Italian Grand Prix: Vettel Lengthens his Lead

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel seems almost set to take out his fourth consecutive World Championship title, securing his sixth win of the season at Monza yesterday. Fernando Alonso delivered an inspired drive for the ever so enthusiastic tifosi. While Mark Webber put an end to his run of bad luck in Italy and even managed to make the podium, you know what they say, twelfth time’s the charm…

The race got off to a rocky start, with Kimi Raikkonen locking his brakes into turn 1 and running into the back of Sergio Perez. The McLaren got away relatively unscathed, though he was forced to take the escape road through the first turn. Kimi was having no such luck. The contact had severely damaged his front wing and he immediately lost several places. Di Resta is doing nothing to shake the title of “Unluckiest Man in Formula 1”, failing to make it past the first lap. The Force India driver, who was taking avoiding action not to run into the back of his team mate or Grosjean, clipped his front left tyre on the Lotus’ right rear. The contact completely broke di Resta’s left fishbone, and limping off the track, he became the first of two retirements.

Lotus were waiting ready for Raikkonen at the end of lap 1 for a new nose and fresh tyres. Some would have counted him out of the race at this point, but that is not Kimi. The Finn drove right on the limit to catch the back of the grid (which at this point were more than half a minute in front of him), despite messages from the pit wall warning Kimi of fuel consumption he caught up to the two Marussia’s of Chilton and Bianchi by lap 8, and Caterham’s van der Garde by lap 14. On the same lap Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne suffered from transmission failure, becoming the second and final retirement from the race.

Ferrari showed a frightening dominance from both drivers, though the man of the hour was undoubtably Alonso when he made a spectacular move on Mark Webber on lap 3. The Spaniard used all his KERS to get into the Red Bull’s slipstream in a hope to pass him before the chichane. It wasn’t quite enough to the the Ferrari infront, but amazingly Alonso went wheel to wheel against Webber into the chichane and came out with the racing line, and the position. Mark didn’t emerge completely unscathed, receiving some front wing damage on exiting the chichane which may have affected the balance of the car. Nevertheless, it was a nail-biting demonstration, that with any other pair would definitely had ended in disaster.

Most of the pack came into pit from lap 20 with the exception of Raikkonen who stayed out until lap 30. After the first round of pit stops, Ricciardo remained in front of Button’s McLaren. The Toro Rosso driver wasted no time in showing his new bosses at Red Bull his worth by keeping Button at bay. The McLaren did appear to be held up by the Toro Rosso, but he could not find a way past. The battle worked it’s way down from eleventh and tenth to eighth and seventh, before Button lost pace and conceded a place Grosjean. Ricciardo went on to hold his position to cross the line in seventh.

The battle for eleventh and twelfth began between Raikkonen and Hamilton from lap 45, with the Lotus managing to hold off the Mercedes until lap 48 when it was apparent the Lotus just didn’t have the speed.

Massa was out to impress his current bosses, delivering a result that would definitely work in his favour while the contracts are being finalised. Massa, who qualified ahead of his team mate, started in fourth and spent most of the race cruising comfortably in his held position where he crossed the line in. The Brazilian showed a calm sense of confidence in his driving that has been scarcely seen this year. This is why it was slightly disheartening for Massa to again be told to move out of the way to let Alonso passed at the beginning of the race.

The surprise in qualifying was Nico Hulkenburg third on the grid. The Sauber driver got off to a fantastic start to make his way past Button, Vergne, Perez, Ricciardo, and Rosberg all before the end of lap 1. Hulkenberg kept good pace, and spent most of the race keeping Rosberg at behind him, despite the Mercedes posting fastest lap times. The Ferrari powered Sauber came home in fifth.

While the race as a whole had battles down the grid, it was slightly (dare I say) dull to not see a battle between Vettel and Alonso. A challenge between first and second is undoubtably the most exciting part of a race to watch. The best races in the past have been nail-biters right to the line. As much as I’m a Vettel fan, that’s what I want to see again.

The championship resumes in two weeks in Singapore (my old home), the night race is one of the hardest and most demanding on the calendar, and I am kicking myself that I’m not there. Next year.

– Alex

Qualifying Pole Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Podium Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:25.849 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

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