Sebastian Vettel is now potentially just one race away from being crowned world champion for the second year in a row and at the age of 24. A win at Singapore would guarantee him the title.
He won his eighth race of the season on a track where Red Bull had not been considered one of the favourites, thanks to a bold pass on Fernando Alonso in the early stages of the race.
It was Vettel’s 18th career win, his second at this circuit and Red Bull’s first at Monza. Behind him there were intense battles featuring Hamilton, Button, Alonso and Schumacher making it an entertaining Italian Grand Prix. Button finished second, with Alonso holding off Hamilton in the closing stages to take a seventh podium of the season.
Vettel now leads the championship by 112 points, with 150 remaining. If he scores a win in Singapore with Alonso off the podium and Button lower than 3rd he will be the 2011 world champion and the youngest ever two times champion at the age of 24.
“It’s very emotional,” said Vettel, who had tears on the podium. “It’s the best podium in the world. The only thing that could make it better would be wearing a red suit, but it was great. The car was fantastic. We are very disciplined as a team, make very few mistakes. We act as a team and we all remain calm. As for the championship, we’re in a great position. It’s over when it’s over and not before.”
The warm weather Ferrari had been hoping for certainly came through, it was a muggy 29 degrees when the cars formed up on the grid.
At the start Alonso got the dream start he had hoped for, squeezing past Hamilton and Vettel and into the lead from fourth on the grid. Behind them all hell broke loose when Liuzzi came sailing in sideways as the midfield went through the chicane. It took out Rosberg and Petrov. Liuzzi blamed Kovalainen for causing him to lose control.
The Safety Car was deployed and at the restart, Hamilton was not ready and found himself a second behind Vettel as they crossed the line. Schumacher passed him for third.
Alonso and Vettel battled for five laps, before Vettel pulled off a sublime pass on the Ferrari driver into the second chicane, his left wheels on the grass at one stage. He described Alonso as “an animal”, albeit jokingly. “He didn’t leave much room,” he said.
Webber tangled with Massa, losing his wing and as he hurried back to the pits, he lost grip in the Parabolica and crashed out. Amazingly it was the first retirement of the season for a Red Bull driver.
At the front Vettel pulled out a gap quickly over Alonso, with Schumacher fending off hamilton, who had the DRS at his disposal. But the Mercedes had better straight line speed.
Hamilton passed on lap 13, but Schumacher repassed him. Button joined in, the DRS bringing the three cars very close together.
They fought hard, as Schumacher complained his rear tyres were fading. Hamilton couldn’t pass, going onto the grass to avoid a collision at one point and Button passed first his team mate, then Schumacher, who pitted at the end of lap 16. Button came in a lap later with Hamilton in on lap 19. But Schumacher had stayed ahead of Hamilton by pitting first.
The paid fought very hard for lap after lap. Hamilton tried many times to pass, but he didn’t have the wing/gearing/DRS combination to get ahead of the Mercedes. Every time he tried he was a few mph short, even with the DRS open.
At the front, Vettel was 12 seconds clear by lap 24, totally in control of the race, while Button was in third pulling away from Schumacher and Hamilton. He closed in on Alonso, but couldn’t pass him.
Perez, Alguersuari and Maldonado had benefitted from the chaos at the start to get into the top ten in the opening stint. Perez and Alguersuari stayed there after the first stops, Maldonado couldn’t and slipped to 11th behind Buemi. Perez later retired.
Making no headway against Alonso, Button decided to pit on lap 35 to try the undercut, but Barrichello blocked his way in. Ferrari reacted, bringing Alonso in and he stayed ahead. But Ferrari’s problems with warm up on the harder tyre struck again, Button able to pass Alonso on his first lap out of the pits. He opened a gap of two seconds.
Senna’s tactic of starting on the medium tyre and pitting under the safety car started to pay off, as he fought with Buemi for 9th place. Senna was on soft tyres, Buemi on medium. He passed him on lap 48.
Schumacher finished fifth, Massa sixth, Alguersuari again made a name for himself with seventh, while Di Resta got a strong eighth place ahead of Bruno Senna who scored his first world championship points.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, Monza, 53 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 1h20:46.172
2. Button McLaren + 9.590
3. Alonso Ferrari + 16.909
4. Hamilton McLaren + 17.471
5. Schumacher Mercedes + 32.677
6. Massa Ferrari + 42.993
7. Alguersuari Toro Rosso + 1 lap
8. Di Resta Force India + 1 lap
9. Senna Renault + 1 lap
10. Buemi Toro Rosso + 1 lap
11. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
12. Barrichello Williams + 1 lap
13. Kovalainen Lotus + 1 lap
14. Trulli Lotus + 2 laps
15. Glock Virgin + 2 laps