Italian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Despite the early threat of inclement weather, Sebastian Vettel was able to command the race from a comfortable P1, to claim his third victory at the infamous Italian Grand Prix. Even the power of the Tifosi was not enough to overhaul Vettel’s dominance, as Fernando Alonso could only finish second, after enjoying a race long battle with Mark Webber. Further back, it was a thoroughly disappointing day for the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Paul Di Resta as their luck failed to change following their less than impressive qualifying displays.

Vettel’s lights to flag victory was simply stunning. His only error came before Turn 1, as the German locked up under sizeable pressure from Mark Webber and a fast starting Felipe Massa. He managed to make the apex and retain the lead, however, a concerning flat spot on the right front prompted frequent radio communication as the pit wall evaluated the danger of the situation. Fortunately for Vettel fans, the issue was well regulated and did not cause any alterations to the target strategy. From this point forward, the victory was never in doubt.

While most of the paddock admired a stunning performance courtesy of Sebastian, the Tifosi demonstrated their passion on the podium, as a chorus of booing drowned out the defending Champion’s interview. While this has been an all too frequent issue this season, the Tifosi were predictably loud in their protest. Despite this, an un-fazed Sebastian downplayed the heckling, stating; “You can hear the difference, obviously, when you don’t win here in a red suit – you get a lot of that. It’s very nice because you mean you have done very well and beat the red guys.”
In terms of his overall race, Team Principal Christian Horner acknowledged the seriousness of the flat spot which threatened to derail the German’s race. “It was a big, big lock-up,” declared Horner. “We could see from the data on the radio that it was big and we were just trying to get to a target lap. He managed it really well and make it work. The second-half of the race was a little more comfortable.”
Meanwhile on the opposite side of the Red Bull garage, Mark Webber made it two Red Bull’s on the podium, as the Aussie claimed P3. In the final European race of his F1 career, Mark almost led into the first corner, before being passed by Felipe Massa. Later in the opening stint, Alonso fought his way past at the della Roggia chicane, clipping Webber’s wing as he passed and damaging the Aussie’s end-plate. The damage was significant aesthetically, yet the team did not feel the need to change the wing. After jumping Felipe in the stops, Mark challenged Alonso in the closing stages yet could not employ DRS to make the pass. However, Webber was pleased with his personal best performance in Italy – His first podium at the Cathedral of Speed.
Further back in the field and two results in particular stood out as impressive. Nico Hulkenberg – my personal pick for driver of the day, claimed a stunning P5 after holding off Nico Rosberg for large portions of the race. The Mercedes failed to pass the immovable Sauber, as Hulkenberg looks to attract the attention of the front running teams as decisions are made in terms of 2014 driver pairings. Following his sublime drive, Hulkenberg stated; “This is a 100% weekend for us, after yesterday we had another great day. To finish fifth was probably the right result for us because we only finished behind Red Bull and Ferrari which was great. His stock will have undoubtedly been raised this weekend, with the likes of Lotus and Ferrari having already been strongly linked with the promising German. 
In addition, Daniel Ricciardo equalled his best finish with a well earned P7. While the Toro Rosso did not have the pace which many had anticipated, Daniel managed to keep both McLaren drivers at bay, as they mounted a strong challenge behind. His attitude has been impeccable since the announcement was made regarding his Red Bull future, and he appears to be relishing the opportunity to drive without pressure. “I am pleased with that!” he said of his Italian GP. “After qualifying well yesterday, it was nice to maintain that position at the end of today. In recent races where we have managed to qualify in the top ten, we didn’t have the pace to stay there in the race, but today we did. 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. The others got close to me in the second sector, but I was able to pull away once we got to the high speed sections, which we knew from yesterday would be our strong point.” The crucial six points now elevate him above Jean Eric Vergne in the Championship, who had to retire following a transmission failure. 
Elsewhere, Jenson Button claimed a solitary point for McLaren on their 50th anniversary weekend. However, just minutes before the race, it looked as though he would not make the start, as the mechanics frantically worked to repair a fuel pick-up irregularity. Fortunately, he made it onto the start in time, yet his fortunes did not improve throughout the race, as he struggled with gear ratio deficiencies. “Today was tough. I think our pace was better than 10th, but we got stuck behind the Toro Rosso and couldn’t overtake,” he explained. “The problem was that as soon as the fuel load comes down, the straightline speed is far greater. As soon as we followed anyone we were in a difficult position. We got it wrong with the ratios and it’s a problem we will hopefully solve for the next one. When we are ‘DRSing’ we were stuck at 331[km/h], and everybody is passing by at 340. We made a mistake.”    
It was not a great day in general for the British drivers. Firstly, Paul Di Resta made an uncharacteristic error when heading into the della Roggia Chicane on Lap 1. He locked his left front, before careering into the back of Romain Grosjean. The Lotus escaped unscathed, yet Paul was forced to retire on the opening lap for the first time in his career. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton could only climb to P9 after having to stop early on lap 13 after the team detected a slow puncture. Consequently, he had to make two stops and despite a late charge through the field, Lewis could only manage to salvage two points. “It is a nightmare weekend for me,” he said. “It’s a real shame but these kind of things happen. It has been a good year, we’re just going to keep pushing.”   
One man leaving Monza in buoyant mood will be Sebastian Vettel. After further extending his lead in the championship, he is in a privileged position, with little pressure from his nearest challengers. As Formula One heads to Asia, many are suggesting that Sebastian has all but confirmed his fourth World Championship crown.       

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