The stars of Monza


By Lee McKenzie

Carpe diem. Seize the day. After a difficult start to his race, that’s exactly what Lewis Hamilton did during the Italian Grand Prix.

For the first time since Spain, Hamilton had a clean qualifying session. I spoke to him for a long interview that evening and he was relaxed, thoughtful, but utterly focused on trying to get a grip or at least one hand back on a championship which looked like it might be slipping away from him.

Talent, mentality and reliability have been the watchwords of every interview, particularly since the Belgian Grand Prix. All three were crucial factors on Sunday and for the first time in a long time Hamilton had all three working in harmony. After a problem at the start which meant he lost several places, he worked his way back and applied just enough pressure for Nico Rosberg to make an uncharacteristic mistake.

Twenty-two points separates the two Mercedes drivers as we head into the final charge of the season but, this weekend at least, it was Hamilton who impressed most.

Also showing his worth was Daniel Ricciardo who has blown away anyone who doubted why he got the job at Red Bull. His racecraft on Sunday was exceptional and his judgement while overtaking flawless. At no point did he get greedy and try and take two cars in one move whilst risking getting neither position. He steadily picked them off car-by-car and worked his way through the field. Yes, he stopped later than the others and obviously it meant he had more in his tyres at the end of the Grand Prix, but it was the way he executed each move – selling more dummies than Mothercare and braking later than his rival thought possible.

Sebastian Vettel is a four-time world champion who hasn’t had reliability on his side as often as Ricciardo has this season but the Australian has out-shone the German. The discussion now centres on how good Sebastian Vettel actually is. If the answer is ‘extremely good’, as the records suggest, then how much better could Daniel Ricciardo be if he continues in this way?

I’m writing this from Copenhagen as I have come to film with Kevin Magnussen for a couple of days. He’s a young driver who I admire and think he has a lot to give to Formula 1. Yes, he’s been on the wrong side of the stewards in the last couple of races but is pushing hard to prove himself to McLaren and if not them, any other team who might be watching. He has outqualified Jenson Button seven times – Button getting the better on six occasions – but for someone who has just arrived in F1 he has undoubted skill, as his start showed on Sunday, going from fifth to second.

Unsurprisingly, Danish newspapers were full of support after Magnussen’s five-second penalty on Sunday which cost the team some valuable points as he battled against Valtteri Bottas. Interestingly, Bottas himself came out in support of Magnussen, as did red Bull’s Christian Horner. Magnussen is cool, polite and one of the most determined young drivers I’ve ever seen. He takes everything, positive or negative, as a learning experience. Some say things like that, but you really get the impression that he isn’t just throwing words out there.

It is hard to believe that Europe is finished for 2014 in F1 terms. The multi-million pound motorhomes that now only come to eight of the 19 Grands Prix have been packed away. The history and roots of F1 are being left behind as we head to the brave new world of racing. Add in a couple of classic, dramatic tracks and we are set for a fabulous end to the season.

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