F1 RACE REPORT: MONZA, ITALY
With rare mechanical problems hitting the front runners, DAVID HOOPER reviews the Monza grand prix.
THE perfect start heralded the perfect race for an untouchable Lewis Hamilton at the Monza Grand Prix in Italy.
One of the old-school circuits, the high-speed track was the setting for some more thrilling action as the world’s finest drivers set about their business.
McLaren had secured their first one-two of the season at the top of the grid, but as the lights went out, Button lost a place to the quick-reacting Massa into the first corner.
The field made a clean start on the narrow Monza track and jostled for position throughout the first lap, with Michael Schumacher, who had out-qualified his team-mate Nico Rosberg, again making hay in the Italian sunshine and no doubt hoping for a podium finish.
Different tyre strategies favoured those thinking outside the box, with Sauber’s Sergio Perez, who is increasingly impressive, moving up through the field from 12th on the grid to challenge the front-runners, leading the race briefly when Hamilton pitted for tyres.
As if to stake his claim on Massa’s seat at Ferrari, Perez passed Fernando Alonso at one stage, but Massa isn’t going to go without a fight, having out-qualified his world championship leading team mate and matching him on track for much of the race, eventually only missing out on his first podium for a couple of years because of his worn out tyres.
Monza turned out to be a bad day at the office for some of the top teams and drivers. Reliability issues seemed to have been largely consigned to the history books in recent times, but the heat in Italy seemed to take its toll.
First to go was Button who had no option but to retire his McLaren when a fuelling problem stopped his engine. He coasted into the side of the track before waving to an appreciative crowd as he trudged back to the pits.
Red Bull also had a day to forget, with Vettel’s car suffering from a recurring alternator problem which meant he had to park it quickly to save his engine – something team boss Christian Horner didn’t sound too pleased about as it had caused problems in qualifying and was supposed to have been fixed.
To compound the team’s misery, Mark Webber, who had been running strongly, also retired after pushing too hard and dropping the car as his rear tyres ran out of grip. The resulting spin shredded the rubber through to the canvas making the car undriveable.
Vettel’s retirement made the most controversial incident of the race irrelevant. The German was given a drive-through penalty by the stewards for pushing Alonso wide, and off the circuit at 180mph in Curva Grande. Alonso just managed to keep control of his Ferrari, avoiding what could have been his second serious crash in as many weeks, but the stewards took the view that Vettel had been aggressive in pushing him wide. Or was it really just a racing incident in Italy which affected a Ferrari?
At the chequered flag, Hamilton was first to cross the line in dominant fashion, followed home by Sergio Perez who I don’t think would have been much happier if he’d crossed the line first.
Alonso was third, consolidating his championship lead with a 37point gap to a resurgent Hamilton. Massa finished fourth, ahead of Raikkonen, Schumacher and Rosberg in seventh.
Vettel’s DNF saw him drop to fourth in the championship, behind Hamilton and the other surprise of the season, Kimi Raikkonen, who once again impressed with his firm but fair driving style. Mark Webber is now fifth and a clearly disappointed Button sixth after his car let him down. With a 78 point deficit, he’s now almost out of contention for this year’s title.
Next up are the bright night lights of Singapore on September 23.