Vettel closes in on title with Italian GP win
October 13, 2011
First Published: 18:43 IST(13/10/2011)
Last Updated: 19:00 IST(13/10/2011)
Sebastian Vettel won the Italian Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday, fighting off an audacious challenge from defending champion Fernando Alonso.
Vettel's eighth victory of the year gives the Red Bull driver an opportunity to clinch his second Formula One title in the next race in Singapore later this month.
The key points in the race came early on, with Alonso making a risky move to take the lead on the opening straight after starting in fourth position on the grid.
Alonso put one tyre of his Ferrari on the grass to get around McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and then beat Vettel to the first chicane.
Vettel wasn't about to stay second, however, and went around Alonso on the outside of the sweeping Curva Grande in the fifth lap, cruising to victory from there.
McLaren's Jenson Button eventually passed Alonso to finish second and Alonso was third at the checkered flag with Hamilton fourth.
Vettel clocked 1 hour, 20 minute, 46.172 seconds for the 53-lap race, with Button crossing 9.590 seconds behind and Alonso 16.909 back.
It was the 18th victory of Vettel's career and second at Monza.
Vettel became the youngest winner in F1 history here in 2008 at the age of 21 with Toro Rosso but his fourth-place finish last year was Red Bull's best result in six attempts at the track — until now.
With average speeds of 250 kph (155 mph) and top speeds of 340 kph (211 mph), Monza is the fastest circuit on the calendar, and drivers got optimal use out of their drag reduction systems (DRS) — adjustable rear wings — and the KERS power boosts, creating a race filled with overtaking.
But, as is so often the case, the race began with chaos.
Further back on the starting grid, Vitantonio Liuzzi slid his HRT across the grass and into Vitaly Petrov's Renault and Nico Rosberg's Mercedes at the first chicane, bringing out the safety car and ending the race for all three drivers.
Red Bull's Mark Webber then attempted to pass Ferrari's Felipe Massa on the sixth lap and made contact. Massa emerged seemingly unscathed but Webber lost his front nose and crashed later in the lap to end his race.
Hamilton and five-time Monza champion Michael Schumacher traded places twice in a tight battle for third, with Hamilton eventually remaining in front, but the British driver then made an error that allowed Button to surge past, as Schumacher dropped back after his first pit stop.
Button passed Alonso with 16 laps to go and the Spaniard held off a pressing Hamilton on the final lap.
Alonso got Ferrari's only win this year at the British GP in July, and with the home team struggling attendance in Monza appeared slightly down from past years.
The Ferrari fans who came to the track north of Milan posted banners offering encouragement, with many saying "We'll always be with you."
Alonso bowed to the crowd during the podium celebration and received a warm applause from the fans — more affectionately known as "tifosi."
The race was held in clear and warm conditions, with the track temperature soaring to 43 degrees Celsius (110 F).
Daniel Ricciardo of HRC, Jerome D'Ambrosio of Virgin and Adrian Sutil of Force India had their races cut short, each with apparent technical problems.