Strategy, rather than raw pace dictated the race winner for the Italian Grand Prix as Brawn GP notched up a 1-2 finish – courtesy their one-pit-stop strategy – and it was Rubens Barrichello who took the chequered flag ahead of teammate and championship leader Jenson Button. Kimi Raikkonen was gifted the 3rd place as Lewis Hamilton spun out and crashed into the wall on the last lap of the race, an incident which brought out the Safety Car even as the chequered flag fell at the same time!
Adrian Sutil ensured Force India’s second biggest points haul as he finished in 4th place, with Fernando Alonso taking 5th, Heikki Kovalainen 6th, Nick Heidfeld 7th and Sebastian Vettel 8th. Giancarlo Fisichella narrowly missed scoring a point on his Ferrari debut as he finished 9th.
The start was a low key affair as none of the first-corner mayhem was encountered here but Kimi Raikkonen got the drop over Adrian Sutil and slotted into second place behind Hamilton as the cars traversed the tricky first corners. Heikki Kovalainen, who had the heaviest fuel load amongst the top four cars and was looking like an outside choice for taking the race win could not get away quite as well as the Brawns behind him and dropped as low as eight in the first lap. Championship contender Mark Webber was an early casualty as he got tapped into a spin into the gravel trap by the BMW of Robert Kubica, who himself retired a few laps later…probably because of the damage sustained in that incident.
Other notable retirements included the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi, who suffered a gearbox/transmission failure when he was running strongly in fourth position and the Renault of Jaime Algersuari. Despite being an incident free race, it was an exciting one to watch as there were several mini-battles up and down the field which made for edge-of-the-seat action. The best one of them all has to be the Force India Vs. Ferrari battle which was running for almost the entire race as Kimi Raikkonen had to contend with a rampaging Force India for the second race in a row, this time that of Adrian Sutil. The two Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock also had a close rum thing, which probably might have been catalysed by the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima. Then there was a chase building up between Hamilton in third and Button out in front and the McLaren was catching up ever so slightly each lap but ultimately Lewis’ crash meant that never materialised into a right royal battle.
The biggest loser from this race – apart from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton i.e. – has to be the Red Bull team, and especially Mark Webber, whose retirement meant he loses further ground in the championship battle with the Brawn drivers. Sebastian Vettel scored a solitary point and that will be scarce consolation, given that the Brawn team hauled in 18 points. McLaren could have gained a bit of ground over Ferrari in the battle for third position in the Constructors’ title but Lewis’ late shunt meant that Ferrari consolidate that position, going 15 points clear.
Force India also would be disappointed with Liuzzi’s mechanical failure, if not for which they would have celebrated their first double-points finish. And if Adrian Sutil had kept his cool in the second pit-stop, he would have got the jump on Kimi Raikkonen – who stalled as he exited his pit box. But Sutil had an awry entry into his own pit box and knocked over a mechanic and that cost him a valuable second or two.
The F1 caravan now moves into darkness – the next race being the night race at Singapore, and Jenson Button has seen his lead in the Championship standings whittle down to just 14 points. With his teammate being the closest contender now, it will be all the more hard for Button to cement his lead as he will be in the know that Rubens will have the same car…so its a question of who driver it better. A veritable headache for Ross Brawn as well, with both his drivers battling out for the championship…hopefully a situation of favouring one driver over the other won’t arise. Will Singapore be the race that defines the outcome of the season? Will we see another crash/spin/slam/shunt that will decide the outcome of the race? Whatever it will be, it will make for great viewing. Bring.It.On.