Formula 1: What Options Does Lewis Hamilton Have at Monza?

Ben AutySenior Writer ISeptember 13, 2008

First of all, I just want to apologise for disappearing off the radar. I would prefer not to really talk about why I haven't been around for almost a month; there are reasons for it and they are certainly valid reasons. A few of the boys know why, and I am sure they will agree its been a tough couple of weeks.

So again, I am sorry I haven't been here to support you guys but I have been checking in every now and again just to see what's been going on. It's been a strange couple of weeks.

I have still been writing, but instead of on here I have just been writing on my blog: I find it relaxing to write but I wasn't in the right frame of mind or mood to defend myself against any heated debate which almost certainly would have ensued after the recent goings-on, which is why I didn't post with you guys.

So for my thoughts on things, check out my blog. For now, I am sticking this one quick article just to keep you all posted and to let you know that I am still here.


I don't care what the weatherman says. If the weatherman says it's raining, you will never hear me complaining…words that until today, you might have heard Lewis Hamilton singing. But today in the rain it went slightly wrong.

I am 100 percent sure that in a race condition in the rain, Lewis Hamilton will be very difficult to beat. However, today, one little gamble completely wiped out any chance of a Q3 show for the Brit. It wasn't just Lewis who struggled in the rain.

From the outset, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa both struggled to find grip and speed. Massa was lucky enough to get the reset into Q3, just scraping in 10th place.

The unlucky ones were Robert Kubica, current world champion Kimi Raikkonen, and current championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Monza was set for a shock, and the underdogs were going for it hammer and tong to ensure a shock was on the cards.

Sure enough, as the chequered flag fell, we had a record breaker. Sebastian Vettel, the young German in his Toro Rosso, stuck his STR3 on pole position, becoming the youngest F1 driver ever to get a pole position.

He was followed closely by McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen, who was very fast all session in the MP4-23.

So where did it all go wrong for our man Lewis?

At the end of Q1, the track seemed as though it was drying up, and there was certainly a tram line appearing. Lewis and his race engineers took a gamble into Q2 and thought that maybe intermediate tyres would work with the tram line, but it turned out that the surface water was too much for the intermediates to clear.

A change was needed, so back into the pits car 22 went, a quick stop for wets but he couldn't get back out because of the traffic, so he lost more time waiting for the go from the pit wall.

Finally, Lewis got back out onto the track, but tyre pressure was down, temperature was lost and time was running out. The rain was heavier and that window of opportunity was closing fast.

As the clock counted down, confidence was getting lower for Hamilton after a spin at Ascari corner. The opportunity was gone, and the time would never be made back up. So as the timer ran out in Q2, Lewis was sitting in P15, and that was the end of that.

It was Lewis Hamilton's lowest qualifying position of his career, but should we give up on him yet? I don't think so, and this is why…

Heikki Kovalainen drove a great session all day and stuck his car on the front row of the grid. With fuel strategies taken into consideration, he could certainly get the jump on the young Toro Rosso driver to be first into the chicane and from there he can control the race and hope that his strategies are working well for him and there are no safety car periods.

So to Hamilton, what are his options?

I think for him to go on a two-stop strategy, he is making things very hard for himself. Yes, he is in a quicker car, but to go on a two-stop strategy the same as the front runners would be an uphill struggle and leaves everything to be done on the track.

Also he needs to consider the threat around him from Kubica and Raikkonen.

Because Lewis is out of the top 10, he now has all the options at his disposal. He doesn't have to start the race on his closing qualifying fuel load and set up. Only the top 10 have to do that.

He could fuel very lightly and run it out on a three-stop strategy. Yes, he would have to make one more stop, but he will be very light and overtaking will be easier and his pit stops will be very short.

Just a splash-and-dash pit stop can be done in five seconds; the way Lewis runs his tyres down, this would be an excellent option for him to consider.

Lewis' second option would be to go on a one-stop strategy, fuel heavily and get the jump in the field's second round of pit stops.

This means he would have to take it easy when running on the soft tyres, but when on the hards he will be heavy and will have to work very hard and hope that the raw performance of the MP4-23 is enough to help him make the passes he needs.

I think realistically, with either the one- or three-stop option, he can look to getting a points finish and why not even a podium?

Lewis loves a challenge and certainly can overtake with the best of them, providing all passes are done legally and the FIA are in a good mood, then he will be laughing.

He can forget about Felipe Massa for this race; the best he can hope for is a reliability problem with the F2008 and maybe bringing his GP to an early end. Apart from that, Massa WILL outscore him in the race and the championship table will have a new leader.

He should just concentrate on damage limitation and remember that Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen are the ones he is racing, as they are in the same boat as he is come lights out on Sunday. It will be VERY interesting to see what strategies they try.

As a McLaren fan, I want to see Heikki dominate the race from the start. I want to see Lewis going for glory on a three-stopper and hopefully get a top five, maybe a podium with some bad luck on other driver's parts.

One thing is for sure, DONT BLINK… You might just miss it, its going to be a VERY interesting race from lights out to chequered flag.

Ben, Over and Out!


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