Vettel wins F1 Italian Grand Prix to extend title lead

September 9, 2013 1:53 pm

Sebastian Vettel romped to victory in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza to extend his championship lead to 53 points, overcoming gearbox maladies that also blighted team mate Mark Webber’s race.

The Red Bull duo, starting from the front row, finished 1st and 3rd to sandwich the Ferrari favourite Fernando Alonso who advanced from his 5th place grid slot to the podium and gave the fanatical tifosi cause to cheer – although the booing during the podium for race winner Vettel left a rather sour taste in the mouth for many.

Sebastian Vettel was faultless from start to finish.

Sebastian Vettel was faultless from start to finish.

Kimi Raikkonen made contact at the first corner with the McLaren of Sergio Perez, rear-ending the Mexican’s car and sending him skating down an escape road. The incident set the tone for a difficult afternoon for Lotus, with the Finn failing to make it into the points and finishing 11th as team-mate Romain Grosjean struggled to 8th place.

Further turn one action saw Felipe Massa jump Webber for 2nd, while Jenson Button made a bad getaway and slipped down the order from 9th on the grid. Lewis Hamilton had jumped forward a couple of places to get his race of recovery underway to a positive start, but the Briton was called into the pits early in his first stint with warnings of a slow puncture on his right front tyre; Hamilton was one of only three drivers to start the race on the harder Pirelli compound. Radio woes delayed his arrival in the pitbox by three laps, but the puncture was slow enough to avoid major problems for the Mercedes man.

Jean Eric Vergne was doing a solid job of holding up Button and Perez in the battle for 8th place (Button having passed his Mexican team mate as he climbed back through the field) but the Frenchman’s impressive performance came to an abrupt end on lap fourteen as his Toro Rosso expired with a puff of smoke – his fifth retirement of the season. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was also running strongly in 7th, behind Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg, who was defying the odds to cling on for some major points for cash-strapped Sauber.

The first round of stops was uneventful, the exception to the rule being Webber managing to work his way back ahead of Massa with some slick work from the Red Bull pitcrew – but the Australian had already lost out to Alonso, who had passed the Red Bull man some laps earlier.

Action up front was not forthcoming as Vettel pulled out a twelve second lead over Alonso, and it was left to the midfield runners to provide the entertainment as Raikkonen and Hamilton, running a contrary two-stop strategy, made their way through the order – but neither man could make significant headway in the dying laps and all they could do was deepen misery of McLaren on their 50th anniversary weekend. Perez was quickly despatched, although not after making an attempt at re-passing Raikkonen, and Hamilton managed to pass Button who was struggling on a flat-spotted front right tyre.

Massa held on for a solid 4th behind the podium finishers, ahead of Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Hamilton and Button. Force India, normally a serious competitor at Monza, had a dismal afternoon to round off what has been a disastrous weekend for them; Paul Di Resta clattered into the back of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus on lap one at the second chicane and crashed out of the race, while Adrian Sutil retired from 16th place with mechanical gremlins on the final lap. Williams had another day to forget, with both cars coming home well outside the points.

The win saw Vettel extend his lead over arch-rival Fernando Alonso to a daunting 53 points.

The win saw Vettel extend his lead over arch-rival Fernando Alonso to a daunting 53 points.

Red Bull experienced a minor scare in the final twenty laps of the race as first Webber, then Vettel began to show the beginnings of a gearbox malfunction – both men were asked to short-shift to preserve the double-podium result, but it cost Webber any chance of making a move on Alonso for a Red Bull one-two.

Vettel’s 6th victory of the season places him firmly in control of the driver’s championship, but with 175 points left to play for Alonso, all his serious contenders are still in with a chance of halting the German World Champion’s march to another world title.

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