If F1 races in recent seasons have been predictable in their outcome because of Mercedes domination, Lewis Hamilton remains predictable in his unpredictability. After starting at the back of the grid in Spa last week and coming through a chaotic race to finish an excellent third, Hamilton returned to familiar territory at the front of the grid at the Italian Grand Prix. He had been a whopping half a second faster than teammate Nico Rosberg in qualifying so should have been on easy street in the race. But this is Lewis we are talking about. Straightforward is not his middle name. What should have been business as usual in a good way turned into business as usual in a bad way. Lewis has been having trouble with the clutch on his starts all season. It cost him in Bahrain; it cost him in Canada, and it would cost him in Monza.
It looked like Hamilton had fallen asleep at the wheel as the lights went out at the start. His Mercedes was swamped as the other cars stormed past, and by the time he woke up, he was down in a disastrous sixth place. Getting into and out of trouble is Hamilton’s speciality, but here, in front of a fanatical Tifosi, Hamilton was uncharacteristically underwhelming. Although he was able to pass Ricciardo and Bottas to go fourth, and was assisted by a conservative two stop tyre strategy from both the Ferraris versus a one stopper for Mercedes, to eventually finish second, his wretched start had left him too far behind Rosberg and ruined his chance of a win.
For the second race in a row Nico Rosberg was able to cruise to victory. He had got away brilliantly at the start and was never troubled again. It was the drive of the day. Nico Rosberg looks like the best driver in the world when there is no pressure on him. When the rain stays away and Lewis is safely tangled up in one of his seemingly endless crises, Nico Rosberg is unbeatable. Rosberg will need Hamilton to keep toppling off the edge he so relishes living on if he is to win that elusive driver’s title.