Uncovering a few extra storylines from a magical Monza weekend
Passion for Fashion
With the curtain coming down on F1's European season at Monza, the atmospheric Singapore night race is next on the calendar. Before the cars take to the track though, Lewis will have been on the Singapore catwalk!
A special Lewis-inspired Tommy Hilfiger clothing collection is to be launched in the Far East on the lead-in to the race, and the man himself can't wait.
"You're judged fashion-wise and I've enjoyed going to events and galas and being seen on the street. That's nothing new but this is different because I've been so heavily involved in the whole design process. I feel like I really designed this collection along with some great designers in the team - the fabric, all the tiny details, I've really been working on.
"This is my first time designing and, naturally, I've had guidance, but I'm really excited. I'll be nervous for my first show. I've been hands-on with how the show is presented, the music, the show styling. The whole process has been incredible. I'm nervous to see people's reaction which, so far, has been really good on social media with people like Will Smith and Justin Bieber posting.
"It's going to be crazy because I'm going to walk out at the end of the show with Tommy, which is a dream. I've been watching the shows for some time and seen Tommy come out with Gigi and all the other designers. That's going to be me! It's going to be a moment that I'll never forget and an opportunity I'm so grateful for.
I'm just super-excited, and about the aftermath, seeing how people mix and match it with other brands, how their interpretation of styling is.
"I've seen Kanye (West) transition from being a musician to a designer, with his trainers for example, wearing something no-one else has and then having people start talking about it. That's really cool!"
Mercedes Reserve Driver George Russell moved a step further ahead in the FIA Formula 2 Championship battle when he finished fourth in Saturday's Feature race at Monza and then won the reverse-grid Sprint race the following day.
Russell took the additional points for pole position and led the main race before running too deep into Turn 1 and ceding positions to Alexander Albon and Renault Test and Development driver, Artem Markelov. Markelov's Russian Time team made Tadasuke Makino took a first victory when the prime / option tyre strategy proved quicker than the option / prime route taken by the front-runners.
In the Sprint race, it was Markelov's turn to lead and lock up into Turn 1, allowing George to take full advantage and score a crucial fifth win of the year. His fourth and first positions gave him a 31-point haul from the weekend, moving his championship total on to 219. Sixth and fifth positions for newly confirmed McLaren 2019 signing Lando Norris meant that the fellow Brit scored 14 points. Russell therefore has a 22-point advantage with just two rounds remaining, in Sochi and Abu Dhabi.
Speed with Guile
Formula 1 historians among you may know of the autobiography of the late double Grand Prix winner Peter Revson, 'Speed with Style.' Well, the story of Lewis's Monza win runs nicely under the working title 'Speed with Guile.'
The problem facing the team as they went to the grid was how to overcome a Ferrari team that had locked out the front row with evidently a slightly faster car. Lewis, starting third, knew it was imperative that he split the red cars as soon as possible, which he did via that fine second chicane move on Vettel.
With his main championship rival hampered by a pit stop for a replacement nose and a damaged car, the next problem was how to deal with Räikkönen, who had shown sufficient pace to claim his first pole position since Monaco 2017.
The quickest strategy for 53 laps of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was always going to be just the single stop and so just one opportunity for the undercut was going to present itself.
It was 20 laps before Räikkönen and Lewis had the necessary 24s advantage over Romain Grosjean to be sure of re-joining in front of the fifth-placed Haas and the tension was palpable as the TV cameras focused on both Mercedes and Ferrari pit crews coming out into the pit lane.
Lewis had finished the previous lap just a second behind Räikkönen but with the starting SuperSoft tyres hanging on well, an undercut, or indeed an overcut by stopping one lap later than the Ferrari, looked to be right on the limit. As Räikkönen pitted, the Mercedes crew went back into the garage.
There is some confusion about 'dummy' stops and their legality and, post-race, Toto explained why that was no 'phantom' stop.
"It wasn't a so-called phantom stop because we were actually prepared to pit. We were going to do the opposite of Kimi. If he hadn't pitted, we would have. And so, naturally, to do that your crew has to be prepared."
The team has strategy tools that enable it to see within a few tenths whether it is safe to emerge ahead of a rival at pit stops. The data was telling them that the gap was right on the edge. They concluded that a stop was too marginal and, instead, elected to extend Lewis's opening stint and ensure that the Soft compound Pirellis that he would go onto, would be in better shape than Räikkönen's at the end.
Lewis did a further eight laps on his starting SuperSofts before making his stop 28 tours into the race's 53 laps. This was the key phase of the race. The performance of a tyre set later in a stint is affected by the amount they are stressed early in the stint and Räikkönen was faced with having to go quickly enough to keep Lewis under control without wearing his new Softs too much. Meanwhile, Lewis was watching TV!
"There were a few TV screens around the track and I could see when I was on the pit straight that they were coming out of Ascari. I could see Kimi closing the gap to Valtteri (in his own battle for third with Max Verstappen), so I put two and two together and assumed they would call me in to take advantage of the position he was in."
Contrary to what some thought, leaving Valtteri out was not sacrificing his race to help Lewis. In fact, extending Valtteri's stint was advantageous to his own battle with Verstappen as well as allowing him to assist Lewis' cause by keeping the closing Räikkönen behind him.
A look at the lap times, in fact, shows that Valtteri did anything but slow down. On lap 31, with Räikkönen within DRS range, Valtteri set a personal best lap on a set of SuperSofts that were 35 laps old! And every lap up to his own stop five laps later was within a second of that and usually much closer.
"The last six laps of that stint were very competitive given that he was fighting hard against Kimi," team engineers confirmed. "He was faster than Verstappen, who was out there on new tyres. The pace was better than we anticipated, which is why we stretched his stint a little bit further."
When Lewis re-joined on his new Softs, he was 5.2s behind Räikkönen's Ferrari and when Valtteri stopped eight laps later, car No44 was back to almost within DRS range. Worse for Ferrari, there was evidence of wear and blistering on Räikkönen's tyres.
Lewis was skilfully achieving the aim of going quickly while still managing to conserve his rubber and Ferrari had spotted it. They put out a radio message to Räikkönen: "Hamilton is looking after his tyres in the Lesmos. Try to save the tyres."
Says Lewis: "I knew I had to close the gap and look after my tyres because I could see he was killing his tyres through certain corners and I knew he couldn't continue to do that."
It was too tall an order for Räikkönen. On damaged tyres he was unable to deny a Lewis with the scent of victory. With nine laps to go, Lewis calmly towed the Ferrari down the pit straight, flicked out and ran around its outside into Turn 1. By the time the chequered flag fell on his 68th - and one of his very best - GP wins, he had extended his lead to 8.7s."
"Every now and again Kimi kept nipping his front right into Turn 1 and psychologically that has an effect on you," Lewis smiled. "I wasn't making that mistake, so I knew pressure was building up and it was awesome to be in that position!"