VF1blog: Vettel cruises to flawless Italian GP win
Sebastian Vettel has cruised to a flawless victory at the Italian Grand Prix, after an utterly dominant display during the 53-lap race. The German ace was followed by the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, with Mark Webber managing to finish 3rd in his last race around the legendary Autodromo di Monza.
Despite intermittent rain showers prior to the start of the Italian Grand Prix, the race began in dry weather conditions with the entire field electing to start on the dry weather tyres. Only three drivers started on the harder compound, in the form of Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Gutierrez. At the start Sebastian Vettel managed to retain his lead through the opening chicane, as Lewis Hamilton was one of many who skipped across the run-off area to avoid a collision.
As the opening lap of the race wore on Felipe Massa found himself in 2nd position behind Sebastian Vettel, with Mark Webber 3rd and Fernando Alonso 4th. At the second chicane Paul di Resta became the first retirement of the race, as the Scotsman completely out-broke himself and slammed into the rear of Romain Grosjean. Although the resulting incident didnít damage Romain Grosjeanís car, Paul di Restaís front-left was utterly destroyed as he pulled to the side of the track and into retirement.
After lightly damaging his front-wing during the opening chicane after a minor collision with Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen was forced to return to the pits after the opening lap for a new front-wing. This saw the Finn plummet back down the order, after a relatively competitive opening lap. Whilst Sebastian Vettel set upon opening up a considerable lead at the front, Fernando Alonso masterfully overtook Mark Webber around the outside at the second chicane. The Australian driver sustained minimal front-wing damage, however the duo continued circulating.
Due to his poor qualifying performance, Lewis Hamilton had elected to start the race on the hard tyre compound. Unfortunately for the former Italian Grand Prix winner his early race pace prevented him from fully excelling, as the McLaren of Jenson Button overtook him for 10th. The Ferraris swapped positions as the opening laps ensued, with Felipe Massa seemingly allowing his team-mate through into 2nd position on team orders.
By Lap 10, Sebastian Vettel had opened up a five second lead at the front to Fernando Alonso, however his mechanics soon came over the team radio instructing the German that his front-right tyre had picked up a flat-spot after the opening lap. Despite the initial worry from the team, the issue in question soon faded into insignificance as the German continued to romp away into the distance. Whilst Sebastian Vettel dominated once again at the front, Lewis Hamilton was struck with further bad luck in the form of a slow puncture on his Mercedes.
Despite the teamís insistent requests for the 2008 World Champion to pit for a new set of tyres, he was unable to fully understand them after radio communication issues also plagued his car. Eventually Lewis Hamilton pulled off into the pits, which saw the Briton also plummet down the order and behind Kimi Raikkonen to 19th position. As the 28-year-old began scything his way through the likes of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic, Jean-Eric Vergne became the next retirement after the Frenchmanís Toro Rosso was struck with what appeared to be an engine-related issue.
By Lap 20 the first scheduled pit-stops of the race were carried out, as Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo made their way to the pit-lane. The Mexican driver suffered from a slow stop, and therefore lost a position to team-mate Jenson Button. Sebastian Vettel soon elected to pit from the lead of the race, as Red Bull stacked their drivers with Mark Webber also pitting albeit roughly 11 seconds down the road. This allowed Fernando Alonso to momentarily lead a Ferrari 1-2, a scene which was undoubtedly met with euphoria amongst the Tifosi faithful.
Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado became the next list of drivers to make their scheduled pit-stops, with Felipe Massa loosing out to Mark Webber when he rejoined the circuit. Although Fernando Alonso was leading the race ahead of the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, neither had pitted. The German soon released his fellow countryman into 2nd position when he elected to pit a few laps later, before Fernando Alonso finally did likewise on Lap 27 and allowed Sebastian Vettel to resume his dominant lead out in front.
Although the majority of the field were all on one-stop strategies, both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton unfortunately were not after their earlier altercations with punctures and front-wing damage. Kimi Raikkonen was the first of the duo to return to the pits on Lap 30, just as Lewis Hamilton managed to produce the fastest lap of the race. Whilst many awaited the Britonís eventual pit-stop, Lewis Hamilton continued to display a blistering pace around the Autodromo di Monza. The 2008 World Champion managed to sneak passed Nico Hulkenberg for 5th at Turn 3, before the team once again began trying to communicate with him about his second and final pit-stop.
After many laps of expectation, Lewis Hamilton finally made his pit-stop on Lap 38, after previously making a mistake and running straight on at Turn 2. This saw him rejoin the race down in 14th position and behind Kimi Raikkonen, however the duo soon managed to begin once again scything their way through the midfield. Whilst Raikkonen and Hamilton steadily rose through the order after overtaking the likes of Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil, Mark Webber was instructed to short-shift on the exit of Turn 2 through the lower gears.
As the last few laps of the race panned out, Sebastian Vettel was issued with the same instruction, with the German instead told to short-shift through the higher gears. Whilst the Red Bull duo tried their best to adapt to the new gearing technique, Lewis Hamilton managed to overtake Kimi Raikkonen for 11th and then Sergio Perez for 10th to secure one hard-fought point, whereas the Finn could only manage 11th and his second non-points scoring result in succession.
Despite worried looks within the Red Bull camp amid fears of gearbox woes, Sebastian Vettel managed to storm to yet another dominant victory on Ferrari territory, with the Scuderia of Fernando Alonso a distant 2nd only just ahead of the short-shifting Mark Webber. Felipe Massa finished a relatively competitive 4th, with Nico Hulkenberg an important and impressive 5th.
The Formula 1 fraternity will reconvene later in the month, when the sport returns to Asia for the only night race of the year around the illuminated streets of Singapore. Sebastian Vettel has become renowned for stepping up a gear when the sport returns to the Far East, a trait heíll be aiming to live up to next time out.
Author: Andy Young
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