couple of retirements for Seb, together with a pair of wins for Fernando or Lewis, could change the picture very significantly, of course, but that’s not the way to bet: in past years Vettel has been, if anything, even stronger in the ‘Asian’ portion of the World Championship now upon us.
If there was relatively little excitement in this Italian Grand Prix, there was plenty in the paddock, and much of it – of course – was to do with Ferrari’s future plans. As ever Luca di Montezemolo made a regal visit to Monza on Saturday, and let it be known that a decision about Alonso’s 2014 team-mate would be made this week. The word was strong that Felipe Massa had been notified that his contract would not be renewed, and in the Hotel de la Ville his father’s glum expression was duly noted.
Massa, ironically, had his strongest race for a long time, but if indeed his long spell with Ferrari is finally done, the expectation is that his replacement will be either Räikkönen or Hulkenberg.
It’s no secret that there have been ‘financial difficulties’ at Lotus this year, although I’m told that the promised backing for the team is indeed on the way. Räikkönen has been happier there than ever he was at McLaren or Ferrari, and many believe that in a perfect world he would stay at Lotus, but if he is intent on another World Championship – and he plainly is – a move is probably necessary, and it is believed that only Red Bull or Ferrari are in a position to meet the fiscal requirements of Kimi’s management. Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo confirmed, is already out of the picture, so everything points to a return to Maranello – something one would have believed unthinkable not so long ago.
Many, though, reckon that di Montezemolo should go for Hulkenberg, who drove a quite brilliant race for Sauber at Monza, finishing fifth – on the heels of Massa – after qualifying third. The timing could not have been better.
I am one of a great many who have long seen Nico as a star-in-waiting, and it surprised me when McLaren, needing a replacement for Hamilton, went instead for Sergio Pérez, although I understand that other factors had to be taken into consideration.
Hulkenberg would be an ideal choice for Ferrari, I believe, but if, as many expect, Räikkönen is shortly announced as Alonso’s team-mate, not all would be lost for Nico, for the expectation is that he would then be confirmed as Kimi’s replacement at Lotus. Either way, he should be in a competitive car in 2014, and that I cannot wait to see.