VF1blog: Vettel cruises to third Monza win
It was pretty predictable, wasn’t it? That Sebastian Vettel would win his second consecutive race and third at the Monza circuit. I predicted it anyway, but it did look so easy for the German.
However it wasn’t as simple and straightforward as it looked from the outside and that just proved how dominant the combination of Red Bull RB9 and Vettel was. He had to battle vibrations in the first stint after his only error of the race, flat spotting his front-right into turn one on the first lap. He also had a gearbox problem which meant he had to short shift, losing him a tenth or two per lap (if not more, I’m no tech expert). So it wasn’t as straightforward as the typical Vettel victory but he still cruised to his 32nd career win.
It also marked Red Bull Racing’s 40th ever race win, testament to how successful their partnership with Vettel has been (he has won 31 races for Red Bull Racing).
Unlike the Belgian Grand Prix, I managed to watch every single minute of on-track F1 action live over the course of the Italian Grand Prix weekend. There had been the possibility to go as a journalist but that didn’t work out. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed covering the weekend for the likes of RichlandF1, Car Throttle and my blog.
The big shock from Friday and Saturday was the elimination of Hamilton and Raikkonen in Q2. This took out arguably Vettel’s biggest challenger for pole position and Hamilton’s driving on Saturday afternoon was pretty poor by his standards. He couldn’t get a clean lap together, although admittedly he was blocked on his final lap by Adrian Sutil. Raikkonen and the Lotus duo looked slow in qualifying trim after FP3 so I wasn’t expecting too much, but I was still shocked to see them both knocked out in Q3.
The main story from Q3 was not Vettel taking pole position – that was pretty much a given – but Hulkenberg’s storming lap for third. This has to be one of the qualifying laps of the year as he didn’t look particularly fast in free practice or the previous two qualifying sessions. It was great to see Sauber, the small underdogs, mixing it at the front.
Rain was expected for the race and a shower half an hour before the start heightened those expectations. However, it was a dry start and a dry race throughout which was slightly disappointing as I love a good wet race – Italy 2008 being one that pops to mind. It would have ramped up the excitement level a bit more but I still enjoyed the race despite Vettel walking away with it. We had some great racing in the mid-field and some fantastic recovery drives to watch as well.
So the start was slightly chaotic with numerous cars taking to the run-off area and clambering clumsily over the kerbs. Raikkonen made an uncharacteristic error after ramming Sergio Perez’s McLaren into the braking zone. This complete mucked up his race as he had to pit for a new front wing on the first lap, however it did give us some fantastic driving to watch during the remaining 52 laps and proved that the Lotus was arguably the third fastest car in race trim.
Di Resta was an early retirement after a driver error saw him crash with Romain Grosjean. To be honest, it is a slight miracle that the Frenchman’s car emerged from that scuffle unscathed. It was a silly mistake from Di Resta and he admitted that himself, although it wasn’t looking good for either Force India anyway after qualifying and free practice.
There was actually a lot of change at the front – other than Vettel – in the early laps with Massa moving up to second, Webber dropping to third, Alonso advancing to fourth and Hulkenberg falling to fifth. Button lost out after a poor start and Hamilton made up two positions on the first lap.
Alonso was a man on the move, passing Webber and Massa in quick succession to sit in second place for the remainder of the race. Webber eventually got past Massa in the pit stops to reclaim a podium position in his final European F1 race.
Up front, Vettel had to tackle a few issues on route to winning but he still had a commanding 5.4 second lead by the chequered flag. He perfectly executed a one stop strategy in another controlled and mature drive from the 26-year-old, very impressive indeed.
I was somewhat frustrated by the booing on the podium by the Tifosi because he deserved to win, he had the fastest car but still drove very well. It was disrespectful because Alonso was still on the podium and put on a good show. I loved how the Spaniard managed to get his phone on the podium to take pictures of the crowd.
Alonso drove very well, fair and cleanly – particularly his battle with Webber. Not that it was a surprise. Webber did a good job of recovering the position thanks to strategy but he also clung on to Alonso after having a sniff of second place despite older tyres. I was really happy to see him return to the podium in what has been a difficult final F1 season for him so far.
Massa showed improved form which was good to see and Hulkenberg drove incredibly, in my view, to take fifth in a car that should not have been there – shown by Gutierrez finishing in 13th. He impressed me immensely with his driving skills and ability to keep Rosberg behind, the German finishing in a decent sixth place.
Ricciardo clung on to seventh in what was – like Hulkenberg – a well-timed good result after his recent announcement. He drove a good defensive race with a car that should realistically have finished further down and Toro Rosso’s gear ratio strategy was really good as the Aussie kept his position off the line and his straight line speed and good pace kept him ahead.
Grosjean had a good race after a poor qualifying and drove quite maturely. Meanwhile Hamilton recovered to ninth after a slow puncture meant he had to resort to a two stop strategy, not ideal but he did well to get back in the points. His overtakes were brilliant and he really sparked extra life into the race.
Button finished in 10th, a disappointing result not helped by a poor start from JB. McLaren looked stronger in free practice but the Brit admitted that he just couldn’t pass on the straights due to hitting the limiter.
Raikkonen finished in 11th, a good recovery after his lap one stop. He was fast throughout which once again proved that the Lotus was strong in race trim, a strong drive but yielding no reward unfortunately.
Behind him, Perez, Gutierrez, Maldonado and Bottas had rather anonymous races with rather quiet runs to the flag respectively. Sutil had a similarly silent race and ended up retiring on the final lap with a brake problem, a shame to see Force India performing poorly on a track that they are usually so strong at.
Pic finished ahead of Giedo van der Garde, the two having a good little scrap. Chilton was able to match Bianchi for much of the race but ended up finishing behind him after another poor race for Marussia in comparison to their green rivals.
Vergne and Di Resta were the only two drivers not classified with the former retiring with an engine problem.
It was a decent race, not as exciting as previous Italian Grand Prix’s and not the best race of the season but still far from boring in my view. It would have been better with a bit of rain but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
A mention quickly to the GP2 and GP3 field, the former series had two very good races with surprisingly clean races and some strong drives from the likes of Fabio Leimer, Sam Bird, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Alexander Rossi – whose race two double overtake was a real highlight.
GP3 saw some great drives too but it was chaos in both races with big first corner clashes and several poor moves that caused silly crashes. I was quite disappointed with the driving standards overall as there was some really poor driving that had me throwing up my hands in frustration. Daniel Kvyat, Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Lewis Williamson and Facu Regalia all drove really well with several others driving maturely over the race weekend, however the standards were let down by a number of others including Samin Gomez, Ryan Cullen and Jimmy Eriksson.
Also, I’m still annoyed by fans saying that F1 is boring just because Vettel is running away with the title. Do they not look further down the field? We saw some great racing in Italy, some great battles. Yes, it is nice to have a change but if you switch off due to Vettel dominating, you aren’t a real fan of the sport.
There’s plenty of gossip circulating about Raikkonen returning to Ferrari. I personally think he is best suited to Lotus but if he does move, it would be great to see Sauber re-hire Massa and get an experienced racer alongside Sirotkin if he does get his super license. Hulkenberg would be the perfect replacement for Raikkonen in my view as I think he has lots of potential.
I can’t see Alonso moving from Ferrari, despite recent reports today that he could be lured to Lotus if they gain more backing from Renault. He has already said that he won’t break the three and a half years that remain on his contract. I think Raikkonen and Alonso would make the best partnership on the grid although whether that would work behind-the-scenes (with Alonso’s preferred choice as the sole number 1 driver) is another story.
Now I look ahead to Singapore, a race that always intrigues me and a track that I really enjoy seeing F1 cars tackle. It is completely unique and the atmosphere always seems great.
It also provides us with some really good racing. Vettel will definitely be up there but I hope someone can take the challenge to him, that Hamilton can return to form and Raikkonen can have a good result too.
Author: Jack Leslie
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