Italian GP: Hamilton cruises to Monza victory for McLaren, Button retires
By Berthold Bouman
Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza for McLaren this afternoon, but his team mate Jenson Button had to give up the race, Sergio Perez was second for Sauber, while Alonso finished third for Ferrari.
Hamilton, who never won the Italian Grand Prix, commented, “Since I started in Formula One, Monza has been one of the races I always wanted to win at — it’s such an incredible, historic circuit and all the great racing drivers have won here. To finally put my name on that list makes me feel extremely proud, but also very humble.”
At the start of the race the big question was of course who of the two McLaren drivers would turn into the Variante Rettifilo first, it was Lewis Hamilton as Felipe Massa took second place from Jenson Button, while Michael Schumacher also made a good start and consolidated his fourth place, he was followed by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull who had started from sixth place.
Although the Mercedes engine should be faster, Vettel was able to take fourth place from his compatriot Schumacher at the Variante Rettifilo, while Alonso tried to get past the Mercedes one lap later, but did not succeed.
The next lap Alonso did get past and took fifth place from the German, much to the delight of his pit crew. Paul di Resta on 11th place pushed Bruno Senna off the track and the Brazilian had to use the escape road, almost at the same time Jean-Eric Vergne due to a technical problem, something in the back of the car broke when he applied the brakes, flew high over the curbs at the first chicane, and was the first to retire from the race.
Meanwhile a battle had developed for sixth place, as Schumacher was leading Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez, who were less than a second behind the seven-times World Champion. On lap 14 it was time for the first round of pit stops, the first to pit was Rosberg, who was going for a two-stop race, next was Schumacher who clearly also had used the best of his rear tyres, the German rejoined the race in 15th position.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was still leading with Massa five seconds behind him, and Button was two seconds behind the Ferrari. Raikkonen also had tyre problems, because Sergio Perez easily moved past him at the Variante Ascari, Raikkonen immediately pitted for new tyres, and rejoined the race in 15th place, just behind Schumacher who by then had moved up to 14th spot.
Also tyre problems for Massa, Button was able to take back his second place with a great overtaking manoeuvre on the Brazilian at the Variante Ascari. Also Massa came in for a change of tyres, and after 20 laps rejoined the race in 12th place.
Next were Alonso and Vettel, they pitted at the same time, both exited the pit lane side-by-side, but Vettel was just a bit faster and kept the Ferrari behind him. Button then came in for his stop, but had a tiny problem with the right-front wheel, but he nevertheless rejoined the race with Massa still behind him.
Leader Hamilton made his stop, this time a flawless one and he rejoined the race in second place, Perez in the Sauber, who hadn’t made his stop yet, was then leading the Italian Grand Prix, the Mexican was clearly on a one-stop strategy.
A nice battle for fifth place emerged, Vettel passed Alonso at the first chicane, the Spaniard tried to take his place back at the Curva Grande, but the German pushed him off the track into the grass.
With 25 laps to go the order was: Perez, Hamilton, Button, Massa, Vettel, Alonso, Schumacher and Raikkonen was eighth. Just one lap later Hamilton took his leading position back from Perez, who still hadn’t pitted.
The Italian Tifosi went nuts after Alonso finally overtook Vettel again, the Red Bull car didn’t have the top-speed to keep the leader of the championship behind him. But Vettel’s earlier move on Alonso was under investigation by the FIA Stewards, and this could cost him a drive-through penalty which of course would ruin his race. He indeed got the penalty, and fell back to ninth place.
Disaster struck at McLaren, Button had to park his car on the long back-straight, and reported to his pit crew, “No drive, no drive.” And for what it’s worth, his team reported back he had a ‘fuel pick-up’ problem.
Raikkonen started to lose grip due to tyre degradation and Perez took over his fifth place, but the Finn took it back just before the Lesmo corners, unfortunately for him Perez outsmarted him at the first chicane one lap later and this time very convincingly beat the Finn. Also Nico Rosberg passed him and Raikkonen in the black and gold Lotus was then sixth.
An in-team battle at Red Bull as Webber and Vettel were battling for position, but Vettel was faster and Webber had to let him go. Another in-team battle was decided just ahead of the first chicane, as Massa let Alonso past without putting up a fight.
With 11 laps to go, Perez who by then had made his mandatory stop, was on the move and came closer and closer to the Ferrari of Massa in third place, after he had found his way past the Lotus of Raikkonen. Just one lap later Perez took over Massa’s third place, and was then on his way to his next rival: Alonso. The difference was just a few tenths of a second, and it was just a question of time before Perez took second place from Alonso.
The sting seems to be in the tail this season, and that was the case at Monza as well, next victim was Vettel, who was ordered by his team to park his smoking Red Bull, as they knew it was the alternator again that had caused the problem, and they needed to save the engine, Renault’s Remi Taffin will again have some explaining to do.
Webber was a bit too fast exiting the Variante Ascari, spun, but was able to get back on the tarmac again, at the same time Hulkenberg parked his Force India in the garage, Webber also came in and the Australian also retired from the Italian Grand Prix, probably with the same problem as Vettel, so it was not a good day for Red Bull or Renault.
Which in the end meant Alonso was incredibly lucky his rivals bar Hamilton all had to retire, and thus was not only able to limit the damage, but also extended his lead. Hamilton of course crossed the finish line first, Perez was second, and Alonso third. Massa was fourth, Raikkonen fifth and Schumacher sixth.
Perez was very happy with his second place, “This was a very enjoyable race for me. It was one of those where you have the pace and are the one to attack. I am very happy for the team which is working very hard. It is a really good team, I am proud of it.”
Alonso said it had been a perfect Sunday for him, “The win was out of reach; after the problem yesterday starting tenth it was not easy to think about victory. So if you cannot win then the podium is the next target, I think before the race all the predictions we had we were never finishing on the podium so basically it’s much better than expected. And Jenson was out of the race, and the two Red Bull’s so it was a good Sunday.”
Alonso is still leading the Drivers’ Championship and now has 179 points, Hamilton is second with 142 points and Raikkonen has moved up to third place and has 141 points. No points for Vettel and Webber, and they fell back to fourth and fifth position respectively, while Button is now sixth.