The Merc power leaves Maranello in a muddle

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes showed that they still have the most potent power unit of this whole V6 hybrid era. To finish 35 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, that’s probably the most dominant performance we’ve seen all season.

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes reaches out to his fans while celebrating his victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Autodromo di Monza on September 3.   -  Getty Images

The Italian Grand Prix was predictably a one-sided contest. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes showed that they still have the most potent power unit of this whole V6 hybrid era. To finish 35 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, that’s probably the most dominant performance we’ve seen all season.

Seb started further back and came through to third place quite quickly, and at that time the gap was only about five seconds from the leader. I thought, ‘this might be interesting, maybe Ferrari is better than we thought.’ But as the race went on, it was pretty obvious that the two Mercedes cars were in a league of their own. That’s a bit of a worry for Ferrari, and all the people in the engine and power unit department in Maranello will be scratching their heads.

Ferrari has got one joker left to play: it hasn’t yet introduced its fourth engine and the final power unit configuration of the year, while Mercedes has. Ferrari could potentially spend a bit of time developing that last power unit and then introduce it before the end of the year. I’m sure that is what’s going on.

Experience counts on rain-delayed Saturday

It was a really, really messy Saturday (September 2).

With such a long day due to rain delays, it’s a bit tricky for the teams and drivers. There’s a lot of time when you’re psyching yourself up, particularly in qualifying where you’re getting ready to go for that big blast. That is the one time in the weekend where your senses are at a heightened level, thinking about every time you hit the brake pedal, every steering input, every throttle application, every out-lap and build-lap, how you’re going to bring the tyres into the window. Your mind is at such a high level, and then there’s a let-down when the session is red-flagged and everything is stopped for such a long period of time.

Then you get a 10-minute warning and you’re back up there again. It’s quite a challenge for the driver and that’s where experience really counts. A calm head and a driver who is able to really get himself in the zone quickly can come to the fore.

I thought Lewis’ lap in Q3 was absolutely amazing. The track conditions were changing all the time, and when you watch the on-board you see he’s really good at moving around the track and finding grip away from the traditional racing line. You’ve got to go and look for the grip and feel it to understand where it is.

I remember racing in Monza in 2008 and the lines were so different. We had to brake on the opposite side of the road to the normal driving line, then go across the rubber and use a lot of new parts of the track. We would brake and accelerate where you wouldn’t imagine doing in the dry, but the grip level is so different, and I think Lewis exploited that really well.

Young drivers shine, but Ricciardo is the standout performer

Hats off to Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon! Both of them did a fantastic job in Q3, particularly Stroll. Williams has been pretty underwhelming in wet conditions of late, but he was strong in every qualifying session and in all conditions — he proved it wasn’t just a fluke lap.

In the race he held his own, had Felipe Massa behind him and sort of held on to the back of Ocon, even though the Force India is a more competitive package than the Williams. I thought he did a great job all weekend.

Ocon was the best of the rest behind the top teams, so he did a good job.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. There was a bit of overtaking and a bit of ranting from Fernando Alonso on the radio, but it wasn’t the most enthralling race, particularly at the front. But it was impressive to see Daniel Ricciardo come through the pack. The Red Bull was strong on a circuit where it really had no business to compete in the same range as Ferrari and Mercedes. In practice, it was probably quicker than Ferrari.

Daniel came from 16th up to fourth, so it was a very strong performance and that bodes well for Singapore, Suzuka and Malaysia. Those next three races should be really good tracks for Red Bull, Singapore in particular.

I thought Max Verstappen showed a little bit of impatience in the early part; he should have recognised that the Red Bull was a much stronger car than the Williams and Force India. If he’d been a little more patient I think he could have got away without a puncture, and the fact that Daniel finished fourth — only four seconds behind Sebastian — tells you what probably could have been with Max. There’s no question he could have been closer because he was already higher up the order at that stage.

Countdown to the championship climax

Lewis is ahead in the World Championship with a three-point lead over Sebastian, but Singapore should be a really interesting race. It’s a street track that is bumpy, whereas Monaco today is resurfaced and no longer the bumpy challenge that it used to be.

Singapore is a track where two years ago Mercedes got the set-up wrong, thinking the car was three wheeling with too much movement and one wheel constantly off the ground. They were completely at sea. But last year, they got it together with Nico Rosberg, who won the race. But Lewis wasn’t strong there, and in some ways there was a sense that he was overdriving the car, a bit like in Sochi this year and in Budapest until the race.

I’m really interested to see how he goes when we get to Singapore. The 2017 cars are different — more grip, more downforce — and that may help him, but equally I think it’s important to note that Ferrari and Red Bull are much closer to Mercedes than in previous years, and we’re going into Singapore knowing that Ferrari are the favourites.

It’s a big chance for Seb to retake the lead in the championship; it’s a chance for Ferrari to possibly get Kimi in second place and to try and push Lewis further down. I think Mercedes is now going to start playing the game of team orders, making Valtteri Bottas play a more supportive role.

We’re getting to that stage of the season where we’ve left Europe and are going to the last flyaway races, and there’s firmly a sense that we’re counting down to the end of the season. But there’s still a long way to go. In the past, the end of the European season used to mean Suzuka and Adelaide, but now we’ve still got seven races to go. There’s a lot of action still to come.