Team Mate Battles – Italian GP

In Formula One, the most important person to beat is your teammate. Who did just that in Italy? Let’s go through the field and hand out the Team Mate Battle points!

These are the rules to which the drivers are being judged.

Points system:

1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.

3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.

5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.

 

Caterham:

Marcus Ericsson, for all his faults, is nothing but incredibly consistent. Having a solid benchmark like Marcus is an excellent way for a team to compare drivers against him as they will all inevitably, to varying degrees, be faster. Unlike the experienced Lotterer, Merhi had never driven an F1 car before, but still went faster during his first session alongside the regular pilot. With only the one session to play with, Merhi was never going to look as comparatively impressive as Andre did at Spa, but at least any question marks over the capabilities of the Caterham were removed by having Kamui Kobayashi in his regular seat.

Despite not driving for the last six weeks, Kamui was straight back into the swing of things in FP2 by lapping 0.1 seconds faster than Marcus. He promptly went a second faster in FP3 while Marcus picked up a penalty for speeding past double waved yellow flags, before keeping the same advantage in Q1. Despite starting from the pit lane as his punishment, Marcus didn’t lose much ground to Kamui in the early .Sp5rl!47rs, ending Lap 1 just 4 seconds behind and keeping that gap pegged for the opening 5 laps. He couldn’t keep it up though, as Ericsson would finish the race a full 40 seconds behind Kobayashi with neither suffering problems. Kamui got the better of both Marussias and ended the race twenty seconds behind Romain Grosjean’s similarly powered Lotus.

Maybe Caterham should give James May a go in Singapore?

Fastest lap: Marcus Ericsson (6-6 to each)
Qualifying: Kamui Kobayashi (30-6 to Kamui Kobayashi) 
Race: Kamui Kobayashi (55-5 to Kamui Kobayashi)

  • Caterham: 91-17 to Kamui Kobayashi (Total After Round 13)
  • Caterham: 8-1 to Andre Lotterer (Total After Spa-Round 12)
  • Total for Caterham: 99-18 to Kobayashi/Lotterer

 

Marussia:

Friday started well for Max Chilton, as he outpaced Jules in FP1. Not by much mind, just 0.064 seconds separated the pair as they went faster than the Caterhams and the Lotus of Charles Pic. That was as good as it got for Max all weekend though. Despite the Englishman finding more and more pace in each session, Jules was able to find more. Max found 1.3 seconds in FP2, Jules 1.4. Max found a further tenth in FP3…but Jules found 6 of them. Bianchi was a full half second clear in FP3, and maintained that advantage through qualifying, with the Marussias only succeeding in out qualifying the rather useless Marcus Ericsson.

With the Ferrari engine now arguably the weakest power unit on the grid, the Marussias were destined to struggle right at the back. Both drivers gained a place at the start as Romain Grosjean stuffed up his getaway, and while the Frenchman quickly dispatched Chilton, Max retook the place back and promptly crashed. In fairness to Max, he doesn’t make race ending errors very often, and this is probably the reason the TV cameramen managed to track every car through that chicane perfectly, with the exception of the one that was actually doing something unusual on that occasion.

Jules beat Ericsson home, but didn’t get too excited about it and complained that his car was too slow down the straights, something that all the Ferrari powered men had to get used to. Three of the bottom four through the speed trap were Ferrari engined, with Jules third slowest, a full 31 kilometres an hour slower than Ricciardo’s 362 km/h.

Fastest lap: Jules Bianchi (7.5 – 5.5 to Max Chilton) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Jules Bianchi (30-9 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 13)
Race: Jules Bianchi (50-15 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 13)

Marussia: 85.5 – 31.5 to Jules Bianchi (Total After Round 13)

 

Williams:

Felipe Massa finally had some luck go his way, and it couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate venue. After years of loyal servitude at Ferrari, and displaying a willingness to put the needs of the Scuderia over the desires of his own, Massa’s return to the podium was as popular as it was overdue. He described hearing the tifosi chant his name as ‘amazing’, and it certainly was a touching moment to see Felipe receive some recognition for the sacrifices he made in the past.

There was very little difference between the two Williams drivers all weekend. Both set almost identical times in FP1, before Valtteri took an ever so slight initiative through FP2 & FP3. While Felipe went 0.5 seconds faster than Bottas in Q1, Valtteri responded in Q2 & Q3 to out qualify Felipe by 0.2 seconds, the pair lining up 3rd and 4th as the nearest challengers to the pace setting Mercs. Valtteri’s start was absolutely dreadful, the Williams struggling off the line due to a ‘too aggressive clutch setup’, so bad that Valtteri suffered wheelspin all the way up to the first chicane, and leaving it to head into Curva Grande. After losing so many positions, it was an uphill task from there, but Bottas recovered well to regain 4th spot.

Felipe made a great start to vault into third spot and quickly picked off Kevin Magnussen, but didn’t seem too willing to hold up or battle with Lewis Hamilton. Rumours from Mark Hughes that Williams need permission from Mercedes to use their ‘overtake’ mode remain just that, but after Lewis was passed, Felipe settled into looking after his tyres and seeing off any threat from behind. The biggest threat was from his recovering team-mate, but since Felipe had track position, his pitstop came first and with Valtteri pitting a ‘lap too late’ for his liking, the time and positions lost meant that he was never going to catch Felipe.

I debated split points for the race, but with no real indication as to how much Valtteri himself was to blame for his tardy start, I’ve played it safe and awarded the race points to Felipe for having a perfectly ordinary and lonely race to third, despite Valtteri’s eye catching passes and equal pace.

Fastest Lap: Valtteri Bottas (7-6 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas (27-12 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 13)
Race: Felipe Massa (55-10 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 13)

Williams: 88-29 to Valtteri Bottas (Total After Round 13)

 

Toro Rosso:

Jean-Eric Vergne continued his slippery slide out the door of Toro Rosso. The Frenchman continues to do nothing particularly wrong, but isn’t doing enough to show that he deserves to remain in the sport. Vergne’s previous seasons showed that he has the talent to justify his place in the sport, but now that crunch time has arrived and he simply must deliver, he isn’t doing it. Despite it being Kyvat’s first appearance at Monza in F1 machinery, he immediately outpaced Jean-Eric throughout every practice session and then went faster in qualifying to take 11th spot before his engine penalty.

With Daniil starting from 21st, surely Jean-Eric would beat him considering he was starting from 12th place? Nope. Vergne dropped down to 13th on the opening lap, while Daniil had elevated himself to 15th by Lap 7. Vergne and Kyvat then spent the next 15 laps separated by just 4 seconds, split by Pastor Maldonado before Daniil picked off the Lotus on Lap 19. He quickly caught up with Jean-Eric, but lost out through the stops to end up 5 seconds behind Vergne. Jean-Eric’s pride was dented even further as Kyvat reeled him in and passed him on Lap 43, before the Russian then overtook Hulkenberg and set off after Kimi Raikkonen. He had just caught up with the Finn when his brake disc failed, pitching the 20 year old off. He recovered spectacularly, with the only bills for Toro Rosso being in the laundry department, but any hope of points went away straight away.

Despite the brake failure at a track that requires ample use of same, Kyvat beat Vergne home. With the normally reserved Franz Tost effusive in his praise of Kyvat, hailing his ‘extraordinary driving skills’, surely Daniil is in prime position to be the next man to accept a Red Bull cockpit when one becomes available. After the race, Vergne complained of a ‘lack of grip’ throughout the race, and seemed to be an afterthought in the team’s post race comments.

Fastest Lap: Daniil Kyvat (7-6 to Jean-Eric Vergne) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Daniil Kyvat (21-18 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 13)
Race: Daniil Kyvat (40-25 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 13)

Toro Rosso: 67-50 to Daniil Kyvat (Total After Round 13)

 

Sauber:

Esteban Gutierrez provided some mild entertainment in the closing .Sp5rl!47rs thanks to some idiotic driving that saw him sideswipe Romain Grosjean at high speed at the end of the main straight. If he had moved over any faster, the Mexican could have been thrown sideways, which would have resulted in an accident not worth thinking about. He was lucky enough not to suffer anything worse than a puncture, 20 second penalty and a comment from Monisha Kalterborn that is the Team Principal’s equivalent of a father’s ‘I’m disappointed in you’: ‘The contact which Esteban had with a competitor was unnecessary.’

Esteban attributed his sideways movement to an errant brake, which he said was inconsistent in how it manifested itself, something the race stewards accepted as having some merit. Along with his brake issues, tyre problems meant that he was the only driver to run a 2 stopper, which became 3 after his incident. Compared to Esteban, Adrian had a very quiet race. He out qualified the Mexican by just one spot, and led him on track for almost all the race, only losing out for a short time after he made his one and only stop. He easily had the measure of Romain Grosjean over the race, finishing 24 seconds in front of him. Uninspired racing from this year’s blandest team, can Sauber regain some spark next season?

Fastest Lap: Adrian Sutil (8-5 to Esteban Gutierrez) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Adrian Sutil (24-15 to Adrian Sutil) (after Round 13)
Race: Adrian Sutil (45-20 to Adrian Sutil) (after Round 13)

Sauber: 74-43 to Adrian Sutil (Total After Round 13)

 

Force India:

Yet another weak showing from Hulkenberg, with little official word as to why. Nico apparently had floor damage which hampered his aerodynamics throughout the Monza race, and while his stop on Lap 19 to remove his hard tyres appeared a mite too early, the relatively low wear of the circuit allowed him to roughly stretch out his stint to last the race.

Compared to Sergio, Nico’s pace wasn’t too bad. The time lost over the first 19 laps when Nico ran the hard tyres was approximately ten seconds. This gap was exactly the same at race end, with the drivers running exactly opposite tyre strategies after pitting on the same lap. While Nico made a great start to jump up right behind Sergio on Lap 1, the ten seconds he lost came as he fell off the rear of Sergio’s car before being passed by Raikkonen, Bottas & Ricciardo.

The gap to Sergio at the end arguably should have been bigger as Sergio spent a lot of the second half of the race squabbling with Jenson Button, the two enjoying a tete a tete that was very similar to their display as team-mates in Bahrain last season. Just as Jenson wrong footed Sergio, the Mexican would respond, and would have taken great pleasure in eventually seeing off Jenson on track, as well as his McLaren replacement off it.

After fully expecting Sergio to suffer brake failure in the closing .Sp5rl!47rs while watching dust pour from his front left wheel every time he dove for the stopping pedal, Perez’s eventual 7th spot was well deserved. Choosing to duel with two McLarens at a high speed track with dodgy brakes requires serious mettle, and Sergio has shown that he doesn’t lack anything in that department. Surprisingly, it is now Nico Hulkenberg who has to start raising his game.

Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (8-5 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Sergio Perez (27-12 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 13)
Race: Sergio Perez (35-30 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 13)

Force India: 70-47 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 13)

 

Scuderia Ferrari S.p.A.
Scuderia Ferrari S.p.A.

McLaren:

A great race provided by both McLaren drivers on Sunday. Kevin Magnussen’s penalty was erring on the side of harsh, as even Valtteri Bottas felt that a penalty was not completely necessary. It undid a lot of Kevin’s hard work during the race, but receiving the validation of his bosses for his driving style is a positive that Kevin can take away from Monza.

With just 0.065 seconds separating the two McLarens during Q3, it’s fair to say that both seemed to have extracted the maximum from the improving McLaren Mercedes package. It got even better for McLaren fans at the start as Kevin leapt off the line to snatch second place. Inevitably, the slow fade backwards started to happen as Massa snuck past, then Hamilton, then Sebastian Vettel and Ricciardo in the closing .Sp5rl!47rs. Despite losing these positions, Kevin never fell into the grasp of Jenson. Aided by the widest Force India in the world, Kevin was always 2-4 seconds in front of Jenson, with the gap only really ever growing when Jenson engaged in tandem driving with Sergio.

Button had held position at the start, and stayed in the same place relative to Kevin for the entire second half of the race, finishing less than two seconds behind the young rookie. This meant that Jenson finished ahead of Kevin as a result of the addition of 5 seconds to Magnussen’s race time, but that doesn’t take away from the Dane taking the race points. After a justified penalty in Spa, Kevin’s slap on the wrist at Monza wouldn’t have happened if he had been one of the established drivers.

McLaren’s seemingly sudden change in attitude towards Jenson Button after long and ‘interesting’ conversations between Ron and Jenson hint that McLaren’s supposed bids for Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have failed, and while Magnussen appears to be gaining the upper hand at the team as the season progresses, Jenson’s performances haven’t dipped to a point where they could be described as disappointing. With no other proven winners available, it’s better the devil you know for McLaren 2015. Can Kevin or Jenson sneak a final win for the long standing and successful McLaren Mercedes partnership? At this point, even another podium would do.

Fastest Lap: Jenson Button (8-5 to Kevin Magnussen) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Kevin Magnussen (21-18 to Kevin Magnussen) (after Round 13)
Race: Kevin Magnussen (45-20 to Jenson Button) (after Round 13)

McLaren: 68-49 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 13)

 

Lotus:

Not only did Pastor keep it between the ditches for the weekend, he comprehensively saw off Romain Grosjean. After Romain missed FP1 to Charles Pic, the onus was on him to make up for the lost time in FP2 & FP3, something he appeared to do as he lapped only 0.2-0.3 seconds slower in each session. Qualifying really put Romain on the back foot, as a coolant leak meant his Lotus remained in bits as Q1 started. This was fixed as fast as possible by using Pastor Maldonado’s mechanics to help Grosjean’s as the Venezuelan circulated on track, and the Frenchman was able to get out to set a time. He fell short of Pastor’s time, but that wasn’t really that surprising given the start to the session.

The race went wrong immediately for Romain, as a crappy start saw him plunge back to 21st. He worked his way back up to 16th place over the remainder of the race, which was pretty eventful as he suffered gearbox downshift problems, a disintegrating side pod, and some mild front wing damage while being attacked by a Sauber that had forgotten how to stay in a straight line.

Pastor drove a stormer en route to 14th place. Quicker than his team-mate, the Saubers, Caterhams & Marussias but off the pace of the Toro Rossos, he was quite lonely by the time the chequered flag fell, finishing twenty seconds behind Vergne but twelve seconds in front of Sutil.

Fastest Lap: Pastor Maldonado (8-5 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Pastor Maldonado (33-6 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 13)
Race: Pastor Maldonado (40-25 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 13)

Lotus: 81-36 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 13)

 

Ferrari:

For all of Ferrari’s faults, Fernando Alonso has absolutely no grounds to complain about the reliability of his steeds. The last time Fernando suffered a race ending mechanical failure was in only his third race for the Scuderia at Sepang in 2010, so his luck in that area finally ran out. Luckily, it was during a race of little consequence for his own interests as Ferrari lacked any sort of speed over the weekend.

Despite looking reasonable on Friday, Ferrari’s pace didn’t improve much between FP3 and Qualifying. While the Mercs and Williams boys improved by 1.3-1.6 seconds between the two Saturday sessions, Alonso found just 0.4 seconds, while Kimi could only dig deeper to the tune of 0.2 seconds. This resulted in qualifying positions with little reason for optimism, Fernando 7th and Kimi 12th, with both cars decidedly midfield through the speed traps.

While Fernando held position at the start, Kimi moved forward when Ricciardo scampered across the escape kerbs at the first chicane, before picking off the off-colour Hulkenberg. When both Ferraris lost position at their solitary pitstops, it was Alonso who fared worst, emerging behind the Red Bulls, Bottas & Sergio Perez. With no cars on track to separate them, Kimi slowly crept up to the back of Fernando, and was running within DRS range when the Spaniard’s ERS failed, robbing us of what looked set to become a great scrap for minor points. Raikkonen was unable to move forward through the pack he was trailing, possibly due to an oddly low top speed. While Alonso was able to hit 347 km/h while using DRS, Raikkonen’s top speed was almost a full 10 km/h slower, and this prevented him from attacking any further. Pure luck intervened to ensure he wasn’t taken out by Kyvat’s brake failure, but there was little cause to celebrate as Kimi picked up 9th spot at what is sure to be remembered as one of the Scuderia’s saddest weekends in a long long time.

Very difficult to choose which driver gets the team-mate points, as Alonso claimed to have backed off to save his tyres at the time period where Raikkonen caught him. This is borne out by his lap times, as he circulated around a second a lap slower than the lap he set immediately after his pitstop, slowly increasing his pace again as Raikkonen started sniffing around as pictured above. I have opted for split race points, which may be slightly unfair on Kimi as he looked as though he had unlocked slightly better race pace, but with such a straight line speed deficit he would have found passing Fernando very very difficult. Raikkonen is slowly getting on terms with Fernando despite the huge gap, and if he can keep it up, we may yet get to see the clash of the titans that 2014 alluringly promised 12 months ago.

Fernando’s retirement took place at the same spot he suffered his engine failure while battling Schumacher in 2006, to the delight of the baying tifosi. It must feel somewhat surreal to experience the same circumstance and be met with only melancholic appreciation from the same crowds who celebrated his agony 8 years ago.

Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen (9-4 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Fernando Alonso (33-6 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 13)
Race: Split Points (57.5 – 7.5 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 13)

Ferrari: 99.5 – 17.5 to Fernando Alonso (Total After Round 13)

 

Mercedes:

Conspiracies! Conspiracies everywhere! Did Nico Rosberg drop the ball on purpose in Monza to atone for his misdeeds in Spa? Was the first error a practice run for the second? Why did he seem so remarkably blasé afterwards about making critical errors with only himself to blame? Or was it all a cunning ruse to ensure Lewis didn’t gain a psychological edge by not allowing him the possibility of overtaking him on track in a straight fight?

No, let’s not do all that. While conspiracies, rumours and ‘race manipulation’ are all infinitely possible and probable, let’s only deal with the facts at hand. Fact: Nico Rosberg doesn’t like braking into right hand turns when under pressure. We saw it in Canada when he scampered across the escape route when Lewis caught him, we saw it in Monaco at the end of qualifying, and we saw it twice in Monza. While Lewis made the same error at the same chicane on Lap 49 on Sunday, he was willing to sacrifice the tyres for the good of keeping his lead, something Nico was very reluctant to do on Lap 29 with almost half the race remaining. The only conspiracy theory that I will lend any credit to here is the one that suggested Nico didn’t want to be passed on track. Perfectly understandable, and it looked like an inevitability at the point where Nico locked up and delicately took the escape road.

While he never got the chance to use DRS, Rosberg’s top speed through the speed trap was the second slowest of the race,  a massive 27 km/h slower than Lewis Hamilton’s. With Lewis just encroaching into the DRS range when Nico missed his braking point, Rosberg would have found it very difficult to stave off a car being driven by an on form Hamilton with a massive straight line speed advantage. Lewis had been quicker throughout the weekend, thanks to his ability to consistently go 0.2 seconds faster through the second sector. The only session that Nico outpaced Lewis was FP2, and that was by less than a tenth of a second, in a session that saw Lewis only come on track with 25 minutes remaining after ignition problems.

Psychologically, Nico knew Lewis was quicker, and while he was temporarily gifted by Lewis having to make a manual start, the pressure to pull away saw Rosberg overdrive. Putting a brave face on at the end of it was the best possible defence against showing how much such a defeat will have shook him.

Some interesting parallels from this race with the 1999 Italian race, which saw race leader (and Keke Rosberg mentored) Mika Hakkinen make a critical error at the old first chicane in his Mercedes powered McLaren. His mistake handed the championship impetus to rivals Eddie Irvine & Heinz Harald Frentzen, and while all looked lost on that day to the inconsolable Finn, he recovered strongly to claim the title. Can Nico respond in the same way? Some calculations being bandied around online say that Rosberg can afford to finish second to Lewis in any of the remaining races, provided he wins two more rounds, regardless of which races. Based on his form this year, the edge for the WDC still lies with Nico.

Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (7-6 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (21-18 to Nico Rosberg) (after Round 13)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (37.5 – 27.5 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 13)

Mercedes: 62.5 – 54.5 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 13)

 

Red Bull:

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Sebastian Vettel at the moment. After getting used to domination over the last four seasons in perfect harmony with the old regulations, the new formula has really knocked Seb for six. While he’s slowly getting back on terms, this year has seen terrible reliability, uncharacteristic errors from the multiple Champion, and a team-mate who looks every bit as good as Vettel at his best. With only slight mutterings here and there about Vettel’s unhappiness with the status quo as it stands, Sebastian’s maturity and composure while having his reputation tarnished by the new cockerel in the henhouse has been commendable.

Monza was a race that, like others this season, should have seen Vettel come out on top. Looking quick and comfortable on Friday, Vettel was faster in each of the qualifying sessions and lined up just ahead of Ricciardo. Things went even better for Seb at the start, as Ricciardo fluffed his and fell down to 12th, while Vettel elevated himself to 5th spot. Sticking with the McLaren of Magnussen, Red Bull opted to go aggressive with Seb and pitted him on Lap 19 to undercut the McLaren. The strategy had played out beautifully once the stops were over, Vettel emerging ahead and in 4th position, but the writing was already on the wall.

Thanks to Daniel’s poor start, by the time the race settled down he was in 12th place a handful of seconds behind Kimi Raikkonen. With the pace reasonable and the jostling train of cars ahead not pulling out a big lead, Daniel didn’t ask too much of his tyres and kept going when the cars in front stopped. This meant he was able to get to the halfway point of the race, and a full seven laps longer than Sebastian had done for his first stint.

Emerging down in 12th, Daniel started working his way back up, and made some great overtakes on the likes of Raikkonen, Magnussen, Button & Perez when he caught Sebastian who was now struggling on old tyres. With no team orders in play, Vettel resisted initially but was powerless to stop Daniel powering past into the second chicane.

Ironically, if Daniel had made a decent start and had been in the train of cars with Sebastian, he likely would have ended up on a much more similar strategy and finished behind Vettel. That must be grating on Seb. Oddly, despite racing with a chassis that had only been used for Silverstone testing during the Summer, Vettel has requested and will receive a brand new chassis for the Singapore race. While races like Spa and Shanghai showed that Sebastian was unable to perform as he would like, there is little to suggest what might have been wrong with the ‘new’ chassis he raced with on Sunday. Unless he feels a new chassis would have been capable of completing the 33 lap second stint with greater pace, it’s beginning to look as though Sebastian is looking for anything that might signify a fresh start against a team-mate considerably stronger than any he has had up to this point of his career.

Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (9-4 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 13)
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel (21-18 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 13)
Race: Daniel Ricciardo (60-5 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 13)

Red Bull: 87-30 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 13)

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date with every Team Mate Battle in 2014!

 

 

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Thomas Maher

Co-owner, Chief Editor and a journalist for FormulaSpy.com - Ireland's only accredited F1 & Formula E website. Enjoy my work - https://www.buymeacoffee.com/MidcHN8

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