Oh dear. Anyone hoping for good news on the Lewis Hamilton/Fernando Alonso title challenge from beyond the Alps better look away now. In second practice at Monza this afternoon Sebastian Vettel once again looked dominant, wiping the smiles off the faces over at Mercedes where their boy Hamilton had looked strong in the morning session.
It’s slipping away from us now, us that is that would like this one, like last year, to go down to the wire. Is it time, like many of the teams (like McLaren) to forgot about this year and concentrate on 2014. We’ll come to that…
It wasn’t as if ‘the rest’ weren’t trying. Every car out there looked razor sharp today with the only the thinnest of blades carried between the rear wing end plates. Monza is an old fashioned speedway, with the minimum of corner-age (plus a couple of chicanes) joining up the three superfast drag strips which saw top speeds over 210mph. Monza is a one off, and a reminder of just how good F1 cars look without the garage door on the back.
Kimi Räkkönen’s Lotus E21 went one step further in new LWB spec. Sweeping the wishbones forward at the front has moved the front wheel centres some four inches further away from those at the back. With an even longer duckbill, it looked dramatically different to Romain Grosjean’s standard SWB E21. Not that it worked, Kimi clocking exactly the same time as RoGros in the afternoon. Exactly the same time, coincidentally, as Mark Webber who followed his team ‘mate’ home in second. All three were six tenths behind Vettel’s RB9.
Alonso and Hamilton were next up ahead of Rosberg and Massa, with the two McLarens closing out the top ten, suggesting that Q3 is a possibility for Button and Perez as the team celebrates its 50th this weekend. All the fast times were set on mediums, the softer of this weekend’s two compounds as Pirelli once again plays it safe and, one assumes, once again takes some of the edge off the racing as a plain old one-stop seems to be the way to go.
Not that a one-stop strategy can’t pay off at Monza; remember Sergio Perez last year? Sadly eking out time by running very long on the soft compound doesn’t seem like a strategy that’s available to Hamilton or Alonso (Big Gary Anderson reckons that although the medium has three or four tenths in it, it’s no less durable than the hard).
Still, we know Lewis is capable of delivering something special this year and Alonso does have that home advantage (not that its counted for much recently). He looked to be really trying today, as one assumes was Felipe Massa, who must know by now that this will be his last Italian GP in a Ferrari, or even in F1.
Ah yes. 2014. The rumours linking Räkkönen to Ferrari appear to be growing stronger, despite Lotus’ efforts to build him a ride tailored to his style. Assuming then that Kimi does leave and Grosjean is given another year (and we can’t realty assume the latter, can we?), there could be two seats going in F1 next year.
Toro Rosso has said it’s in no hurry to either confirm Antonio Felix da Costa or other would-bes for next year. That could be not-very veiled threat to Jean-Eric Vergne, who we still reckon isn’t so far behind Daniel Ricciardo. STR has flushed drivers in the past having previously indicated they’d be staying.
On the subject of rookies it was good to see James Calado getting a run in the Force India this morning meaning — for those that care — there were five British drivers on the track today. (Kudos below for knowing when that last happened). Calado didn’t disgrace himself either running just four tenths behind Paul di Resta in his first weekend run in an F1 car. He’ll spend the rest of the weekend sharpening up his bid for GP2 honours. Nice weekend!