Martin Brundle: F1's silly nonsense distracts from Lewis Hamilton's perfection
Sky F1 pundit Martin Brundle reflects on Lewis Hamilton's supreme display at Monza, the silly row about tyre pressures - and the mounting pressure at McLaren
Last Updated: 10/09/15 10:49am
The Italian GP witnessed a supreme performance from Lewis Hamilton as the Mercedes driver completed the F1 version of a 'Grand Slam' – pole position, fastest lap, leading every lap and winning the race – for only the second time in his career.
It was the complete display in every facet. Unfortunately, all of that was largely overshadowed by the nonsense about the low tyre pressures which followed after Mercedes were summoned to explain themselves to the Monza stewards.
Frankly, the whole thing was a mess from the beginning. On Thursday, there were plenty of people in the paddock, whose technical expertise I know and respect, under the clear impression that the restriction to be imposed by Pirelli would be an increase of 5 PSI.
That then became 3 PSI and the figure just kept on being wound in until it all became terribly confusing. We were then told that the minimum allowed pressures were going to be raised in Monza anyway due to the latest levels of power and downforce, and that it was nothing to do with Spa.
We had also been told Pirelli's directive was regulatory and punishable by penalties but, as we discovered after the race, it fell into a grey area because nobody seemed entirely sure about some key questions, such as how and when the tyre pressures would be validated, and what actually constituted the 'start'.
All we knew for certain was that the tyres were to be checked before the race. But how was that defined? Teams don't send the cars to the grid on the tyres with which they start the race to avoid punctures and unnecessary wear. I can understand people being amazed that such salient details hadn't been decided and agreed upon beforehand, but this was a rule which was hurriedly revised after the Spa blowouts – and unfortunately, it showed.
Tyre pressure and temperatures are indelibly linked and, as I understand it, Mercedes had released the blankets off their tyres on the grid in final preparation for the start and, because he was further down the field, Nico Rosberg's were checked two minutes after Hamilton's and his pressure had fallen even more.
The other thing that has to be considered is whether Mercedes would really have risked breaking the rules when they boast such a big advantage over the rest of the field? I know you can break rules unintentionally, but Mercedes are not going to take such risks.
The whole thing was unnecessary, cloudy, and very un-F1-esque. This is a data-driven sport, which is defined by excellence and precision. But on Sunday night we were made to wait for nearly three hours just for the race winner to be confirmed.
I must admit that, with my TV hat firmly in place, a different outcome from the investigation might have been handy because Hamilton's disqualification would have brought Sebastian Vettel and Rosberg back into play for the world championship.
Instead, as I tweeted on Sunday night, Lewis now has one hand on the title again. Plenty of silly things can happen in the upcoming fly-aways – look at the amount of unreliability we've seen in the past at Singapore and the Suzuka weather – so it's not all over, but it wasn't a great result for the championship battle.
Lewis was in a league of his own at Monza. He had no other challengers and so he just challenged himself to drive perfectly. I've been in that situation before in sportscars - when I've had a great car and you are annoyed with yourself when your lap time fluctuates by more than a quarter of a second - but Lewis's consistency throughout his first stint was very impressive indeed.
However, I thought he overplayed his radio message after the end of the race when he complained "that wasn't cool" to his race engineer, Peter Bonnington, who had to request the mystery increase in speed to head off an imaginary penalty about a non-existent problem. Lewis has delivered those kind of laps all season, in fact most of his career. Michael Schumacher didn't used to moan at Ross Brawn when he demanded qualifying speed for a dozen laps for yet another victory.
I'm afraid at the other end of the grid there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for McLaren-Honda and no sign of a breakthrough.
Nobody could have foreseen that the revived partnership would still be this bad at this stage of the season – not the fans, not the drivers, not Honda, and not McLaren. Just think back to my interview with Ron Dennis at Suzuka last October when he described the Honda engine as "a piece of jewellery".
A struggle at the start of the season was predictable after they had an awful test at Abu Dhabi late last year, but the rate of change expected since just hasn't materialised. If the car was going quickly before the engine blew itself to smithereens then at least the team would have something to hang on to. But they haven't got anything. They haven't got power, reliability, driveability or efficiency.
The situation has become a melting pot of extreme demands and fiercely competitive people and pressures. Something has to give – and soon, because it simply isn't going anywhere at the moment. The only fall-back is if they have a fundamental problem with the engine which they won't be able to fix until the winter. But if that's the case then they should just say so to release some of the pressure. But I'm not hearing anything from the key players in the teams to indicate they are confident of such improvement down the road.
What really struck me before qualifying on Saturday when I saw Fernando Alonso walking to his car, was that the back of his overalls were entirely white. When I drove for the team there were 14 sponsors not on the car, who just wanted to be associated with the team. But McLaren haven't had a title sponsor for two years and counting. That has to be a concern.
We discussed that very subject on air on Sunday morning and I had to check myself and think 'but Martin, this is McLaren you are talking about, you can't be talking about McLaren being short of money'. But it's legitimate to ask where the money is going to come from to make this team competitive again.
That's not to say that McLaren are in danger of falling over. There's too much wealth, the business is too big and diverse, the shareholders too powerful. But there has to be a question mark about how they are going to have the finances to return to the front of the grid. The bottom line is that they are married to Honda and there's no backing out now – especially if Honda are paying for the drivers and a lot of the running costs.
It has to work, we all need an in-form McLaren – sooner than later.