A week is a long time in politics, so the saying goes. The same can be said for Formula 1, too.
This time last week we were lauding Sebastian Vettel as the world championship favourite, despite his deficit to Lewis Hamilton in the points. He had just proven Ferrari’s performance advantage over Mercedes with a comfortable victory at Spa. The same was expected at Monza, the ultimate power circuit.
Sure enough, an all-red front row after a thrilling qualifying session on Saturday gave the tifosi every reason to expect a glorious home win on Sunday. They’ve waited since 2010 for a Ferrari victory at Monza – and now they must wait another year.
One that got away? Absolutely. Vettel put a brave face on it, but he must have felt a pang or two this morning. And that’s not the first time we’ve said that this year. Remember Hockenheim? You have to say, he’s blown a bunch of points this summer.
The gap is up to 30 now, but there are still 175 up for grabs. He’s still in a great car. All he can do is hit back in Singapore – and this is where the psychology kicks in.
Hamilton is in the form of his life and will be flying high after another wonderful smash ’n’ grab victory. Worth £40m? Mercedes would probably pay double for him right now. Vettel desperately needs to take the wind out of his sails at the next grand prix.
As for Kimi Räikkönen, you’ll have a heart of flint to lack sympathy for him. But as well as he drove, the Iceman was beaten also – and he will be hurting, too.
But given that this was Ferrari’s 962nd start in F1, inevitably such defeats have happened before, as our selection here recalls. The Prancing Horses just have to get up and go again.
You can’t win ’em all.
1 When Massa was mugged by Alonso
Felipe Massa emerged from his long F1 career with a great deal of respect and dignity, and rightly so given his agonising 2008 title near miss and his survival and recovery from a freak injury that could have cost him his life.
But in 2007 he lost a race for Ferrari to the man who would one day be his team-mate – and that defeat would end up defining their rivalry.
Rain had already caused mayhem at the Nürburgring. But by the closing stages, Massa – already a two-time race winner that season – was leading and pulling away from Alonso’s McLaren. Then the rain returned. Alonso reeled in his prey and took the lead, despite the Ferrari’s strident defence that resorted to contact.
“You still have a lot to learn,” snapped Alonso before the podium as an unblinking camera caught the row. “No, you have a lot to learn,” retorted Massa.
Alonso might have kept his team-mate where he wanted him at Ferrari, but there were times when his biggest problem during his five years at the Scuderia was the team itself.
The Abu Dhabi season climax in his first season was as close as he ever got to a world title for the reds – and it should have been his. But Ferrari blew it for him.
In a tight strategic race, the team was so busy watching main rival Mark Webber it took its eye off the rising threat from Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull. Alonso found himself stuck behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault, powerless to pass, as Vettel swept to victory and nicked the title. The only time he’d led the standings was when it counted most.
That one really hurt.
3 Schumacher’s backfiring professional foul
Eventually he’d obliterate F1 with five consecutive titles for Ferrari, but Michael Schumacher had his fair share of embarrassments and disappointments before the glory.
Our first Schumi entry is the European GP of 1997. You know the one… Michael arrived in Spain for the big finale one point ahead of Jacques Villeneuve with a golden chance to end Ferrari’s 18-year drivers’ title drought in just his second season for the team.
He led Villeneuve in the race, but following an absorbing chase the Williams caught him by surprise with a great late-breaking move. Schumacher instinctively turned in, but came off worse as his F310B shovelled into the gravel.
The title was gone – and so was Schumacher’s already chequered reputation.
A year later even his president at Ferrari was warning him to behave, as he arrived at Suzuka four points down on new rival Mika Häkkinen. The momentum had swung between the pair during a wonderful season-long duel, and Schumacher added pressure by securing pole position for the climax.
Then he blew it by stalling at the start of the formation lap. Häkkinen breathed a sigh of relief and scored an untroubled victory to clinch his first title. For Schumacher and Ferrari, the drought would go on – and on again following his broken leg at Silverstone in ’99.
5 How Fangio embarrassed the Mon Ami Mates
For our final entry this week we head all the way back to 1957 and one of the most famous races in history at the Nürburgring.
Is it harsh to include this one, when Juan Manuel Fangio’s Maserati 250F reeled in the Ferraris of best friends Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins to score the Maestro’s greatest victory? Perhaps. After all, this was a day when even Fangio admitted he’d driven to a different level.
The fact remains that following a slow pitstop, the Maserati was 48 seconds down on the Ferraris. He broke the lap record at the fearsome 14-mile track nine times during his chase in a performance that shall never be forgotten.
But had it been Stirling Moss or the late Alberto Ascari in one of those Ferraris, would he still have won? Given his performance, perhaps – but probably not.
Like Hawthorn and Collins that day, what Vettel can take as a sliver of solace is that he was beaten on Sunday by a driver performing at his personal highest level. Then again, admitting that he was beaten by the better man might only rub further salt into an already open wound.