Sebastian Vettel took his and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s first-ever F1 victory at the Italian Grand Prix which started out in damp conditions and behind the Safety Car. Heikki Kovalainen was second for Mclaren with BMW’s Robert Kubica taking third place. Just when it seemed that it would be a dull race behind the safety car, came the news that it would pull off in the second lap and when it did so and racing resumed, there were no sudden manoeuvres or lunges from any of the drivers as the conditions were still treacherous to make any ill-thought moves. The first few laps were very gingerly done as the drivers tiptoed around the fast Monza circuit on extreme-wet-tyres while trying to watch the track in-front through the spray threw about by the car in front but as the rain relented, the front-runners started making their moves and it was Lewis Hamilton who made the most places as he overtook a bunch of cars and ran as high as second at one time.
The pit-stops were strategic as few drivers were on a single-stoppers whilst others were on two-stoppers but ultimately almost every driver stopped twice – those on a single-fuel-stop had to stop again to throw on intermediate tyres as the forecast rain did not appear and the track dried sufficiently to warrant going onto them. The middle-part of the race saw Felipe Massa as the strongest of the drivers as he wove his way around the slower cars in front while Hamilton again demonstrated his wet-weather drive as he overtook few cars again after his second pit-stop; but he didn’t endear himself to his fellow drivers with some needless aggression on those moves! Those who had a disappointing second-stops included the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen & both the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock who dropped down to 14th, 15th and 16th places at the end of it! Those who took advantage from their sole stops included BMW’s Robert Kubica who was the last of the drivers to stop for fuel thus propelling him to third place. Towards the latter laps, tyre graining on the intermediates affected many, including Lewis Hamilton as he almost lost his seventh place to the Red Bull of Mark Webber and there was a needless shutting-of-the door from Lewis as he and Webber touched wheels. The only retirement of the race was that of Giancarlo Fisichella on the 11th lap, who hit the back of David Coulthard as he overtook him and damaged his nose-wing in the process. It was a bitter end to the Italian’s home grand prix and also scuppered Force India’s best start of the season.
Amidst all of this, Sebastian Vettel drove a near-perfect race as he led from start to finish and became F1’s youngest ever victor, beating Fernando Alonso’s record. Toro Rosso also hauled in their first-ever victory in F1 but it could have been all the more sweeter if Sebastian Bourdais’ car hadn’t stalled at the start of the race. McLaren had something to savour as Heikki Kovalainen took home second place ahead of Robert Kubica. Renault had their best finish of the season with Fernando Alonso taking the fourth place with BMW’s Nick Heidfeld in fifth. Felipe Massa ended where he started on the grid – in sixth – but his title contender Lewis Hamilton made up eight places and took the seventh place. Mark Webber finished eight and took the last available point. Kimi Raikkonen went home with 0 points and just the fastest lap to his name! Surely this signals the end of his Championship defense…especially with Kubica now moving seven points clear of him into third place in the Championship table. F1 now moves onto Singapore for the first-ever night race with Lewis Hamilton holding a 1 point lead over Felipe Massa (pending the Spa penalty appeal, which will be heard on Sep 22).
Image Courtesy: Reuters