Italian GP - Third and fourth a great championship result
Monza, 9 September - Fernando Alonso was able to wave to the Ferrari faithful from the Monza podium, after the Scuderia Ferrari man finished third in today’s Italian Grand Prix, with another bravura performance from tenth on the grid. Having started third, his team-mate Felipe Massa also produced a strong drive to pick up the points that go with fourth spot. Lewis Hamilton made the most of pole, the McLaren man never really troubled by the drama going on behind him, on his way to a third win of the season. Second, for the second time this year was Sauber’s Sergio Perez, who charged through the field from thirteenth spot on the grid. With Button, Vettel and Webber all failing to score any points today, third and fourth was actually a better result than it might seem in terms of the championship. Fernando now leads second placed Hamilton by 179 to 142, while Felipe is tenth. In the Constructors’, the Prancing Horse is back to third and closing on the two top teams, taking its tally to 226 compared to McLaren on 243 and Red Bull stuck on 272.
As the lights went out, Felipe, third on the grid, appeared to wait and see what the two McLarens would do and then blasted past Button to go second, while Fernando made his way up to eighth from tenth, then seventh at the end of the opening lap and not long after that he took sixth on lap 2. Lap 4 and Vettel in the Red Bull passed fellow countryman Schumacher in the Mercedes to go fourth, behind Hamilton, Felipe and Button. Lap 5 saw Senna and Rosberg tangle at the chicane dropping them away from the top ten, as Felipe was now 2.2 seconds adrift of the leader, with a lead of 1.7 over Button. As they crossed the line to start lap seven, Fernando managed to get alongside Schumacher and pass him going into the chicane, so the Spaniard was now fifth.
Felipe pitted on lap 19, followed one lap later by Fernando. Both Ferrari men were on a one stop strategy, as was almost the entire field. The run of pit stops saw Button get ahead of the Brazilian Ferrari driver. The order was Perez, who had yet to pit in the Sauber, followed by Hamilton, Button, Felipe 2.5 behind, then Vettel and Fernando. Lap 26 and Alonso ran wide on the dirt as he tried to pass Vettel. But it was clear the German had pushed him off and the Stewards agreed, handing the Red Bull man a drive-through penalty. Before the penalty, on lap 29, Fernando had in any case charged past his closest championship rival to take fourth, behind his team mate, as Perez finally made his pit stop, changing on to the Medium Pirellis, while the other front runners had made the opposite choice.
Lap 34 was a key moment, as Button parked his McLaren at the side of the track, promoting Felipe and Fernando to second and third behind Hamilton. The Brazilian trailed the leader by 12 seconds at this point, with Fernando a further 2.6 down. But by lap 40, the Spaniard had got close enough to use the DRS and slipstreamed past the Brazilian to move into second spot. Felipe was unable to hold off Perez, who got his Sauber ahead of the F2012 on lap 43. The Mexican was flying and by lap 45 he was right on Fernando’s tail and next time round, the Spaniard was relegated to third as the Sauber got by. Fernando’s championship prospects were given another boost when Vettel had to park his Red Bull at the side of the track and, following a spin that had already dropped him down the order, his team-mate Webber drove into the pits and retired.
The order from then to the flag remained substantially the same: behind the two Ferrari men, Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, keeping his title chances alive, ahead of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. The remaining points positions went to eighth placed Paul Di Resta in the Force India, Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber and Bruno Senna in the Williams.
As Fernando Alonso and his podium colleagues waved to the massive crowd that, as tradition demands, had swarmed onto the track to stand and cheer their heroes, they were also waving goodbye to Europe for another year, as Singapore in a fortnight’s time signals the start of the final run of seven races overseas.