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GP Week : Issue 189
The fat lady might not be singing yet, but she is certainly warming up her vocal chords. With yet another commanding performance, sebastian Vettel drew ever nearer to his fourth consecutive drivers’ championship after an Italian Grand Prix that was a walk in the (royal) park. Red Bull dominated Saturday’s qualifying session, and were untroubled for the bulk of Sunday’s race, although there were a few hairy moments on the pit wall when it emerged that both Vettel and departing teammate Mark Webber had gearbox issues. The Australian was forced to short-shift between second and third for much of the closing stages of the Monza race, while Vettel struggled in the higher gears. But both men made it to the finish unscathed, with Vettel extending his championship lead while Webber bid farewell to his European F1 career with his first Monza podium. Vettel made the win look effortless, pulling out an ever-increasing lead over the rest of the pack despite a flat-spotted right front tyre affecting his handling until his sole pit stop. Fernando Alonso briefly led the race once Vettel had dived into the pits, but the German racer pushed hard enough on his fresh rubber to make it impossible for the Ferrari driver to stop while holding on to the lead. While it was a faultless performance from the defending world champion, the essentially lights to flag win made for a rather less thrilling race than the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza usually delivers, despite a string of excellent battles taking place behind the leading pack. After disappointing qualifying performances from both Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen the stage was set for the two world champions to inject drama into Sunday afternoon’s proceedings as they fought their way up through the pack. But Raikkonen was forced to pit at the end of the first lap following an incident, while Hamilton picked up a slow puncture early on that prevented him from completing the planned one-stop strategy that should have seen the Briton finish higher than ninth place. Neither Raikkonen nor Hamilton left Monza with the results they had hoped for, but both men delivered a series of spectacular overtaking manoeuvres as they fought their way through the field, occasionally battling each other. The closing laps saw a flurry of passes from the pair as they took advantage of every possible opportunity to fight their way back up and into the points. Hamilton was successful, but Raikkonen was unable to make it past Jenson Button for the final points-paying position before the race came to an end. Felipe Massa’s Ferrari future remains uncertain, but the Brazilian driver delivered an able performance around La Pista Magica on Sunday afternoon, getting a better start off the line than teammate Alonso, and running in second place at the end of the first lap. But by lap six Alonso was gaining on the Paulista, and lap eight saw a clean battle between the two that was won by the Spaniard who was undoubtedly faster. Shortly after the race reached its mid-point Massa started to gain on Webber immediately ahead, thanks partly to the Australian’s gearbox issues, but the opportunity to pass the Red Bull never presented itself, and he crossed the line in fourth place, one of his three best finishes of the season thus far. On the weekend that saw McLaren celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in Formula One the team suffered a disappointing result, with only one point to call their own. Where gearbox issues were the order of the day for several of the points-scorers, for Button it was gear ratios that caused the problem, with the Woking racers gambling on short gears that failed to pay off in the race. Curva Blande ... 27 GPWEEK.com // 27 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> ITALY