It’s the 11th of September 2008 and we are now starting the fourteenth and last European race of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship. Lewis Hamilton is currently leading the championship with 76 points in front of Felipe Massa by only 2 points. Robert Kubica is third with 58 points, ahead of Massa’s teammate Raikkonnen who is fourth with only one point less. Kubica’s teammate Heidfeld is fifth. Ferrari is still leading the constructors’ championship with 12 points in advance of McLaren. They are respectively on 131 and on 119 points. However, Ferrari should benefit from the boost of racing in front of a big crowd of its home fans. BMW Sauber is third with 107 points.
Nevertheless in the paddock the Thursday chatter is still about the penalty the championship leader received during the last race weekend in Spa for gaining an advantage by cutting the last chicane (indeed this allowed him to overtake the race leader Raikkonen). This has demoted the Briton from first to third, loosing important points for the championship’s battle. In this regard, Kimi Raikkonen states:
"In one way it was a racing incident, but there are rules to cover these situations. I am not the man who makes those rules and who took the decision that they did. I don’t have anything to say about it, except that obviously, I prefer a race to be decided on the track, not after it is over, but the rules are there to follow".
His teammate Felipe Massa takes his parts:
"What’s happened is that Lewis took an advantage by cutting the chicane. You can ask other drivers how many overtaking maneuvers you see there: no overtaking. Going from the last corner to the first corner is such a small straight, so he took an advantage; that’s clear, that’s my opinion, so it doesn’t change".
The Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Norbert Haug, doesn’t hide his feelings:
"Our disappointment was big, when the stewards took away victory from him and the team. However, we are fighters. If we would have needed a better motivation for the last five races of the season we have it now. When we went to the airport last Sunday evening, Lewis said to me - preferably we now want to win all the remaining races, don’t we? I have no objection".
Says Lewis about the incident, knowing also that McLaren asked for a revision of the penalty:
"That’s the way he drives. If you don’t have balls to brake late, that’s your problem".
And speaking about this weekend:
"I plan to make sure it has no effect on the world championship. I still have a two- point lead and we are going to make sure that we just continue to attack and perform. Coming here, it would be great to win like last year and beat them on their home turf. People say Monza is just about power and top speed- but it’s also a driver’s track, which is why I like it. It’s not straightforward as it seems because you run with very low downforce, which means you rely heavily on the tyres and the car’s mechanical grip- but you are also attacking the kerbs, which requires a softer set-up. You also need plenty of stability under braking and as much grip as possible without having it bottom out".
Meanwhile his teammate Kovalainen explains what’s the key to a good lap around Monza:
"You really need a car that’s stable under braking. When we run such low downforce, the car moves around a little bit more than normal. So the whole approach to driving the car becomes slightly different- you tend to be a touch more cautions and build up your speed as the weekend progresses. You also need to get the second chicane right- it’s got big, high kerbs; if you can get the car to ride them just right, then you can make big gains in lap time".
The forecast says it’s going to rain throughout the weekend, making it even more exciting for the title battle, although Felipe Massa doesn’t hide the fact that these conditions could affect his performances.
"I really like the track and I am motivated and optimistic that we can do a good job this weekend. We have seen many times this year that in the rain we lost a little bit of performance, so maybe it would be nice not to have the rain here and not lose any opportunity to have a consistent race".
Although testing at the Monza circuit in early September had pointed out the performance gap between McLaren and Ferrari has narrowed, Ferrari is still hoping that their straight-line speed would come in hand with Monza’s long straights. However, as Montezemolo said, Thursday is just for talks:
"Comments? I don’t think it’s the right day to make any, Thursday is the day of hopes. Let’s talk on Sunday".
It’s finally the first day of action here at the Temple of Speed, but unfortunately heavy rain does not allow the drivers to complete any proper runs during the first free practice. Conditions have been very poor, so poor in fact that 6 drivers, including McLaren’s, failed to set times. Indeed the session has stopped 4 minutes early as in the last 10 minutes nobody has entered the track. Adrian Sutil goes fastest with a laptime of 1'32"842, 0.6 seconds faster than Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella. Timo Glock is fourth in his Toyota, being 4 seconds down to Sutil.
In the afternoon the sky is clearing up, which means that the drivers will have the possibility to prepare the right setup for the weekend. This is also a good chance to try dry-weather tyres as the track has started to slowly dry out. Seems like Raikkonen is the one adapting the best in these conditions as he comes fastest with a lap of 1'23"861, followed by the BMW drivers, Kubica and his teammate Heidfeld. Hamilton, Rosberg and Massa complete the top 6. This is a nice way for Kimi to celebrate the confirmation of his contract extension with Ferrari. As he said:
"I am pleased with how today went. Step by step, the car finally seems to respond well and I think we can be very quick here. The set-up is good and I don't think that any rain that might fall will represent a handicap. I will try and do my best, as always. The contract? I am happy to be part of this team, otherwise I wouldn't have signed. There's a good atmosphere between us all and I continue to enjoy the driving. So it was definitely not a difficult choice to stay for one more year. Even in the most difficult moments, we have continued to work hard and now we are moving in the right direction. I am sure the results will also come soon. I wouldn’t go anywhere else, I won last year and we are still not out - of the championship - this year. I still enjoy it, even though sometimes it is not such good fun".
Felipe have some difficulties trying to find a good pace during these last 90 minutes.
"I’m not 100% happy with the way things went today. I struggled a bit to find the right grip level on the first timed lap, unlike the others. So, this means we still have to work to get it right, but I am still confident. It all looks very close and we must always take into account the unknown regarding how much fuel everyone has run. I am also happy that Kimi has extended his contract: we have a good relationship and it is important for a team to have stability".
Even in the Red bull garage they struggle to find some performance. As Coulthard said:
"Bad weather, like we had this morning, condenses the practice sessions and running in changeable conditions is not ideal for analysing tyres, but it's the same for everyone so we just get on with it".
On the other hand, Force India had a competitive Friday, as Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer points out:
"A useful first day that I think it continues our stronger form from the past two races. With the difficult conditions in the first session we managed to run both types of wet weather tyres and also completed some running in the dry. Obviously in the second session we had some useful dry running and overall the cars look competitive here again, as we were in the test. We have to see what the weather conditions will give us for tomorrow, but we are well prepared for all eventualities".
Despite having completed only one installation lap in the morning, Lewis Hamilton confirms that he is happy with the work he could do this Friday:
"Obviously, it was very wet this morning so we only did the bare minimum of running - namely one installation lap. The afternoon’s session started in slightly mixed conditions, the circuit was drying, but with damp patches, so there was little to gain from going out early. However, by the end of the session we got some useful mileage under our belts, and I’m happy with our progress".
Same goes for his teammate Kovalainen:
"I’m happy that we managed to get some dry running in before the end of the session. The weather this morning was unbelievable - it’s usually so bright and sunny at Monza. The rain meant that, like everyone, we didn’t get to finish our run program so we have a little bit more work to do tomorrow morning. Nonetheless, I’m happy with the progress we’ve made".
Meanwhile the FIA has confirmed the date of the McLaren appeal for the 25 second penalty received in Spa. They will decide it on the 22nd of September 2008.
Grey skies again on Saturday as the rain starts to fall, and the third practice is about to start. Timo Glock comes in at the top of the time sheet with a lap time of 1'35"464. The German is followed by his compatriots Sebastian Vettel in his Toro Rosso (1'36"129) and Nico Rosberg in his Williams(1'36"347). Jarno Trulli, Kazuki Nakajima and Heidfled complete the top 6. Hamilton completes only 8 laps, being 11 seconds behing Glock. The teams will now make the final preparations for afternoon’s qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix. Massa takes the chequered flag coming only 8th (1'37"263). Tensions rise when his title contender comes in last, having completed only 8 laps.
It’s now time for the qualifying session. The weather hasn’t changed, and track conditions are still poor, which puts an extra pressure on the drivers and on the teams as the grip is getting less and less. The first part (Q1) runs for 20 minutes and it’s about to start. The first 5 cars eliminated are Rubens Barrichello (1'36"510), Nelson Piquet Jr. (1'36"630), Kazuki Nakajima (1'36"653), Jenson Button (1'37"006), Adrian Sutil (1'37"417).
Coming through to the second part of qualifying, the weather seems to have stabilized. The track is still very wet and the grip level seems to be still very poor. The first eliminated is Robert Kubica (1'36"697) blaming late rain for his position, followed by Giancarlo Fisichella (1'36"698) which gives Force India its best grid position of the season so far, David Coulthard (1'37"284) in his Red Bull, and Kimi Raikkonen (1'37"522) who suffered some aquaplaning exiting the Ascari chicane.
We have a first big surprise of the weekend as the world championship leader comes 15th at the end of Q2 with a lap time of 1'39"265. Indeed, the championship leader had precious little grip with the inters and pitted straight away for extreme wet tyres. On entering the pit lane, he has been called into the weighbridge, delaying him further. However both Raikkonen and Hamilton blame a late entry into the second session for their poor qualifying, as rain had increased making it almost impossible to improve the lap time. As Lewis Hamilton pointed out:
"It was a joint decision to go out on wet-weather tyres at the start of the second session - partly mine and partly my engineers. We thought it was the right way to go at the time because it was getting dryer but the grip-level was poor so I came in and switched to extremes... It's the first time this has happened to me in Formula 1, so I can't really complain".
But as we could see it hasn’t worked out in the end. This is the first time that McLaren has not made it into the top 10th during a qualifying session all season and first time that Hamilton doesn’t qualify into Q3. We are about to start the third and last session of qualifying which will decide the starting grid of the first 10 cars. As we know, the cars which compete in the final session are not allowed to refuel before the race, so they will have to carry more fuel compared to the previous sessions.
As the rain has intensified, everybody is about to set their lap time on an extreme wet compound. Felipe Massa has one target, to qualify as far up the grid and away from Lewis Hamilton as possible. First attempt doesn’t go as expected as he sets the 9th fastest lap, which is a bit disappointing for a Ferrari car. The second one doesn’t look promising either as he comes 6th. Unfortunately he doesn’t look like he has the speed to challenge for the front. Mark Webber qualifies third after his final lap pushes Sebastian Bourdais into fourth position.
Sebastian Vettel in his Toro Rosso looks promising as he sets a lap which is 0.3 seconds quicker than Kovalainen and gets on top. If he can confirm his position at the end of the session that would be the first time a toro rosso car makes it to Pole Position. That would write a new chapter in Formula 1 history. We still have 3 minutes to go as the rain starts to increase. The second Toro Rosso spins, highlighting the fact that the aquaplaning is now getting worse. Nobody can now find any more performance from the track as we are running out of time. Its just a matter of seconds before a new pole sitter is added to the list. As everyone takes the chequered flags, it’s a big celebration in the Red bull sister garage, former Minardi team. An Italian team on an Italian track, with an Italian engine (Ferrari).
"P1, you did it, Pole Position".
They say from the pits. Sebastian's response is laconic:
“Grande, grandissimo, grandissimo".
What a session. We have now the youngest pole sitter in history as Sebastian Vettel, 21 years and 73 days old, will star on the highest grid place on track. The first ever for both the driver and the team, making this a Grand Prix to remember.
"Unbelievable. This is our home Grand Prix. There are two Italian teams, the bigger one is Scuderia Ferrari but I think now the people know the small one, Scuderia Toro Rosso, so it is unbelievable. I was joking with my team, I told to my mechanics and engineers that if it’s wet, then we have to go for pole position. Now that I did it, I can’t believe it. You can see the passion in each team member’s eyes, everybody has a part on this achievement. It’s amazing".
About being the youngest pole sitter he adds:
"I think there was a youngest before, and at some point there will be a younger after me. I don’t really care about statistics. It’s more important to be on pole position and start the race from there tomorrow. It’s a great result for us, great success. I’m very, very happy as you can imagine".
If for the Faenza’s team was a day to remember, we can say that it wasn’t the same for Ferrari. Massa could make it only to the 6th position. For the championship battle, with Hamilton and Raikkonen respectively 15th and 14th, he should have taken the opportunity to qualify higher.
"A very difficult qualifying but, overall, I am reasonably happy. It’s true it could have been better, but it could also have been much worse. I am ahead of my main rivals in the fight for the championship and I still have a good grid position therefore. Tomorrow I must try and finish as high up the order as possible".
As Felipe underlined, what counts is the Sunday race. On the other hand, Kimi is quite disappointed:
"There's little to say and I am definitely not happy with this result. I was unable to do a time in Q2 when the conditions would still have made it possible and then it was impossible to catch up. On that lap, I went off at Ascari where there was a lot of water on the track, which meant I didn't make it through to the next session. Now we must try and make the best of this situation which is definitely not ideal. Starting from the seventh row of the grid could be a bit tricky at the start, because the entry to the first chicane is very tight and it is easy to touch other cars. In the dry, the car is working very well but obviously, if it were to rain, it could give some chances to those who are starting further back like me".
Lewis Hamilton’s teammate Kovalainen qualified second:
"My first lap wasn’t quite as good and then it started to rain a little bit towards the end of the session. In the last lap I tried to have another go but the grip level was fading away. Anyway I think we are in a good position for the race tomorrow and the car has felt good in any conditions this weekend to be honest, even yesterday in the dry it felt pretty strong and the test here was strong, so I think we can look forward to a good competitive race tomorrow".
Mark Webber comes third fastest, a great result for Adrian Newey and the design team at Red Bull:
"Yeah, the main Red Bull team if you like, but obviously it is still a Red Bull team in Toro Rosso, so obviously congratulations to those guys. It is all the same family if you like, so congratulations to Sebastian on his first pole. As the guys said it was tricky. It was difficult to get the lap. At the start of Q3 I had a little bit too much spray to pick my braking points in the first two chicanes. I stuffed the second one up and the guys said it is going to rain heavier, so I thought I haven't done a great job here in Q3. But I managed, my last lap actually was my best which was a bit tricky to get the lap time out of the car. But I am pretty happy with how it went and we will see what happens with the weather tomorrow".
It was a disappointed Saturday for both BMW drivers, with Robert Kubica qualified only 11th and Heidfeld 10th.
"We were a bit unlucky today as the gap to position 10 and the third qualifying session was very narrow. We put a new set of tyres on the car for the second qualifying session, as we planned not to make a pit stop in the session. You need two or three laps to make the tyres work. The track dried up after the first laps, but then it started to rain heavily so unfortunately I was not able to improve the lap times. Congratulations to Toro Rosso and Sebastian Vettel for their first pole position".
Heidfeld says he struggled in these conditions:
"The conditions were quite difficult during qualifying, but in the beginning it went pretty well for me. Once I made it into the top ten of qualifying I was expecting more. The last laps were disappointing. Instead of more grip I got less. We now have to figure out why this happened".
It’s the 14th of September and race start is set at 14:00 local time. It’s still raining in Monza which means the track is now very slippery. Forecasts say more rain will come later on and we can suppose that drivers won’t have chances to use dry weather tyres throughout the race. Indeed they will all start with extreme wet-weather ones. The Scuderia Ferrari decided to change Felipe Massa's engine. Overnight checks led to the decision to change Massa's power unit: this won’t cause any change on the starting grid as drivers are allowed to use one joker engine change per season.
Two cars will start from the pit lane as the teams decided to make some changes on the set up after the qualifying session: it will be the case of Jenson Button, who qualified 19th, and Kazuki Nakajima, who went 18th fastest. As we know in fact, the teams are not allowed to make any adjustment to their cars from the start of the qualifying onwards.
The track is still very wet and the race begins under safety car: so, no overtakes at the start. However, we have the first surprise of the day: Bourdais, after an impressive qualifying which puts him 4th in the other Toro Rosso, stalls. The marshals have to push him back in the pit lane to restart the car. Unfortunately, when the procedure is finished, he exits the pit lane last with one lap down. A bit of a roller coaster start for the team, currently running P1 with Sebastian Vettel and P20 with Bourdais.
We have now a rolling start as the safety car comes into pit lane at lap 2. Vettel hits the gas pedal and he leads the pack over the line as we start racing at Monza, followed by Kovalainen, Webber and Rosberg. There are two overtakes happening: Kubica on Heidfeld at the first chicane and Glock on Alonso further in the lap. The spray is immense as they go round on a racing lap for the first time. Vettel has a two second lead on Kovalainen as he flies away with clear visibility at the front. In fact, the McLaren driver is having some visibility problems as a result of the spray off the back of the leader.
Fernando Alonso tries to get back the position lost on Timo Glock with success going into the first chicane, but Glock attempts to overtake again the Spaniard as the pair bar go alongside down to the Roggia. However, Alonso holds seventh place. It’s currently lap 4 and both Raikkonen and Hamilton pass Coulthard. They are now running in tandem for one lap respectively in 12th and 13th. Hamilton attemps an overtake on Raikkonen at the Roggia chicane, but he overshoots the corner and cuts the chicane. This allows him to finish ahead of the Ferrari, but immediately gives the position back to avoid a possible penalty. They are both closing the gap to Giancarlo Fisichella in front.
Meanwhile at the front, Vettel is now extending his gap on Kovalainen to almost six seconds. On lap 7 Timo Glock spuns under braking at the first chicane, losing a place to Kubica. After two laps, Kimi passes Fisichella for the 11th place, up the inside in the braking zone of the first chicane. He is closing up the gap to the points finish. The Force India driver is also passed by Lewis Hamilton during the next lap on the start finish straight. Having passed Fisichella, Lewis Hamilton starts catching Raikkonen again. Lewis dives down the inside of the Ferrari entering the first Lesmo, and he is through, up into 11th place with Kimi Raikkonen 12th.
It’s now lap 13, Massa and Rosberg go wheel to wheel in the first corner, but Rosberg just comes out on top as they fly towards the second chicane. Massa tries again and sends the move, bouncing over the kerbs and through into fourth. However after 2 laps, Rosberg tries to regain the position but Massa gets back into 4th with a move at the first corner. During lap 14, Giancarlo Fisichella is battling with David Coulthard for 13th position, but in the middle of the chicane Fisichella hits the back of Coulthard’s car, damaging his front wing. The front wing is starting to slowly disintegrate and lodge under the car forcing him to go straight into the Parabolica gravel trap and then retire from the race. Lewis Hamilton goes past Timo Glock into turn one allowing him to get into 9th place, although he forced Glock out onto the grass.
On lap 18, we have the first pit stop: it’s Rubens Barrichello, who was running in 16th. Meanwhile on the same lap, Lewis Hamilton passes Robert Kubica and he is now up to eight. His next target is now Alonso who is just 2 seconds in front of him. Indeed, he will pass him in the next lap. It’s now time for the pit stop of Vettel: he goes for a new set of extreme-wet tyres with the team expecting further rain in the coming laps. He comes back on track into fourth position, as he is the first one to stop of the ones in front. Timo Glock sees a gap and takes the inside of Robert Kubica at the Roggia chicane as they battle for ninth. Glock holds the line and Kubica takes to the extra tarmac to avoid collision.
On lap 23, Kovalainen, Webber and Massa all go to pit. Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton goes past Trulli for the sixth with an inside move again at the first chicane. His sensational come back is so far the highlight of the race. Kimi Raikkonen seems to struggle, currently battling with BMW driver Heidfeld for 10th place. He, then, completes the overtake a lap later exiting the Roggia chicane. However, it has started to rain again in Monza and we are now half way through on lap 26. Timo Glock, Jarno Trulli and Kimi Raikkonen pit and go for an extreme wet compound. Kimi seems to be on a two stop strategy as his first pit stop has been very quick, this means a very short refill for the Ferrari driver. Also Hamilton pits and goes for extreme wet compound.
However, the rain has stopped and the track is starting to dry. On lap 28 David Coulthard is the first driver to pit for intermediate tyres, but as he can quickly understand by running straight at the first chicane, the track is still too wet for this compound. Few laps later also Alonso decides to pit and use inters: this is his only pitstop of the race. Same for Heidfeld, Kubica and Piquet. Massa pits on lap 34 to take inter tyres too and refuel again for the second part of the race. A lap later, both Timo Glock and Nico Rosberg pit for the second time too. Seems like at this stage of the race that intermediate tyres are the right choice and Kovalainen, Kubica and Webber all pit to change compound. Felipe Massa tries a move on Webber approaching the Ascari, successfully taking the position on him. Webber then spins at the exit but he is still able to continue on seventh place.
It’s now time for the race leader to pit for inters and when he rejoins the track he is still on top. This means his chances to win the race are very high. Also Raikkonen pits for intermediates rejoining the track only 14th. It’s time for Lewis Hamilton to pit as well as the conditions are slowly drying. He exits the pit behind Webber, but he manages to pass him around the outside at the Roggia chicane. Sebastian Vettel is currently creating a gap of 9.5 seconds on Heikki Kovalainen. Meanwhile, the strategy of Kubica and Alonso puts them respectively third and fourth after a long first stint. Also Nick Heidfeld is fifth with a similar strategy and Massa is now sixth. Lewis Hamilton is seventh and trying to close the gap on the battle over fourth Nelson Piquet who is now in third place, pits for what he hopes it’s his only stop this afternoon.
The Brazilian goes on to intermediate tyres and he is now defending his position on Jenson Button, with no success as Jenson Button takes the place in 11th. Massa tries to overtake Heidfeld but finishes to cut the chicane and give back the position. On lap 45 Rubens Barrichello pits and takes on extreme wet tyres, which seems a bizarre move given the absence of rain. Kimi Raikkonen gets in the slipstream of Piquet's Renault and he manages to get into ninth under braking in the first chicane. On the same lap Hamilton defends on Webber at turn one, who is forced down the escape road. With 3 laps to go Timo Glock passes David Coulthard for 11th place at the Parabolica, meanwhile Raikkonen goes faster again with a 1'29"639. He is now 11 seconds behind the battle for seventh.
On lap 52, Kazuki Nakajima attemps to overtake David Coulthard entering the Parabolica, but the pair make contact and Coulthard finishes into the gravels. He is forced to pit and change the front wing and drops to 17th. Unfortunately Felipe Massa clips the debris in the Parabolica from the recent contact of Nakajima and Coulthard, but he still holds a margin over Hamilton to keep 6th place.
It’s the final lap of the race and Sebastian Vettel crosses the finish line with 12 seconds over Kovalainen. He is now the youngest driver to win a Grand Prix in Formula 1, breaking two records in less than 2 days. What a brilliant drive for the young german driver. He has definitely proved to be a superb driver, who deserves to battle at the front.
Robert Kubica finishes on the podium with Fernando Alonso fourth and Heidfeld fifth, confirming that the one stop strategy has paid off. Felipe Massa finishes sixth, closing on Hamilton in the championship. The McLaren driver in fact is seventh with Mark Webber taking the final point in eighth place. Nelson Piquet finishes tenth with Glock 11th, Nakajima 12th, Trulli 13th, Rosberg 14th, Button 15th - the last driver to finish on the lead lap, Coulthard 16th one lap down, Barrichello 17th, Bourdais 18th and Adrian Sutil the last classified finisher in 19th place. Bourdais was 82 seconds behind Sutil on lap seven, made up that gap and passed the Force India. Giancarlo Fisichella was the only retirement of the race.
The Italian crowd will be able to hear their national athem today, even tho they would have expected a Red suited driver on top. However, this is a very important day for Formula 1 history, a weekend everybody will forever remember as the day a new Formula 1 star is born. This is an incredible result for the entire Red Bull operation with the Adrian Newey-led, Red Bull Technology-designed car winning in the hands of the former Minardi team.
It’s now time for the champagne shower, with Vettel, Kovalainen and Kubica ready to celebrate the Italian Grand Prix podium. This is a touching moment for the Italian team Toro Rosso, the former Minardi, the team that started in 1985. This is the first non-Ferrari Italian team to win a Grand Prix since 1957. Sebastian Vettel has dominantly won the Italian Grand Prix:
"A fantastic race, a fantastic weekend with pole as well and a fantastic strategy this afternoon. As for the podium ceremony it was unbelievable and this is the best day of my life. I will never forget these feelings. It is so unbelievable. It is better than I had ever expected. A big thank you to everyone in the team for their great work. After a poor start to the season, we got better and better. Maybe in today's conditions, we could close the gap with a bit more effort or by staying on the throttle a bit longer. I'm speechless. As for the race, we were very fast in a straight line because we didn't go for high downforce as we thought it might be dry, so we stayed on the dry level. Being out in front with no visibility problems was the key and I could build up a solid gap to Heikki straightaway. Then I was pushing very hard, maybe going over the limit sometimes and I nearly lost the car. In the last stint I was in a very good position on the intermediate tyre. I couldn't believe it when it kept saying P1 on my board. But I kept my focus and kept pushing so as not to lose concentration. A perfect weekend".
As soon as the race has finished, of course many started to compare the new German star to the seventh time world champion Michael Schumacher, but Sebastian Vettel plays down the comparisons:
"About this comparison to Michael, I think first of all you have to realize what this guy achieved in the past. To compare anybody among us drivers - probably Fernando is the closest, he's a two time World Champion - but to compare anybody to Michael I think is a bit ridiculous. Obviously I'm very young and at a very early stage of my career and therefore I think there's no need to make a comparison. He's probably one of the best drivers we have ever seen. I'm proud, in a way, because I know him. He's a very nice guy and completely down-to-earth”.
On the other hand, his teammate had an unfortunate start which put him one lap down:
"I'm not sure what happened on the grid. When I tried to get first I couldn't and so then I let go of the flipper a bit quickly and when the gear selected I stalled, when normally the anti- stall should have come in. Then we couldn't get neutral and that was it, I had lost a lap immediately as the race started behind the Safety Car. It should have been a dream weekend with a chance of finishing first and third but sadly for me, it was first and nothing. However, this has been a great day for Sebastian and the team".
However, it was still an amazing race for the team and Franz Tost is all over the moon as this is the first ever win for the Toro Rosso team:
"This was Vettel's race weekend. From Friday onwards, he controlled the pace and the situation and today, from start to finish, he drove a fantastic race without any mistakes under very difficult circumstances. I think today he showed that he will become a very successful Formula 1 driver. It was unfortunate for Bourdais that he had a problem on the grid, as he too had a good weekend up until today. The team, under the direction of Giorgio Ascanelli also did a fantastically good job in terms of being prepared for the race and in how it executed the strategy and pit stops and we can all be proud of what we have achieved. It was great to get this result here in Monza in our home Grand Prix and I am particularly happy for Gerhard who has waited twenty years to get back on the Monza podium as a winner".
If the sister team had a brilliant race, we can’t say the same about Red Bull Racing team, who managed to score only 1 point during the race. Indeed, Mark Webber started the Grand Prix from third position but was only able to finish 8th, and his team mate David Coulthard finished his final European race in 16th place. This means that the Red Bull team sees Toro Rosso jumping over them in the Constructors' Championship. Not really ideal. Battle for fourth in the constructors’ championship is getting very tight as Renault equals Toyota in standings after a 4th place finish from Fernando Alonso. Indeed, Fernando was one of the first to pit for wet tyres on lap 30, which lead him to a one stop strategy. That runed out to be the right decision as the track continued to dry out, allowing Fernando to rise to fourth.
"I am very happy, the result today is very good because Monza was supposed to be the race that we were looking forward to the least. We made up the five points that we needed in our championship fight, which is really rewarding and a big source of motivation for the rest of the season. I am now curious to see what awaits us in Singapore”.
Despite the Toyota team did the best they could, unfortunately things didn't go as good as during the qualifying session. Timo Glock finished the race in 11th position and his teammate Jarno Trulli finished his home Grand Prix in a disappointing 13th place. It was a strong race also for the McLaren driver Kovalainen as he came second and couldn’t aim for a better performance, having had few problems throughout the race:
"Clearly not possible to win today. Sebastian and Toro Rosso have been strong all weekend. I had a little bit of a problem earlier on in the race, in the first couple of stints, especially with the extreme wet tyres and some problems also to warm up my brakes, so I was just struggling to find more time and trying to go faster. We kept pushing and towards the end it got a little bit better, but I think it was the maximum we could do today. We picked up some good points and we can look forward to the next Grand Prix".
After a very poor qualifying, which positioned the BWM driver Kubica only 11th, he managed to get to third with a great one stop strategy:
"I mean it was quite a good weekend after yesterday's qualifying which didn't go like we were we expecting. We were the first car out of Q3 so the only positive thing was that we could choose our strategy looking at how the weather would be in the race and the conditions on the track. I think we did the right choice and I stayed out as long as possible until my pit stop and then we were a bit lucky that the conditions allowed us to put on intermediate tyres so I made up quite good pace and closed the gap to Heikki but he was too far away"
He also adds:
"The last laps were just cruising, bringing the car home. The start of the race was very difficult. I overtook Nick without seeing him, suddenly I realized I was in front of him on the straight line but I didn't see him at all. It is not easy starting in the middle of the pack, especially in these conditions, but I kept the car on the track. We did face some problems with the tyre pressures. When the track was drying up, we were with Fernando struggling a lot and Lewis got by easily. He was much quicker but I think then we were a bit lucky that we stayed longer, so we were able to put inters on straight away".
The Italian Gran Prix hasn’t been an ideal race for Ferrari. Three points only, thanks to a sixth place finish for Felipe Massa. Kimi Raikkonen on the other Ferrari finished ninth just out the points. We could say that at least after 14 races, Felipe has reduced the gap to the leader of the Drivers' classification to a single point, while the Scuderia has a five point lead in the Constructors', which means they now lost 7 points in one race. Stefano Domenicali points out:
"We're definitely not satisfied with this result, but considering the circumstances in which the race was run, it could have actually been much worse. Once again today, we had confirmation that, in certain track conditions and temperature range, our car is not quick enough. Then, it only needs a slight change for the performance to return to being very competitive. Clearly we must take countermeasures as quickly as possible because similar conditions could occur in the remaining four races. Having said that, we must not forget that we have taken a small step forward in the Drivers' classification although our lead in the Constructors' has reduced substantially. There are four races to go and everything is still possible. Finally I would like to congratulate Scuderia Toro Rosso, which uses our engines and Sebastian Vettel on their first Formula 1 win: they did a perfect job all weekend and they deserve this moment of great joy".
Felipe Massa confirms that it was a tough race for him, but nevertheless he is quite happy that he is closing on Lewis in the championship:
"It was a tough race: I had hoped to do better but I'm also aware it could have been worse. In fact, I've managed to make up a point on my nearest rival so this is absolutely not a negative result. In normal conditions, in other words in the dry, I think I could have made it to the podium. In the first part, I was struggling because there was not much grip. In the incident when I overtook Rosberg, I lost a few seconds when the team told me I had to give back the position: that was probably the decisive moment because after the first pit stop, I found myself in traffic. On top of that, when it was time to switch from the extreme rain tyres to the standard ones, those who had opted to do just one stop definitely had the advantage. In the second part, I knew Hamilton was closing on me fast, but I could not see him in my mirrors because they were too dirty. Luckily, Rob helped me, talking me through the situation in real time. Then he dropped back a bit. I tried to attack Heidfeld but then I thought it wasn't worth taking too many risks and I chose to just bring the car home".
We cannot say the same about Kimi Raikkonen as his situation in the championship standings seems quick difficult:
"This was a very difficult race for us. In the conditions at the start, as we have seen before in the past, we could not keep our tyres up to temperature and we totally lacked grip. I could do nothing but try to stay on the track hoping the conditions would change. When they did, unfortunately it was too late to aim for a points finish. The car worked well but without grip, you're not going anywhere. The situation in the Drivers' championship is now even more difficult, but I will continue to give it my best shot as usual".
After a brilliant and sensational weekend, Formula 1 now heads to Singapore in two weeks time, with only 4 races to go until the end of the championship. Massa will prepare himself at the simulator, aiming for his lifetime dream: being a Formula 1 championship. Despite the car seems to suffer in certain conditions (low temperatures and wet tracks) and struggle to warm up the tyres, Massa is more than confident that the team will bring some updates which will allow him to battle for the title till the end. Thursday and Friday, in fact, Ferrari will make some tests at Mugello with both their drivers, planning to wet the track and find some aerodynamic configurations that could suit these conditions.
Caterina Masetti Zannini