Italian GP - Sunday - Race Report
Sebastian Vettel bulldozed his way to victory in the Italian Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver started from the pole and led all but four laps on his way to his victory of the season.
Fernando Alonso led those other four laps during the single set of mid-race pitstops, but the Ferrari driver never had a chance to get even close to Vettel.
The Tifosi fans were not happy that a Red Bull had bulldozed their beloved red Ferraris, and the booed Vettel and teammate Mark Webber, who had finished third.
"A fantastic race," exclaimed Vettel, "but you can hear the difference, obviously, when you don't win here in a red suit, you get a lot of that but in the end it's very nice because it means you've done very good and beat the red guys. So we are very proud of that."
The Red Bull normally is not at its best on low downforce tracks, but it shined at Monza.
"Usually this is one of the toughest tracks we go to," Vettel said, "but this year the car's been absolutely fantastic, the race has been incredible. I think for both of us towards the end we were struggling a little bit with the gearbox so we had to pace ourselves but obviously for me it was not that bad because I had a little bit of a cushion but very great to win here, to see all the fans coming, it's the best podium of the season so very proud to be up here."
The tenacious Alonso went from fifth to third. He made up one place on lap one, passed Webber for third place on lap three, and then took over second place as Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa let him pass.
"This weekend we took the maximum from the car," Alonso said. "Practice was okay and we learnt some good information Friday. Saturday it was very good, both cars in the top five. I think the last time was Malaysia this year, so very, very long time, so we were very, very happy. Today, being in the podium again, it's a fantastic feeling here in Monza. The fourth year that I drove for Ferrari, the four times that I was in the podium and every year is something amazing, something unique again, to be there in that moment."
Webber qualified second, his best ever at Monza, and finished on the podium for the first time in the Italian Grand Prix.
"I'm very happy to be on the podium here at Monza," he said. "It's one of the most famous ones in the world, up there with Monte Carlo and a few other signature events. A brilliant to experience that, even though the atmosphere (the fans booing) I was not completely a fan of, to be honest. Sebastian won the race and the atmosphere is not completely correct but anyway‚Äö√Ñ¬∂ that's their choice. It was good to have a clean weekend from start to finish and then fight for top positions, which was certainly the case today."
Webber had made a pretty good start and got alongside Vettel as they headed for the first chicane. Vettel went in deep, locked up his front tires, and kept the lead. But he also flat spotted the tires so he had a vibration until he pitted on lap 23 of the race's 53 laps.
"Our start was difficult," Vettel said. "I didn't get off the line that well, couldn't see Mark so tried to give him enough room and then tried to brake late, probably a little bit too late, locked the front right and then had lots of vibrations after that because I had a flat spot on the front right tire. Fortunately we weren't front limited on this circuit, so the front tire was not a big issue, so I tried to look after the rears after that and we still got far enough to make the one stop work."
Massa got by Webber in the confusion to take second place. Then Alonso attacked Webber had squeezed by on lap three, clipping a piece off the Red Bull's front wing in the process.
"I tried a lap before but I was not close enough in turn four, in the second chicane, and then we were very close in the first chicane on that lap," Alonso said. "Mark had a little slower exit in the first chicane so I used all the KERS on that straight hoping that with the KERS plus the slipstream it will be enough to pass, but it was not enough so that we arrived side by side.
"At one point, I thought 'well, I will miss the second chicane and I will give the place back' but at the last moment I get the grip, we were very close to touching each other but again we come back to the point that it's not the same fighting with an experienced and respectful driver compared to some others with whom you would never try that move, with whom we've had some incidents already."
Webber closed in on Massa but once in the dirty air could not make the pass. So Vettel, Alonso, Massa and Webber ran in that order until the pit stops began on lap 23. The Red Bull crew did a superb job, getting both drivers in an out on the same lap, and that allowed Webber to leapfrog Massa who pitted a lap later.
Alonso led laps 24 to 27 and then made his solitary stop. Vettel was back out front, Alonso second and Webber third. Webber closed in on Alonso but had to be careful because the telemetry was showing gearbox problems on the Red Bull.
Massa could not close the gap on Webber and settled for fourth.
"The pace was good on both compounds and we ran consistently throughout the whole race," Massa said. "It was a shame I lost the place to Webber at the pit stop, because today, the podium was within our grasp and it would have been brilliant to celebrate with our fans at our home race.
"Today, overtaking wasn't easy, because, when you find yourself behind another car, especially in the second sector, you lose a lot of downforce."
While viewers may have dozed off watching the top four circulate around the famous track, there were some good fights further back in the pack.
The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg got involved in various spats and ended up sixth and ninth respectively.
"This hasn't been one of our best weekends and it feels like everything was a little compromised from the outset," Rosberg said. "It's a real shame as the pace of the car looked really good in the race but we weren't able to take full advantage because of the issues from yesterday. It's so important here to feel comfortable with the set-up and I wasn't able to get the car as I wanted after losing the time in third practice. I tried everything to overtake Nico (Hulkenberg) for the extra place today but he was very quick at the end and it didn't work out."
Nico Hulkenberg had an excellent weekend in which he qualified third and finished fifth in the normally uncompetitive Sauber.
"Despite starting third, it was always clear keeping the Ferrari and Red Bulls behind was not realistic," Hulkenberg said. "I lost two places right at the start, but then the pace was good and, especially towards the end, I was able to catch up quite a bit again. I kept the Mercedes behind with Nico leaving no room for me making any mistakes."
Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) qualified seventh and finished seventh after holding off McLaren's Jenson Button and Sergio Perez and Lotus man Romain Grosjean.
"After qualifying well yesterday it was nice to maintain that position at the end of today," Ricciardo said. "In recent races where we have managed to qualify in the top ten, we didn't have the pace to stay there in the race, but today we did. I think I got the most out of the car, managing to keep the guys behind me and the low downforce set -up certainly helped us down the straights. The others got close to me in the second sector, but I was able to pull away once we got to the high speed sections, which we knew from yesterday would be our strong point."
Jenson Button rounded out the top 10 in his McLaren.
"I had a bad start when my clutch slipped, and I dropped a few places," he said. "That first stint was quite good fun, but, once I got stuck behind Daniel [Ricciardo], there was no way of getting past him. We didn't get the gear ratios quite right today. Consequently, as our fuel loads decreased, and our cornering speeds should have increased, we were hampered by our rev-limiters, and that made it easier for the cars behind to overtake us and harder for us to overtake the cars ahead of us.
"In clear air, our pace was pretty good - but, with such a short top gear, especially with DRS deployed, we were hitting the rev-limiter while other cars weren't being rev-limited. Moreover, about 15 laps from the end, I locked up into the first corner and severely flat-spotted my front-right tire - I couldn't really see a lot after that, because of vibration, but I still managed to bring it home and score a world championship point for the team."
Speaking of points, Kimi Raikkonen finished in the points in 27 consecutive races but then failed to get a point in the Belgian Grand Prix. He went scoreless in Italy as well after a first turn accident sent him to the pits for repairs. His Lotus was very quick but he was too far behind and ended up 11th.
"When I lost the front wing I had to come in and change to a new one meaning an extra pit stop which we hadn't planned," he said. "It's not just the time in the pits, but you have to work your way through the field afterwards. We did a pretty good job of that and the car felt good, surprisingly good given where we were on Saturday. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do after the start to the race we had."
And, speaking of points, Vettel now has 222 to Alonso's 169.
"I think we need to be realistic about the championship now there's a very big gap," Alonso admitted. "We don't have enough races and probably we don't have the speed right now to win some consecutive races and hope to reduce the gap just by pace. We need to be lucky and we need to have some DNFs from Sebastian or something to win the championship.
"With the races left and the points disadvantage, it's hard but in a way; it was exactly the same last year. We could only lose the championship, with 41 points advantage in front of Sebastian after the Monza race. It was difficult for him to catch up and so it was maybe up to us. We didn't complete the job and we had a DNF in Suzuka and some other problems.
"There's still a long way to go; we will try until the last race to be as good as we can and score as many points as possible and then in Brazil we will see how many points we have compared to him."