Reigning World Champion and runaway points leader Sebastian Vettel took his 18th career victory at Monza, three years after his first at the same track. Although some predicted a race full of slipstream based overtaking, the victor was decided after only 5 laps. And four of them were behind the safety car.
When the lights went out it was Fernando Alonso who got the drop on the front row of Vettel and Hamilton, using the grass to send to Tifosi wild, leading into the first chicane. Others weren’t as lucky; Tonio Luizzi lost his HRT and slid across the grass to slam into Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg, ruining the Mercedes alternate strategy of starting on the prime tyres. All three cars were eliminated on the spot, and Jerome D’Ambrosio’s gearbox gave up to make it four retirements on lap one.
At the restart, Michael Schumacher got the jump on a sleepy Lewis Hamilton to take 3rd place. Later in the lap, Vettel showed just how brave an overtaker he is by passing Alonso’s Ferrari around the outside, having to take to the grass himself to make the move stick. As soon as that happened, the German started to do what he’s done best this season; extend his lead second-by-second as the laps ticked by.
Behind him, Alonso settled into a steady rhythm. His teammate Felipe Massa had a more exciting afternoon, being collected by Mark Webber while defending 6th place. The Brazilian would recover from the spin to regain 6th place, while Webber wouldn’t be so lucky – the Aussie straight-lining the Parabolica on the way back for a new front wing and ending up in the crash barriers.
The main focus of the race then centered around the battle for 3rd place. For 28 laps – including after the first round of stops – Michael Schumacher held Lewis Hamilton at bay. The Mercedes had less straightline speed in comparison to it’s McLaren counterpart, but in the hands of the wily German veteran it became quite the challenge for Lewis to pass. Several times the Brit came close only for the door to be slammed shut. And even when one pass stuck, Schumacher took him immediately back again! All the while, Jenson Button was closing from 5th place at over a second a lap.
Schumacher continued to defend vigorously, pushing Hamilton wide off the track. Button pounced to pass his fellow McLaren, and almost immediately was on the tail of the Mercedes. Proving that the McLaren wasn’t as slow as Lewis was making out, Button made an overtake stick straight away and started to hunt down Fernando Alonso in second place; Hamilton continued to sit behind Michael, albeit impatiently. Hamilton finally found his way past Schumacher as the German yielded position on the approach to Ascari – only to find himself once again staring at the back of the Mercedes after his second pit stop. Lewis finally made a pass stick on the seven-time world champion with 15 laps to go and crossed the line in fourth.
The Button-Alonso fight for runners up spot would be decided after the second round of pitstops. The Brit cut the deficit to only a few seconds before both stopped on the same lap – different to 12 months previous when they were fighting for the lead – and both switched to the harder tyre. The Ferrari’s problems in getting heat into the tyre reared it’s head again and Button would pass for 2nd on lap 36 and would be untroubled to the flag.
Further down the field, the early race mayhem led to several cars being out of position. Pastor Maldonado was 6th at one point, but fell like a stone out of the points to 11th at the finish. The Toro Rossos, on the other hand, made their way steadily through the field to score a double points finish of 7th and 10th for Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi respectively. Paul Di Resta made another impressive haul for Force India with 8th, while Bruno Senna celebrated a full time Renault drive, chasing down and passing Buemi in the final laps to take his first career points with 9th.
Sebastian Vettel now leads the championship by a whopping 112 points, and can seal the title by winning in Singapore next time out – but only if his distant title rivals finish in a certain order. But, for now, it’s business as usual for the German and Red Bull.