It’s been well over a month since Hot Rod or Hot Dog last graced the PC screens of loyal Badger readers. This was an absence caused, first of all, by a holiday and then by your correspondent actually attending the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa (which was brilliant, by the way).

One of those races which was enthralling without ever being dramatic, the Italian Grand Prix had a number of interesting championship connotations, closing it up at the top. It was good to be at another ‘proper’ track – we at Badger like the bumps and the general ramshackle state of the track. It conjures up the history of F1 in a way that Singapore, Turkey and others simply can’t hope to match.

The prancing horse...prancing around © 2010 Sutton Images

Ferrari

  • Qualifying: Alonso (1st) Massa (3rd)
  • Race: Alonso (1st) Massa (3rd)

A weekend during which Ferrari, while they didn’t quite dominate, came fairly close to it – first and third in qualifying and then first and third in the race.

The reality, as ever, was slightly more exciting than those stats make it sound. Alonso was beaten from the line by the fast-starting Button but, truth be told, rarely looked troubled as he tracked him closely in second until the pit stops. Massa, for his part, was able to stay close behind but, after those events in Germany, was never likely to have a go at his Spanish team mate, was he?

The pit stops were the defining feature of the race, with Ferrari turning in a great team performance to put their team leader out on track ahead of Button’s McLaren. Given how tight it was, it just merely goes to show how important it was that the team turn Alonso’s pit stop round as quickly as possible.

All in all, this was exactly the story Ferrari and Alonso wanted. A victory in Italy for their lead driver will go some way towards closing the door on the team orders scandal and, in Ferrari’s mind, providing justification for their actions. Just don’t expect us to agree.

Badger’s best: Alonso

McLaren

  • Qualifying: Button (2nd) Hamilton (5th)
  • Race: Button (2nd) Hamilton (ret)

Another weekend in which the McLaren drivers ended up going in vastly different directions. Button’s decision to run the car with much higher downforce and the f-duct appeared to be justified after he comprehensively out qualified Hamilton. It seems Jenson is always more willing to make the big decisions and, more often than not, gets them right. There’s no substitute for experience.

The race mostly went according to plan for the man from Frome, leading into the first corner and holding Alonso off until the first pit stops. Sadly, Jenson wasn’t able to get the prime tyres to work for him immediately and admitted to being “disappointed” when he saw Alonso’s red Ferrari emerge in front of him. Master of understatement, our Jenson.

Hamilton, by contrast never really got going all weekend, qualifying in fifth and then retiring on the first lap. That said, he appeared to be genuinely magnanimous, congratulating Button for outperforming him and apologising to the team for going out of the race. Does this herald a new maturity in his racing? Has he finally realised that it’s ok to be disappointed without being angry?  If so, Jenson Button could be the best thing that happened to him.

Badger’s best: Button

Red Bull

  • Qualifying: Webber (4th) Vettel (6th)
  • Race: Vettel (4th) Webber (6th)

Another race for Red Bull in which they failed to capitalise on their rivals’ mistakes. Hamilton’s early exit and failure to score points was the perfect opportunity for Webber to become the presumptive favourite for the title going into the final five races. Needless to say (this is Red Bull after all), they failed to make the most of the opportunity.

Webber managed to make another seriously deficient start to the race, slipping back to ninth from fourth on the grid. Vettel was similarly afflicted; there’s liking a challenge and then there’s just going out of your way to make it difficult for yourself. Sadly, Red Bull seem to be very good at the latter.

Both drivers had issues during the race apart from the start – Vettel losing about four seconds when his engine decided that powering his car had become a chore, but then quickly coming back again. Webber’s problems continued when he was stuck behind Hulkenberg, who seemed to be driving a slightly different track to the other drivers. Going across the chicane that many times simply isn’t cricket.

On another note, the team must have been very grateful that Vettel was far enough ahead to come out comfortably ahead of Webber, especially with the big boss of Red Bull in the garage.

Badger’s best: Vettel

Mercedes

  • Qualifying: Rosberg (7th) Schumacher (12th)
  • Race: Rosberg (5th) Schumacher (9th)

Another weekend in which Rosberg beat Schumacher and, with new rumours swirling about the elder German’s participation, or lack thereof, next season it’ll be very interesting to see what the next few races hold. That said, the new rumours do seem to be entirely based upon a hunch Eddie Jordan has, so we at Badger aren’t exactly betting the Sett on it happening.

Neither driver really had much to do in the race, with Schumacher even going so far as to describe it as “lonely”. Not quite the same as an Italian Grand Prix weekend with Ferrari, is it Michael?

Ross Brawn seemed to feel a similar lack of inspiration, describing the result as “very respectable” and emphasising the double points finish. Simply put, Mercedes are in a holding pattern now until the end of the season. Respectable finishes and staying ahead of Renault (who, remember, are effectively operating with one driver) are the orders of the day.

Badger’s best: Rosberg