Sebastian Vettel has romped to his eighth victory of an already-dominant 2011 Formula 1 season, moving closer towards claiming back-to-back championship titles.
It was the team’s first win at Monza – a known weak spot for the team in previous years – with the German overtaking early race leader Fernando Alonso in an incident-filled race.
The 24-car grid was greeted with ideal conditions, as the race got underway. The start would be crucial, with Vettel being vulnerable to the chasing at the start because he’d elected to run shorter gear ratios, which gave him excellent acceleration, but reduced straight-line speed.
Despite expectations that it would be one of the McLarens leading into the tight chicane at the end of the start/finish straight, fourth-placed Fernando Alonso made the best start much to the delight of the cheering tifosi, squeezing up the inside under braking after putting two wheels on the grass.
But the Safety Car was out almost immediately, courtesy of a multi-car accident triggered by Vitantonio Liuzzi’s out-of-control HRT. The Italian was squeezed onto the inside kerbing by Heikki Kovalainen as the pack funnelled towards the first chicane; slewing him sideway onto the grass.
Liuzzi hadn’t gained so many places in such a short time, but it wouldn’t last long when he rejoined the apex of the corner completely sideways, clobbering Vitaly Petrov, who in turn was shoved into Nico Rosberg.
All three were out on the spot – Liuzzi would later be given a five-place grid penalty for the Singapore Grand Prix for triggering the pile-up – while Rubens Barrichello was caught up in the melee, rejoining at the rear of the field after pitting for a new nose cone.
Kamui Kobayashi also damaged his front wing in the fracas, while Jérôme d’Ambrosio also retired at the end of the first lap with a gearbox failure. Daniel Ricciardo also paid a visit to the pits, rejoining many laps down after being unable to get off the line.
The Safety Car peeled off at the start of the fourth lap, and an inattentive Lewis Hamilton found himself overtaken by Michael Schumacher, who grabbed third place from the McLaren driver after making a now-typical demon start.
Mark Webber claimed sixth place from Jenson Button, having yet again made a poor start that cost him several places off the line.
But a lap later, the Australian’s race – and his very slim championship hopes – would come undone. Trying to pass Felipe Massa for fifth at the first chicane, the Red Bull driver tagged the back of Felipe’s Ferrari, tipping him into a spin and damaging his own front wing. Trying to hurry back to the pits for repairs, the front wing folded under the car, leading to him crashing out at Parabolica.
Any concerns that Vettel would be swamped by the chasing pack were quickly proven to be unfounded, with the German swarming all over the back of Alonso when racing resumed, and on the fifth lap he passed the Spaniard around the outside of Curva Grande, putting two wheels on the grass when Alonso tried to defend his position.
From then on, Vettel cruised serenely to win, earning himself a 112-point lead, which means he could theoretically wrap up the title fight at Singapore in a fortnight’s time.
It was a convincing display from Vettel, but to be truthful, few people were actually interested in his dominance.
Behind him, there was action aplenty in what was again another overtaking-fest.
Alonso quickly came under attack from the battling Schumacher and Hamilton, but the latter pair quickly became absorbed in their own scrap for third place, allowing Alonso to stage a quick escape.
Despite being able to use his DRS through each of the circuit’s two designated zones, Hamilton could not find a way past Schumacher. For lap after lap, he remained firmly glued to the back of the Mercedes, which was proving to be extremely slippery in a straight line. Schumacher had to occasionally resort to some tried and tested defensive moves, firmly shutting the door when Hamilton tried to send one past the German, particularly as the pair braked for the Ascari chicane.
With the pair holding each other up, this allowed Button to close up, and the Briton forced his way past Hamilton on the sixteenth lap, and then almost immediately showed Hamilton how a Schumacher pass should be done, breezing by the the former World Champion at Ascari to take third place. He now set himself the task of chasing down Alonso in second, and he overtook the Spaniard shortly after the second round of pit stops.
Even the first round of pit stops wouldn’t get Hamilton past Schumacher, but he finally completed the move on Lap 27 at Ascari. Free of Schumacher, Hamilton quickly closed down the gap to third-placed Alonso, but ran out of laps to mount a serious challenge for third place.
This left Schumacher to finish an encouraging fifth, while Massa recovered from his fifth-lap spin (courtesy of Webber) to charge through the field to claim sixth place.
The fight for the minor points proved equally fascinating, and the smaller teams were all clamouring to snatch points, provided they could see out the finish.
Sauber were, despite pre-race expectations that they would struggle at Monza, in the best position to regain a firmer hold on sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship, with both Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi looking on course for a healthy dose of points. But both would retire at mid-distance.
Force India was another outfit with the potential to claim a brace of points, but Adrian Sutil would retire early on, while Paul di Resta was able to scrounge for four points by finishing in eighth place, holding off Bruno Senna – who staged a late charge after being delayed by the first-corner chaos – who claimed his first championship points with ninth place in the Renault.
Williams were another team that looked set to be rewarded with a big pay day, and Pastor Maldonado ran as high as sixth place in the high-attrition race. But the FW33’s lack of straight-line speed was found wanting, and the Venezuelan fell like a stone down the timesheets, eventually finishing in 11th place and out of the points. Having also lost massive amounts of time at the first-corner fracas, Barrichello cruised home in 12th place.
This left Toro Rosso to claim a nice helping of points and bring it to within a handful of challenging Sauber and Force India for sixth place in the team standings.
After qualifying well down the order in 18th place, Jaime Alguersuari drove a brilliant race, charging through the field to finish an excellent seventh in what was one of the best drives of the underrated Spaniard’s career. Team-mate Sébastien Buemi finished tenth to claim the final point, finding his pace wanting in final stint on the harder Pirelli tyres when he lost ninth place to Senna.
The two Lotus’ brought up the rear, with Heikki Kovalainen finishing 13th to cement the team’s tenth place in the all-important battle of the sophomore teams. Team-mate Jarno Trulli finished half a minute behind in 14th, while Timo Glock brought the sole Virgin entry home in 15th and last place.
2011 Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (53 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||53||1:20:46.172|
|2.||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||53||+ 9.590|
|3.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||53||+ 16.909|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||53||+ 17.471|
|5.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||53||+ 32.677|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||53||+ 42.993|
|7.||Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||52||1 lap behind|
|8.||Paul di Resta||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||52||1 lap behind|
|9.||Bruno Senna||Lotus Renault GP R31||52||1 lap behind|
|10.||Sébastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||52||1 lap behind|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||52||1 lap behind|
|12.||Rubens Barrichello||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||52||1 lap behind|
|13.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus – Renault T128||51||2 laps behind|
|14.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus – Renault T128||51||2 laps behind|
|15.||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||51||2 laps behind|
|NCF.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||39||14 laps behind|
|DNF.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||32||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||21||Engine|
|DNF.||Adrian Sutil||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||9||Hydraulics|
|DNF.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||4||Accident|
|DNF.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||1||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Vitaly Petrov||Lotus Renault GP R31||0||Pile-up|
|DNF.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||0||Pile-up|
|DNF.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||0||Pile-up|
|Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||52||1:26.187|
Click here to view the current Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship standings.