September 8th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel has converted Red Bull's 50th pole position into the team's 40th race victory, with a dominant drive at Monza. Fernando Alonso drove a determined race for Ferrari to finish second, followed by Mark Webber, who had a gearbox issue in the latter part of the race but managed to bring his car home third.
Vettel did not make a particularly good start, but managed to hold onto the lead. He locked up his right front tyre heavily into the first corner, which compromised the handling of his Red Bull in the early part of the race. The flat spot was bad enough that there was visible oscillation through the front wing on the long straights. But Vettel had the pace to pull away despite his tyre problem, and by the time his pit stop came around, he was well in control of the race.
Fernando Alonso did not have the dream start he would have wanted. He managed to pass Nico Hulkenberg on the exit of the first corner, but was unable to make any immediate impression on the Red Bulls ahead. Fortunately for Alonso, one of the cars ahead was the other Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who he knew would not resist an attempt to pass.
When Alonso eventually got past Mark Webber, causing some minor damage to Webber's front wing in the process, he set about chasing Massa, who let him through without any fuss. Alonso then did his best to chase down Vettel, but simply did not have the pace to challenge Vettel. It was clear quite early in the race that Alonso had no chance of victory without Vettel suffering misfortune.
Massa made a stunning start, passing Hulkenberg and Webber before the first corner. He did not have the pace to challenge Vettel however, and fell into a supporting role when Alonso came up behind him. Massa eventually finished fourth to complete a strong result for Ferrari.
Mark Webber, despite sustaining damage to his front wing during the early-race scuffle with Alonso, chased Alonso down in the closing stages of the race and did his best to pass. But the Red Bull's gearbox proved to be somewhat fragile, and Webber had to manage a gear-shifting problem in the final laps of the race, which undoubtedly hurt his attempts to pass Alonso.
When Nico Hulkenberg took a surprise third position in qualifying on Saturday, it was generally expected that he would go backwards during the race. As it happened, there was plenty of speed available in the Sauber and Hulkenberg managed to hold onto fifth place after losing two positions on the opening lap. It was a mature, quick drive from the young German who has been linked to a possible Ferrari drive for 2014.
Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth and seventh, where they started, after finding themselves unable to make much of an impression on the cars ahead during the race. Surprisingly, Rosberg was unable to challenge Hulkenberg despite being in a car that has proven much faster than the Sauber throughout the season thus far.
Romain Grosjean finished eighth for Lotus after fighting off a fast-charging Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race. Hamilton picked up a slow puncture early in the race, which forced him to switch to a two-stop strategy, while almost the entire field made just one stop. As a result, Hamilton was on much fresher tyres than those ahead towards the end of the race, and he made his fresh rubber count, fighting his way from 14th after his final stop to ninth by the finish.
Jenson Button picked up a single point for McLaren by finishing tenth, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who, like Hamilton, was on a two-stop strategy. In Raikkonen's case, his strategy was affected by first lap front wing damage, which forced him into an early pitstop. He found himself marginally short of fuel at the end of the race, which cost him the performance he needed to pass Button for tenth place.
Vettel is now 53 points clear of Alonso at the top of the championship, which means he will win the championship by finishing second at each of the remaining seven races, even if Alonso wins every race until the end of the season. Hamilton is now effectively out of contention in the title race, 81 points behind Vettel in third place in the championship.
Ferrari have passed Mercedes for second place in the Constructors' Championship, but are now 104 points Red Bull and look unlikely to challenge for the title this season.
Full result from the Italian Grand Prix:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||53||Winner||1||25|
|2||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||53||+5.4 secs||5||18|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||53||+6.3 secs||2||15|
|4||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||53||+9.3 secs||4||12|
|5||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||53||+10.3 secs||3||10|
|6||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||53||+10.9 secs||6||8|
|7||19||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||53||+32.3 secs||7||6|
|8||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||53||+33.1 secs||13||4|
|9||10||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||53||+33.5 secs||12||2|
|10||5||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||53||+38.3 secs||9||1|
|11||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||53||+38.6 secs||11|
|12||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren-Mercedes||53||+39.7 secs||8|
|13||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||53||+40.8 secs||16|
|14||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||53||+49.0 secs||14|
|15||17||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Renault||53||+56.8 secs||18|
|16||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||52||+1 Lap||17|
|17||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||52||+1 Lap||20|
|18||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||52||+1 Lap||19|
|19||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||52||+1 Lap||21|
|20||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||52||+1 Lap||22|
|Ret||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||14||+39 Laps||10|
|Ret||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||0||Accident||15|