Sebastian Vettel romped to victory in today’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza to extend his championship lead to 53 points, overcoming gearbox maladies that also blighted team mate Mark Webber’s race.
The Red Bull duo, starting from the front row, finished 1st and 3rd to sandwich the Ferrari favourite Fernando Alonso who advanced from his 5th place grid slot to the podium and gave the fanatical tifosi cause to cheer – although the booing during the podium for race winner Vettel left a rather sour taste in the mouth for many.
Kimi Raikkonen made contact at the first corner with the McLaren of Sergio Perez, rear-ending the Mexican’s car and sending him skating down an escape road. The incident set the tone for a difficult afternoon for Lotus, with the Finn failing to make it into the points and finishing 11th as team-mate Romain Grosjean struggled to 8th place.
Further turn one action saw Felipe Massa jump Webber for 2nd, while Jenson Button made a bad getaway and slipped down the order from 9th on the grid. Lewis Hamilton had jumped forward a couple of places to get his race of recovery underway to a positive start, but the Briton was called into the pits early in his first stint with warnings of a slow puncture on his right front tyre; Hamilton was one of only three drivers to start the race on the harder Pirelli compound. Radio woes delayed his arrival in the pitbox by three laps, but the puncture was slow enough to avoid major problems for the Mercedes man.
Jean Eric Vergne was doing a solid job of holding up Button and Perez in the battle for 8th place (Button having passed his Mexican team mate as he climbed back through the field) but the Frenchman’s impressive performance came to an abrupt end on lap fourteen as his Toro Rosso expired with a puff of smoke – his fifth retirement of the season. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was also running strongly in 7th, behind Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg, who was defying the odds to cling on for some major points for cash-strapped Sauber.
The first round of stops was uneventful, the exception to the rule being Webber managing to work his way back ahead of Massa with some slick work from the Red Bull pitcrew – but the Australian had already lost out to Alonso, who had passed the Red Bull man some laps earlier.
Action up front was not forthcoming as Vettel pulled out a twelve second lead over Alonso, and it was left to the midfield runners to provide the entertainment as Raikkonen and Hamilton, running a contrary two-stop strategy, made their way through the order – but neither man could make significant headway in the dying laps and all they could do was deepen misery of McLaren on their 50th anniversary weekend. Perez was quickly despatched, although not after making an attempt at re-passing Raikkonen, and Hamilton managed to pass Button who was struggling on a flat-spotted front right tyre.
Massa held on for a solid 4th behind the podium finishers, ahead of Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Hamilton and Button. Force India, normally a serious competitor at Monza, had a dismal afternoon to round off what has been a disastrous weekend for them; Paul Di Resta clattered into the back of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus on lap one at the second chicane and crashed out of the race, while Adrian Sutil retired from 16th place with mechanical gremlins on the final lap. Williams had another day to forget, with both cars coming home well outside the points.
Red Bull experienced a minor scare in the final twenty laps of the race as first Webber, then Vettel began to show the beginnings of a gearbox malfunction – both men were asked to short-shift to preserve the double-podium result, but it cost Webber any chance of making a move on Alonso for a Red Bull one-two.
Vettel’s 6th victory of the season places him firmly in control of the driver’s championship, but with 175 points left to play for Alonso, all his serious contenders are still in with a chance of halting the German World Champion’s march to another world title.
“I locked the front right and it just didn’t seem to come back. I had a big flat spot, which I felt straight away and I wasn’t sure if the tyre would survive, but fortunately I managed to make it round and have a strong first stint. I pushed straight away to get a bit of a gap, in case we had to stop early and change to a two stop strategy. We had a gearbox issue and I had to short shift, which meant we dropped some time in the straights – but I tried to make it up in the corners. It’s great to finish on the top step. The podium here is always very passionate. We are in Italy and when you walk around outside the track, you see Ferrari clothing and merchandise in all the shops starting from the smallest sizes upwards; it’s part of their DNA, which I understand. It was great for the Tifosi to have Fernando on the podium today.” Sebastian Vettel, DEU, Red Bull Renault
“It’s a great place here and it’s very special to finish on the podium. It’s not the circuit where I’ve had the best results in the past, so it’s a bit of a personal best for me in qualifying and the race. I felt better on the soft tyres today; I had a good battle with Fernando, fair play to him on that and then afterwards I settled in to getting my head down and getting on with the race. We got Felipe on the stop, which was great. I was happy with my in lap, the pit stop was great and then my out lap was strong, so we cleared him reasonably comfortably. We had to nurse the gearbox a bit at the end, but overall it was a good result.” Mark Webber, AUS, Red Bull Renault
“When Vettel pitted, we were still doing green sector times and so we opted to lengthen the stint as much as possible, at least while Webber was not becoming a threat. That way, we could have tried to get Vettel on Hard tyres that were fresher by a few laps. We tried our best and even if we have to be realistic about our championship chances, as it’s not an easy task to close down a 53 point gap in the few remaining races, in Formula 1 anything can happen and we will believe in our chances all the way to the finish line in Brazil, always trying to give a hundred percent.” Fernando Alonso, ESP, Ferrari
“It’s a great result and, after yesterday, another great performance by the team today. I am very happy and fifth was the ideal result. Despite starting third, it was always clear keeping the Ferrari and Red Bulls behind was not realistic. 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 Rosberg leaving no room for me making any mistakes. It’s a very nice result for the team, and finally we have some points again.” Nico Hulkenberg, DEU, Sauber
“My radio failed right at the start of the race and it’s really tough when that happens as you rely on the advice and information from the team to manage your race. I didn’t even know about the slow puncture until after the race so now it makes more sense why we had to make the extra stop. I did have some fun this afternoon, particularly fighting with Kimi. It’s just tough fighting so far down the field when our car was clearly really quick.” Lewis Hamilton, GBR, Mercedes
“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 tyre – 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. Finally, I just want to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the guys in the garage today. They had to really work hard to repair my car’s fuel system before the race, in record time, and they pulled out all the stops to get it all done.” Jenson Button, GBR, McLaren Mercedes
“I just got caught out going into the second chicane because the cars ahead of me got backed up – I guess they were reacting to the tussle going on ahead of them. I locked both fronts trying to stop the car and ended up hitting Grosjean. Unfortunately it was too late to take avoiding action.” Paul Di Resta, GBR, Force India Mercedes
CLASSIFICATION – RACE – 2013 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
|18||Van Der Garde||NED||Caterham|
|22||Di Resta||GBR||Force India||Accident|