• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

McLaren on a roll

Karun Chandhok September 13, 2012
Lewis Hamilton's lead never looked under serious threat at Monza © Sutton Images
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Lewis Hamilton's win in Monza was utterly dominant. A word we have probably used only once before this season - at Spa when his team-mate Jenson Button cruised to victory. Three wins in a row at high, medium and low downforce circuits show that McLaren are clearly the team on a roll at the moment. The two British world champions locked out the front row and if not for Jenson's non-finish, looked set for a 1-2 in the race as well.

Despite this dominance, this weekend was another case of what might have been in terms of a race at the front. Fernando Alonso and Ferrari looked very competitive again, after a couple races of looking slightly behind the competition. All through free practice, the two red cars looked strong and certainly Fernando's pace in Q1 and Q2 indicated that this was probably going to be a three-way fight for pole with the McLarens. Alas, a broken rear anti-roll bar put an end to that challenge and what could potentially have been a great battle for the win.

Lewis got off the line reasonably well and once he fended off Felipe into the first chicane, the race was pretty straight forward. A one-stop strategy for most made the race one of the least complicated ones to call. The team were able to manage the pace and tyre wear to ensure that he had enough in hand in case Sergio Perez did become a threat at the end. Jenson's start wasn't as good and he found himself losing time behind Felipe early on. Once he had cleared the Ferrari around the pitstops, he looked secure in second place albeit too far to threaten Lewis before the fuel pick up issue put him out.

Perez was the star of the race. The Sauber team took a strategic gamble by starting him on the harder tyre and running long in the first stint. The car's nature to be kind to their tyres meant that he could run 29 laps on that first set, despite the heavy fuel load to start with, and have good enough pace to gain quite a bit of track position. When he swapped to the medium tyres for the second half of the race, it certainly seemed to be the faster tyre and his pace was fantastic relative to the others who were generally on the harder tyres by this stage. This allowed him to pick the competition off one by one to record yet another podium for Sauber in what is turning out to be a great season for the Swiss team.

Alonso did what he does best - make the most of a bad situation and take a healthy haul of points. After the anti-roll bar problem left him tenth on the grid, the Spaniard went on the offensive early on, getting up into the top five very quickly. What was key and somewhat expected with Fernando I suppose was that all those places were made up in aggressive yet clean moves - no wheel banging, no broken wings, no short cuts, no flat spotted tyres. His battle with Sebastian Vettel provided the controversial moment of the race and you have to love the dramatic latin drama on the radio from Ferrari with comments like "He has destroyed our race" - no doubt fully aware that these comments will resonate around the stewards rooms.

Sebastian Vettel retired from the race with an alternator problem © Press Association

In the end Sebastian's penalty became immaterial as the reigning world champion suffered another alternator failure. It proved to be a weekend to forget for Red Bull with a double non-score and it seems like the lesson at the end of this year could once again be about how consistency pays. Fernando's championship lead has crept up to 37 points again, while Lewis, Seb, Kimi and Mark lack the consistency that the Spaniard has had this year. It's still wide open with seven races to go but these four guys in the chasing pack can ill afford a non-points scoring finish if they want to take the tittle this year. From Fernando's point of view, on the upside, these guys can all take points off each other, which helps his cause. On the downside, when the Ferrari has a weak day, he could quite easily find himself down in seventh or eighth place and losing a chunk of points. It's going to be a high pressure game of poker from now until the end of the year!

Off to Singapore next and a return to the high-downforce circuits. Lewis, Fernando and Sebastien have all been very fast around the streets of Singapore in the past and with five drivers from four teams all still in the championship hunt, the pressure is also on the teams to ensure that they bring the latest and greatest updates to keep their men in the hunt. It's a tough time of the year for the teams as they need to start focusing on the 2013 cars while keeping the pressure on development for this year's car. A lot of sleepless nights are ahead at Maranello, Woking, Enstone and Milton Keynes…

Karun Chandhok gives his views exclusively to ESPNF1 at the end of every grand prix weekend

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0 Karun Chandhok gives his views exclusively to ESPNF1 at the end of every grand prix weekend Karun Chandhok is one of just two Indians to sit on a Formula One starting grid, making his debut in 2010 with HRT. A motor sport fan since he was a kid, in his first year in the paddock he quickly built up a solid reputation, not only as a driver, but also as an impeccable source of F1 trivia. Now he draws on both his first-hand experience and his extensive knowledge to offer his views on the sport he loves.