There is an old section of the banking at Monza that carries with it the echoes of Formula One’s darker days; ever since the tragic fatality of Wolfgang von Trips in the early 60s, Monza has eschewed the high speed banking because of the danger it carries.
Bit of a sombre note to begin with, but Monza is steeped in Formula One history and is still a low downforce, high speed circuit (much of it is run on full-throttle), and none exploited that more than Sebastian Vettel who, this afternoon, moved himself within spitting distance of his fourth consecutive world title by stomping to victory in Italy. Sombre news perhaps, for his rivals.
But, after the fiasco with Alonso’s qualifying yesterday, the heroic Spaniard wrung every last drop out of his F138 to close in on Vettel’s dominant Bull to finish second and get on the podium, at least. Some of the moves he put out today, particularly the spectacular one to get past Webber on lap one, brought the tifosi to their feet in celebration. Despite finishing a distant second – he was some five seconds behind Vettel when they crossed the line – he still got a rapturous applause on the second step, the crowd chanting out “A-LON-SO, A-LON-SO” (they even carried a ginormous Ferrari flag the width of the track down the start/finish straight when it was opened up to show him their appreciation).
Webber clocked in a third placed finish, beating Felipe Massa to the podium, but Vettel later revealed both Red Bulls were suffering from gearbox problems and had to coast their cars home. Still, he’s getting used to the catcalls from the top spot, saying “you can hear the difference when you don’t win here in a red suit”.
Hulkenberg started third, as you will have read, but ended up fifth; no bad result as it still gives Sauber decent points and means he finished ahead of Rosberg’s Mercedes in sixth. It also means he ended up behind Red Bull and Ferrari. Think about that for a second. Ferrari have yet to announce next year’s line-up, but we imagine Hulk’s phone number will be hovering near the top of the list.
New Red Bull signing Ricciardo meanwhile, finished up seventh, ahead of Romain Grosjean (who outscored Kimi, the Finn finishing up outside the points in 11th place).
Then there’s Hamilton, who had a ‘disaster of a weekend’ as he later admitted, picking up an early puncture that dropped him back after forcing an extra stop and losing his radio comms. Those hoping for rain to level out the field only got a brief spattering before the start, but it rained all over Lewis’ weekend – and his title hopes. Still, he managed to prove just why he’s a joy to watch; his pass on Raikkonen around the outside of Curva Grande, and his move on the two McLarens of Button and Perez were superb. Even his little tête-à-tête with Rosberg was a bit heart-in-the-mouth, but both managed to come out unscathed. He finished ninth in the end, which will be depressing reading for HAM fans out there. Barring some kind of a miracle, him and Raikkonen are pretty much out of contention for this year’s title.
Button completed the top ten, finishing ahead of Perez who followed Kimi home, rounding off what must have been a disappointing weekend for McLaren, what with them celebrating their 50th anniversary and all. Di Resta had a nightmare start and finish, crashing with Grosjean on the first lap too, ending his race prematurely.
So it means Vettel’s lead over Alonso is now 53 points. There’s still a lot of racing to go, but with this kind of pace, who would bet against another Vettel steamrolling? For many of the contenders out there, 2014 can’t come soon enough.