Nancy Knapp Schilke
Vettel and Red Bull celebrate victory at Monza; Alonso gives Italian fans a podium finish
Sebastian Vettel scored the victory on Autodromo Nazionale Monza’s very fast circuit today. It was the reigning Formula One World Champion’s second win in Monza, Italy but the first victory for the Red Bull team. He said that it was “a very special win”. The Red Bull driver was snookered at the start of the race when Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso had a great start. When the lights went out Alonso sailed down the inside line, making it three wide, to take the lead by the first corner.
To come here and win was fantastic!
Once Vettel took the lead, he was dominant and neither the two pit stops for tires nor the overtaking of slower cars slowed down his drive to the top of the podium for the eighth time this year. His first Italian Grand Prix win came in 2008 at the home track of Ferrari when he handed the Toro Rosso team their first Formula One victory but today was special for the Red Bull team. “You guys did a great job” on the team radio after taking the checkered flag. Two past Formula One champions followed him across the line. Jensen Button placed second and Alonso took the final podium slot; giving the Italian fans a reason to celebrate.
“It was an emotional win today. This circuit means such a lot to me and is very special. I had my first win here, so when I crossed the line I remembered every single bit of it,” said Vettel. “The podium is absolutely unbelievable here; when you stand up there you feel blessed, as it doesn't happen to many people. There are so many people underneath and you can see them all coming, even from Curva Grande – it’s just unbelievable.”
The start was wild with Alonso taking the lead away from the duo on the front row as he not only surprised Vettel but he shocked Lewis Hamilton as well. However before they all could get on with the business of racing, the Safety Car was deployed due to an accident. When they went back to green, Alonso and Vettel pulled away while Michael Schumacher overtook Hamilton and the two of them began what proved to be one of the best matches of the race. It was on that same restart lap where Vettel was able to power by Alonso.
Button took his time before he caught up with his McLaren teammate Hamilton and Mercedes’ Schumacher, who were in an excellent fight for third, and while the two past Formula One champions battled, Vettel and Alonso were building a gap over the duo. Even the first round of pit stops did not slow down Schumacher or Hamilton. However, it opened the door for Button to sail past the two.
Once in third, the Briton set his sights on Alonso and a new challenge began. The top five on the leaderboard were all Formula One champions and the close racing that took place was, no doubt, what all spectators want to witness. Felipe Massa, who nearly won the 2008 title, got tangled up early, but found his way back to place sixth in his Ferrari behind Hamilton and Schumacher.
The battle settled down and at the finish, Button was still under pressure from Alonso. “The fight with Lewis and Michael and then Alonso made for a really good race,” he said, adding with a smile, “It was a lot of fun!”
Alonso wanted to give the fans the victory today but was pleased to see reaction to having the red colors of Ferrari on the podium. “Here in Monza, we knew we had the potential off the line but not competitive enough to keep the lead,” admitted the Spaniard. “But returning to this magnificent podium wearing the Scuderia race suit is always very exciting. I said it yesterday: a podium place is within our grasp. We knew we needed to get a great start and we managed it, partly down to a great preparation job done with the engineers over the past two days. I am happy we are on the podium for the fans.”
Hamilton finished fourth and said, “It was a good race: I finished and I got some points, so I can’t really complain. “We were a little bit slow on the straight today, which meant it was hard to get past Michael, who was faster along the straight even when I had my DRS activated. I had to really fight Schumacher, but the fact that I finished ahead of him meant everything was okay. That’s racing.”
The seven times champion also commented on the battle he shared with Hamilton: "It was an exciting race today, both for me and I think for all of our fans, and that is why I am happy. The fighting against Lewis was big fun, and my mirrors seemed to be very small at times. We are both known for driving on the limit, and that is what we did. I had to make my car as wide as a truck, and had to stretch the possible as much as I could, but in the end, as expected, he was still faster.”
The final driver on the lead lap was Massa who was disappointed but pleased to have at least finished the race and the Brazilian said, “I can only be disappointed with this sixth place, because today I could definitely have fought for a place on the podium. Unfortunately, the incident caused by Webber cost me too much time and I dropped to tenth place.”
Red Bull’s Mark Webber retired four laps into the race after he earlier had light contact with Massa. The front wing was damaged on the Red Bull car. As he was slowly touring the circuit, a piece of the wing was stuck under his car and he ended up into sliding off the circuit and into a tire barrier.
The Australian explained what happened between him and Massa: “I was lining up Felipe, breaking around the outside for Turn One, trying to get the inside line for turn two. I probably wasn't quite far enough to get completely inside, but when I tried to come out of the move the kerbing on the inside is obviously pretty high; as soon as I touched that I unfortunately made contact with Felipe and that was that.”
The start of the race was a chaos when Vitantonio Liuzzi went off track before coming back on and slamming into a pack of cars. Besides the HRT driver being out of the race before the first lap was even in the books, so were Nico Rosberg for the Mercedes team and Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov. Also retiring after limping back to the Virgin team garage was Jerome d'Ambrosio who had a gearbox problem and apparently was not involved in the actual accident. None of the drivers involved were injured and several were able to continue including Rubens Barrichello who was able to keep his Williams on the same lap as the leaders.
Liuzzi explained what happened at the start: “I was really looking forward to my home race and, although I knew it was going to be tough, it all ended prematurely. I had a good start getting past both Virgins, Lotuses and Daniel (Ricciardo) but then I went for another overtaking manoeuvre and got closed out. That put me into the grass and once I was there I tried to slow down but completely lost control of the car and unfortunately hit other cars. I am really sorry for Petrov, Rosberg and the other drivers who were forced to retire because of this. Now it’s over but we are fighters and we have to look ahead to the next race.”
It was Petrov who took the worst hit as Liuzzi slammed into the side of his Renault and he commented, “Naturally I am very disappointed with what happened today. I had a reasonable start and, as I was heading into the first chicane, Vitantonio’s HRT came from nowhere and hit me big time, which brought my race to an end. There’s nothing I could have done to avoid this. First of all, I’m happy not to be injured, as the impact was quite strong and it could have been a nasty accident.”
It was not a good day for the HRT team as Daniel Ricciardo had engine problems and ended up retiring. Nine drivers ended up as “retirements” including Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez for the Sauber team. Force India’s Adrian Sutil was on the list.
Both Toro Rosso drivers finished with Jaime Alguersuari placing seventh, one lap down from the top six, while his teammate Sebastien Buemi placed 10th. “I am very happy with my race today. I think I would like to start even further back on the grid for the next one, because it seems that whenever I have a poor grid position, I finish in the points! I am also very pleased for the team, as they got both cars home in the points,” said Alguersuari.
Force India’s Paul di Resta was eighth followed across the line by Bruno Senna for the Lotus Renault team. Both Williams cars, despite the opening lap accident, finished with Pastor Maldonado 11th and Barrichello in 12th. Also finishing were both of the Team Lotus drivers, two laps down. Heikki Kovalainen was ahead of his teammate Jarno Trulli. The final finisher in 15th was Virgin’s Timo Glock.
While he looks forward to the next race in Singapore where he could notched his second crown, Vettel commented , “It was a great race for us. As it's 150 years for Italian Unity also, I think it makes it special for everyone here, so thank you to all the fans.”