2013 ITALIAN FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX
His run to the flag was not without its problems, but the world champion completed the 53 lap race untroubled by a surging Alonso.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
Red Bull made it a formality at Royal Park Monza, despite a history of doing poorly at the high speed circuits. The Bulls were at or near the front in all three sessions and covered both sides of the front row.
Ferrari had a slight mishap with Massa out-qualifying Alonso, despite being expected to help the team leader by providing a tow, prompting a sarcastic radio transmission from Alonso.
Neither Lotus made Q3 and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton also sat out the final part.
Adrian Sutil was demoted three places on the grid for holding up the Briton, but the Mercedes team admitted the car's floor was damaged.
Daniel Ricciardo made it to seventh in his Toro Rosso, ahead of team mate Vergne.
A crash-strewn GP3 race preceded the main race as rain fell at the track. This meant the teams had to work out what to do about tyres and how to ensure their strategy was flexible on a damp surface, however the sixty percent chance of rain never eventuated.
Webber got a good start and was monstered to the edge of the track by Vettel who then made life difficult for his teammate by locking up. Massa bought in to the squabble by coming around the outside and slotted into second, pushing Webber back to third.
di Resta had a shocker of a start after piling into Grosjean, losing his front wing and left front wheel on lap one and retiring on the spot. He was later reprimanded by the stewards.
Raikkonen was also in trouble and pulled in to the pits at the end of the first lap with a missing wing end plate. The Finn had got an epic start but ran into Perez, who popped over in front of the Lotus before hitting the brakes for turn one.
Webber had to contend with Alonso having DRS on lap three and through the chicane Alonso went around the outside, clipping the Red Bull on the exit. Alonso didn't get much time to breathe as Webber had the DRS advantage and stayed with the Ferrari.
The Ferrari in front changed, however, as Alonso breezed by Massa, leaving the Brazilian ahead of the Australian.
Alonso had a gap to bridge, however, as Vettel was over four seconds ahead by lap nine. An ominous message came over the radio, however, saying his right front tyre wasn't looking good.
Lewis Hamilton's awful weekend continued. Having been able to recover and start on the harder tyre, he had no radio and copped a puncture and had to pit on lap 12. Except he didn't hear the command or see the pit board. He pitted two laps later, much to the relief of his team.
By lap 15, Webber was ready to attack and did so, having a crack at Felipe Massa at turn one, but to no avail.
Vergne's promising race was undone as the right bank of his Ferrari V8 gave up at Della Roggia, letting Button through for ninth.
Nico Hulkenberg was at last enjoying a good race for the embattled Sauber team, running in fifth, his best performance of the season.
Alonso complained to his team that Vettel was running illegally with his rain light flashing, perhaps suspecting sabotage but more likely trying to find a way to have him penalised.
Grosjean pulled in for the first scheduled stop of the race on lap 21, switching to the mediums tyre. He had a slow stop which preciptated a frantic message to Button, telling him to push so he could leap the Frenchman.
Ricciardo to was urged to push before his stop from seventh, with Perez close behind in pit lane. The Toro Rosso returned to the lead of that battle after a poor stop for Perez, but lost his place to Rosberg.
Vettel's stop came at the end of lap 23, his right front tyre troubling him no longer. Webber came in behind, both stops well under three seconds despite their close proximity.
Alonso stayed out as Massa came in at the end of lap 24 - by the slimmest of margins, Webber went through turn one ahead of the Ferrari, whom he left to hold off Kimi Raikkonen.
Hulkenberg pitted on the same lap, coming out of the pits but locking his right front into the first corner.
Ferrari left Alonso out until lap 27, as the cars behind went faster and faster. When he did emerge from the pits, he had Webber on his gearbox.
Hulkenberg was asked by his team to save the tyres but had Lewis Hamilton behind him. The Mercedes drver was very keen to get past the Sauber but was succesfully parried several times by the German.
Hamilton eventually got by at Curva Grande, a brave move in the face of robust defence and he pitted a few laps later on lap 38.
Romain Grosjean livened things up by passing Perez on lap 39, a brave, but clean pass for ninth.
Webber pulled right up behind Alonso's Ferrari on lap 40 for a renewed attack with the aid of DRS. The attack was barely two laps old before he was told to short-shift due to yet another car problem for the Australian.
He had another problem in Felipe Massa who was travelling much faster than both he and Alonso.
The gearbox troubles were contagious at Red Bull, with Vettel told to short shift in the higher gears, as opposed to Webber's instruction for lower gears.
Both cars had changed a number of gearbox bits under parc ferme conditions before the race and the team were worried.
Raikkonen's problems continued as his team let him know that his KERS was broken. It didn't seem to bother him as he made a huge pass on Hamilton on lap 48, boxing the Mercedes driver in on his way through turn one.
Hamilton came back at him the following lap, the Briton setting Raikkonen up, biding his time and waiting for superior traction off the exit of turn two. Hamilton set off after his replacement at McLaren, Perez, and passed him on lap 50. Button was next, and Lewis was past on lap 51.
Raikkonen wasn't done for the race, passing Perez at Della Roggia on the second last lap.
Hamilton made an unsuccesful assault on Grosjean, running wide and allowing Grosjean ahead again to ensure he held on to the points.
Vettel crossed the line just under six seconds ahead of Alonso who was less than a second ahead of Webber.
Webber made it home in third and parked his RB9 on the pit exit, shortly joined by Kimi Raikkonen. Amazingly, it was Webber's first Monza podium in over a decade of racing in F1.
"We got Felipe on the stop, which was great. I was happy with my in-lap, the pit stop was great and then my out-lap was strong, so we cleared him reasonably comfortably. We had to nurse the gearbox a bit at the end, but overall it was a good result," Webber said.
Nico Hulkenberg held on to his sensational fifth place in the Sauber, a welcome boost to the struggling team.
Daniel Ricciardo made it to seventh place, behind Rosberg but ahead of Grosjean, Hamilton and Button.
"I am pleased with that! After qualifying well yesterday, it was nice to maintain that position at the end of today. I think I got the most out of the car, managing to keep the guys behind me and the low downforce set-up certainly helped us down the straights," Ricciardo said.
Raikkonen, despite all his hard work, was only able to manage eleventh.
Formula 1 returns in two weeks for the Singapore Grand Prix.
- Vettel - Red Bull-Renault 1h18m33.352
- Alonso - Ferrari + 5.4
- Webber - Red Bull-Renault + 6.3
- Massa - Ferrari + 9.3
- Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari + 10.3
- Rosberg - Mercedes + 10.9
- Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 32.3
- Grosjean - Lotus-Renault + 33.1
- Hamilton - Mercedes + 33.5
- Button - McLaren-Mercedes + 38.3
- Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault + 38.6
- Perez - McLaren-Mercedes + 39.7
- Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari + 40.8
- Maldonado - Williams-Renault + 49.0
- Bottas - Williams-Renault + 56.8
- Sutil - Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
- Perez - McLaren-Mercedes + 1 lap
- van der Garde Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
- Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
- Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
- Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari 35
- Di Resta - Force India-Mercedes 1