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GP Week : Issue 133
Webber’s race ends after contact with Massa F1 ITALY >> THE RB7’s strength is in its cornering, and the collection of straights that comprise the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was expected to play to the strengths of McLaren and Ferrari at the cost of a Red Bull victory. But no one told Sebastian Vettel, whose commanding performance saw the defending world champion deliver the Milton Keynes-based team their first win at the legendary Italian temple of speed. Sunday afternoon looked as though it might be a risky proposition for Vettel, who had selected a short seventh gear ratio to give him an advantage in the corners at the possible cost of power along the straights. In the end, the gearing proved to be irrelevant, as Vettel had pulled out a 4.2s lead on the competition within five laps of the Safety Car returning to the pits. By lap 21, when Vettel pitted from the lead, he had pulled out such a sizeable gap to the cars behind that he was able to reclaim his position at the head of the pack without breaking a sweat. This despite a poor start that saw Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso take the lead when he, Vettel, and Lewis Hamilton arrived at the first corner as one. Vettel – who is often accused of only being able to deliver lights to flag wins – silenced his critics when he slipped past Alonso within a single lap of the Safety Car being recalled. Button comes through to beat Alonso MARK Webber’s slim chances of chasing the 2011 Formula One drivers’ title were ended when the Australian driver retired from the Italian Grand Prix. Webber’s retirement was the first of the season for the dominant Red Bull team, and it is that reliability that kept the Australian in second place in the championship hunt despite his failure to win a race this season. The Australian driver was attempting to pass Ferrari driver Felipe Massa on lap 5 when the two men made contact, costing Webber his front wing in the process. While he gamely attempted to return to the pits for a new nosecone, the change in aerodynamic balance proved to be too much for the 33-year-old driver to handle, and his Italian Grand Prix weekend came to an abrupt end courtesy of the tyre wall at the legendary Parabolica. Describing the incident to T V reporters following his retirement, Webber was typically pragmatic about the consequences of his DNF. “I got a good run down the straight, tried to go around outside and Felipe started to come across he said. “I thought, ‘I need to get out of here’ but I didn’t know he was going to come across. Into Turn 2 I started to bail out of the move but if you clip inside of the kerbs it launches the car. I think I made contact with him and then tried to get back to the pits but didn’t know front wing was jammed under the front of the car. Then I lost the steering.” Webber arrived in Monza the man best- placed to depose team-mate Sebastian Vettel; the two men were split by 92 points. But following his retirement the Australian now leaves Italy 117 points adrift of the defending champion, with only 150 points left to play for. “I think we’re all battling for second now,” Webber admitted. “Seb needs to have a very, very incredibly disappointing end to the season for anybody to take the championship off him. A missed opportunity for me but I’ll come back in Singapore.” 30