The final race of the European leg of the 2013 F1 World Championship would see the final time that the V8 engines would roar around the cathedral of speed, as 53 laps of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza would see the title fight ramp up another gear once again, as we edge ever closer to finding out just who will take the Drivers’ title.
The hallowed grounds hosting round 12 of the 2013 season that have scarlet red flowing through its veins would see the faithful Tifosi cheer on their heroes at “la pista magica,” with speeds approaching 215mph, full throttle for the majority of the lap and extreme braking zones testing the nerves of the 22 drivers of the Formula One grid.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel extended his lead even further in the race for the title as he took his 32nd career win five years after an emphatic win here with Scuderia Toro Rosso. He took the top step of the podium ahead of Scuderia Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who fended off the final podium finisher, Australia’s Mark Webber, who stepped onto the podium for his final visit to the Italian track in a Formula One car. The top ten were split by just over 10 seconds after a fairly processional race, which heated up in the last 5 to 10 laps.
The rain threatened proceedings early, and had gotten worse as the time to lights out in Italy drew closer, however the track started to dry out, prompting a decision by all to remain on slick tyres. Jenson Button’s pit garage-stricken McLaren MP4-28 was being feverishly worked on, as a result of a fuel system issue with an hour until lights out, but still made it out to his grid slot for the start.
Track temperatures were around the 30-degree mark, as Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel led the 18th front-row lock out ahead of the departing Mark Webber, but with a sixty percent chance of rain scheduled, it was anyone’s guess as to what may happen. Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg was on the second row ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, having had his best qualifying session on the year, whereas Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were out of position, as the cars made their way around the 3.6 mile track on the formation lap
Pandemonium ensued into the very first corner, as the two Ferraris of Massa and Alonso were swarming all over the back of the leading pair, as Raikkonen hit the back of Perez going into the first chicane, with Vettel keeping all at bay after locking up into the very first corner. The Iceman pitted after the first lap to change his front wing, whilst Paul di Resta ended up being the first of two retirements. The Scot lost his front wing and left front wheel coming into the second chicane, after contact with Romain Grosjean, quickly ending another difficult weekend with the Sahara Force India team.
Massa made his way into P2, with Webber and Alonso in P3 and P4, with Hulkenberg relegated to P5. Raikkonen showed the pace of the Lotus as soon as he was back on track, setting the fastest lap of the race, with Alonso getting past Webber for P4 into Turn 5 around the outside. Lewis Hamilton’s race did not get off to the best of starts, as his radio was not working, being unable to communicate with the pits, and showed that the Mercedes was not the quickest car from the onset, as he found former teammate Button swarming around the back of him in the early goings.
Alonso was then able to easily pass Massa for P2 a couple of laps later into the first chicane, as Vettel was told by his race engineer, that there was a potential problem with the right front tyre, as a result of the locking up into the first corner, whereas Hamilton was to suffer a slow puncture, pitting for new tyres on Lap 13 after two tries on the radio for the team to instruct him to pit.
Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne was to suffer another DNF, as his car ground to a standstill that very lap, even with the pace that both he and Daniel Ricciardo had been showing all weekend. Jenson Button scored the only solitary point for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, who were celebrating their 50th anniversary as a race team this weekend, as both cars were struggling later in the race, with Perez being passed by several drivers in the final 5 laps after a botched pit-stop on Lap 22.
Both Red Bull drivers were stacked in their pitstops, allowing Ferrari’s duo to move ahead to the delight of the Tifosi, with Alonso leading the way. Hamilton again showed the true pace of the W04, as he set fastest lap after fastest lap in rapid succession, having passed Sutil, Raikkonen, Perez and Button before the end of the race. His attempts at passing both Grosjean and Ricciardo were to be to no avail, as he locked up trying to pass the Frenchman, ending his chances on the very last lap.
Both Vettel and Webber were informed that they needed to short-shift during the race to keep their chances of finishing the race high, even though the Australian was wanting to gain another place on Alonso before the end. But both drivers guided their chariots of speed home, as the triple World Champion took the chequered flag in the second successive race, having led from the front. Alonso and Webber got themselves back home safely, with the Australian and the Iceman running out of fuel pretty much straight after crossing the finish line, as fuel may have been run at the absolute limit. Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top five, with Nico Rosberg outscoring his team mate for this race. Ricciardo has silenced his critics as he came home to a good top ten finish in P7, ahead of Grosjean, Hamilton and Button
So, its Ciao Monza, as in a fortnight’s time, we head to Round 13 of the 2013 Formula One World Championship, with the racing set to get underway under the bright floodlights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit of Singapore. The Far East puts all under pressure with the long-haul flyaway races leading the season to its eventual conclusion at Interlagos later this year. Sebastian Vettel leads Fernando Alonso by a massive lead of 53 points heading to the Orient – will anyone be able to catch him?
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic (c)