Monza 8 September – The traditional fan invasion turned the track red as they swarmed across it to stand under the famous Monza podium after the race and while there were three drivers standing on it, the only name being chanted out loud was that of Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari man produced another magnificent performance to take second place behind the seemingly unstoppable Sebastian Vettel, who today secured his sixth win of the season for Red Bull. Joining them in third place was the German’s team-mate Mark Webber. In the other F138, Felipe finished where he started, in fourth place, bringing home important points for the team. In fact, the tally of 30 today promotes the Prancing Horse to second, ahead of Mercedes. At the start of the weekend, Alonso had set himself two targets that can keep in the fight for the Drivers’ crown; finishing on the podium and ahead of Vettel. Today, only one of those targets was reached, but there were encouraging signs of a pick up in general performance, so the Singapore appointment in a fortnight’s time will be the real test of where the Scuderia stands.
As the lights went out, Vettel maintained the pole lead, with Webber riding shotgun, but as both Ferraris went first down the inside, with Felipe then moving across to the first corner, the Brazilian managed to squeeze ahead of the Australian to take second place. Having started eleventh, Raikkonen had to pit the Lotus to change the nose after a first lap collision. On lap 3, Fernando produced a fantastic passing move on Webber at the second chicane to take third and set off in pursuit of his team mate. Vettel in the Red Bull had a 3.6 s lead over the Ferraris as the flying Fernando passed Felipe on lap 8.
After ten laps, the order was Vettel, 5.2 ahead of Fernando, who had a 1.3 lead over his team-mate, while in the other Red Bull, Webber was 0.7 behind the Brazilian. Fifth was Hulkenberg in the Sauber, followed by Rosberg (Mercedes,) Ricciardo (Toro Rosso,) Perez (McLaren,) Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Button completing the top ten for McLaren. Fernando was being informed from the pit wall that Red Bull was concerned about a problem with Vettel’s right front tyre, possibly because he locked the wheel at the first corner after the start and on lap 13 Hamilton had to pit the Mercedes with a puncture. Meanwhile, Felipe was coming under a lot of pressure from Webber. Lap 19 and Webber was pushing Felipe hard. Lap 23 and Ricciardo pitted the Toro Rosso from seventh place while one lap later, Red Bull double pitted both their drivers so that Alonso led temporarily, as Massa and Hulkenberg came down pit lane together on lap 25. This was a key moment, as Webber managed to get ahead of the Ferrari man at this point. The Scuderia waited until lap 28 to bring Fernando in for a switch to the Hard compound and when the run of pit stops was over, Vettel still led from the Spaniard, with their respective team-mates in third and fourth places.
In fact, the top four positions never changed from now on, but there was still plenty of action to keep the fans entertained. Lap 31 and Hamilton was moving up the order, passing Mercedes team-mate Rosberg and then setting off to chase Hulkenberg whom he passed to go fifth on lap 34. Webber was gradually reeling in Fernando and they were nose to tail on lap 39, the Australian getting the gap down to under a second so that DRS would play its part soon, but the Ferrari man fought back, pulling out a couple of tenths next time round.
With ten laps remaining, Vettel led Fernando by 12.2 seconds and the Spaniard had Webber just 0.6s off his tail, although the Australian was being told to look after his gearbox. Felipe was a further 2.2 behind the Red Bull and 4.7 ahead of Hulkenberg who was having a great dice with fellow German Rosberg. Ricciardo was seventh, with Button, Grosjean and Perez making up the rest of the top ten. There was a change to this order on lap 45, when Grosjean got his Lotus ahead of Button’s McLaren. In these closing stages, the most thrilling action involved the fight for a lowly eleventh place between two former World Champions, Raikkonen and Hamilton as the Englishman tried all he could to pass the Finn, pulling alongside and even ahead in the first part of the chicane, but not making it stick. Eventually he did get past and also dispensed with Button. But Hamilton and Raikkonen must now believe their slight hopes of title glory are over for this year.
The Monza podium ceremony is always an event in itself and a great way to say farewell to the European part of the season for another year. This time it was made even more special, particularly for Ferrari fans as the presentation and interviews with the top three were conducted by two great “Ferraristi,” the ever popular Jean Alesi and the great John Surtees, who won this race to clinch the World Championship crown at the wheel of a Ferrari back in 1964.