A possible win became an open wound. Come the end of a mad race, Scuderia Ferrari brought home a third place courtesy of Kimi Raikkinen. Seb Vettel started from pole and, having been the only driver to score points in every race so far this season, suffered his first retirement of the season, when he made a mistake in the rain at turn 13. It’s been a particularly difficult weekend, following the news about President Marchionne and the final result was a long way off what had been expected. But that’s racing and now we just have to fight back immediately from this black Sunday.
STORY OF THE RACE
Seb got away well from pole, as did Kimi from third. The number 5 Ferrari had the slenderest of leads, while the 7 car fought with Verstappen. Already, there were a few tiny drops of rain appearing on visors. The ideal strategy involved the lead car having an advantage of around 4 seconds or so, but everyone was having to keep an eye on the degradation on the Ultrasofts.
At the end of lap 14, Kimi pitted as scheduled. The Softs were ready for him and a small change was made to his front wing angle. He managed to rejoin ahead of Hamilton, who was working his way up from 14th on the grid.
Raikkonen immediately set the race fastest lap and was ready for a remote battle with Bottas who was yet to pit. Seb had a lead of 5” over Bottas and around 22 on Hamilton, the aim of getting out ahead of the Mercedes. With the Softs fitted, he managed it.
Bottas opted for the same compound, while Ricciardo stopped out on track. Ahead of the Ferrari duo, Verstappen pitted. 30 laps went by and Kimi set the fastest lap. But another factor came into play, as rain was predicted shortly after 4.
On lap 36, Seb was within DRS distance of his team-mate who had blistering on his rear tyres. As they were running different strategies there was no point in an inter-family duel and on lap 39, Seb got ahead of Kimi at the hairpin.
With 24 laps remaining, Hamilton switched to the Ultrasofts, clearly gambling on dry conditions. A few drops began to fall at turn 2 and a light shower hit turn 6. Seb confirmed on the radio that he could still stay out, but a piece came off his front wing. At the time, the data did not show any accompanying loss of downforce.
It looked as though for those opting for rain tyres, the gamble had not paid off, but the rain went and came so that the pit lane was also wet. Some cars spun, others tiptoed around. Backmarker Magnussen pushed Kimi off track and Bottas made the most of it.
And then Seb planted it in the barriers at the entry to the Motodrom. But we still had one car on track and there was no let up. The Safety Car came out and Kimi took the opportunity to pit for Ultrasofts. He was now third on fresher rubber, prior to the restart on lap 58.
Kimi had a ringside seat for the duel between the two Mercedes. There were 7 laps to go and the threat of rain returned. As for Seb, he had returned to the paddock, went to see the guys, hugged Maurizio and spoke with Riccardo, his race engineer, being a team player, even when things do not go as planned.