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#799 2008 Italian Grand Prix

2023-02-01 17:27

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#2008, Fulvio Conti, Caterina Masetti Zannini,

#799 2008 Italian Grand Prix

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

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Managers toast, drivers argue. In the name of the (business) future, the teams sign the great peace, while the drivers rumble about how to behave on the track. On Thursday, September 11, 2008, in Monza, in the emblazoned Villa Reale, FOTA (which stands for association of F1 teams) was born: the new president, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, will have the honor and the burden of promoting the development of F1, as well as defending the interests of the members. The association, also will have to cooperate with Fia to discuss any improvements, or changes. Everyone was there, and Ferrari and McLaren had not sat together for some time after past squabbles.

 

"The atmosphere was very good, it was a very good meeting".

 

Said Montezemolo, then moved on to the Ferrari pits to meet the drivers. The vice president will be John Howett, but Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren), for the sporting side, will also have duties. Ross Brawn (Honda) for the technical one and Flavio Briatore (Renault) for the commercial one. In the paddock, on the other hand, barbs are flying as the F1 G10 is underway: from Alonso to Hamilton to Raikkonen and up to Massa, it is a game of sides to find the most venomous one, as if to rile up the others and play to challenge each other on the dialectical side as well. 

 

"It's not my fault if Raikkonen brakes too early. If he doesn't have the courage to delay braking, that's his problem. He has no less responsibility for what happened than I do".

 

Says Hamilton, for example, starting the fuse.

 

"This time the one who makes a mistake pays".

 

Repeats Alonso, who is waiting for a day when he can take revenge for his long-suffering 2007 in McLaren (but meanwhile his relationship with Briatore is increasingly frayed, and from Spain they give him to Bmw with a release in case Ferrari calls).

 

"I have nothing to say to him". 

 

Replied the Finn, recalling that: 

 

"I don't make the rules".

 

Others also intervened and, in no particular order, condemned the Englishman:

 

"He had an advantage by cutting the chicane, he made a mistake. He could have maybe attacked at the next corner. He had the chances to do that".

 

That's the general sense of everyone from Red Bull to Toyota, showing that F1's first Caribbean-born driver is more endured than loved.

 

"It's because I always race to win, and that bothers some people. But I have no feelings of revenge. I like Monza and I aim for the best".

 

Especially if, as meteorologists swear, it will rain during the Grand Prix.

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"Here, let's see what will happen".

 

Felipe Massa retorts.

 

"I believe in overtaking, but we have to find the set-up right away, as of today. But however it goes, the World Championship is 100 percent open".

 

The last word of the eve is still from Maranello's number one, Montezemolo:

 

"Comments? It is not the day indicated, Thursday is for hopes. Let's keep the comments for Sunday".

 

Also on Thursday, September 11, 2008, Kimi Raikkonen surprisingly extends his contract with Ferrari by another season, until 2010. Surprisingly, not so much because of the successful outcome of the negotiation, it had been going on for some time, since before the Canadian Grand Prix, and it was known to be well underway, but because of the current poor results of the Finnish driver, who has not won a race since April 27 and is practically out, although he does not want to hear it, of the fight for the world title. The throne was his, after Belgium, where he misplayed his last chance, he realized that at the end of 2008 he will have to give it back, and it certainly does not fill him with joy. But on Thursday, suddenly, here is the good news that opens up scenarios about his future and perhaps Massa's as well. Ferrari, through a lapidary four-line statement, announces that it has extended its contract until the end of 2010, specifying at the same time that it has no intention of changing its drivers in the next two seasons. Raikkonen remains another two years, will receive a compensation of 30.000.000 euros, more or less the same amount he earns now, ends the long soap opera that had variously caused talk of his retirement at the end of 2008 or at the latest in 2009, of his divorce in favor of Bmw, of his replacement, if not immediately, at least in 2009, with Alonso. Raikkonen does not budge and he, with his usual sphinx face, states:

 

"It's the right choice for me. I am happy. We talked and in the end I decided to sign. I feel comfortable in the team. The atmosphere is great and I still have a lot of fun driving. Our relationship has never soured, even in the most complicated moments".

 

Thus disappears the meaning of that strange message that Raikkonen had launched just in Montreal ("I will race as long as I have fun and manage to win, the problem is that I don't know how long all this will last"), phrases that had suggested a desire for retirement not far away, although contradictory with other rumors from circles close to him, friends who swore on the very advanced state of the negotiations for the contract extension. They had astonished those statements then, then came the summer of crisis, the victories blurred through no fault of his own at Magny-Cours (broken exhaust pipe) and Silverstone (wrong tires under 'water) and those instead with their own responsibilities, the result of disappointing performances and only partial redemptions, see the epilogue, in the last race in Belgium. Just when there were questions about the possible (perhaps narrow) margins of his future in Ferrari, here was the turning point, with a story very similar to Massa's last year. He was out of the World Championship, the Brazilian, in October 2007, when Ferrari offered to sign him until 2010. All that was missing was the Brazilian Grand Prix, his home race, and Massa arrived in Sao Paulo more motivated than ever. He would have won comfortably, but the interests of Ferrari, the team that had just extended his contract by two years, come first and so left stage success and a rainbow victory to Raikkonen. Now it is presumable that the Finn will be asked the same thing, although he still does not feel completely cut off:

 

"It is too early to talk about help, I will do everything to win the remaining races and the rainbow title".

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Legitimate, but if even in Monza there was a flop, reason of state would end up prevailing. That state that pays him handsomely for three more years. 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. Testing in chiaroscuro: the Monzoon, as the foreigners call it, that swept over Monza during the morning and flooded the pits and track, preventing laps and eliminating a test session. In the afternoon, the circuit improved and everything was back to normal, and Raikkonen celebrated his contract renewal with the best time, for what it may be worth on Friday. Not very satisfied, however, was Felipe Massa.

 

"At the end I was not 100 percent happy, I could not find a good grip, there is still work to be done but I am sure we will have a competitive car".

 

The Brazilian remains positive about the continuation of the weekend:

 

"We saw a fairly balanced first day and we have to consider the 'unknown factor related to the gasoline on board".

 

Of extra work to be done this morning before qualifying hints Lewis Hamilton, happy, however, with his approach to the Italian Grand Prix:

 

"Of course, we lapped very little. Yesterday's conditions didn't allow it, it was very wet. And in the afternoon some parts of the track were still damp. However, we put useful miles on the engine and I am pleased with our progress. The fact remains that it will be a more challenging Saturday than usual".

 

Meanwhile, in the paddock, the driver market is beginning to come alive: there are boxes to be filled, drivers looking around. First and foremost, Alonso. The Spaniard reacted tepidly to Raikkonen's contract extension at Ferrari.

 

"It's not a surprise, let alone thinking about 2011. I want a strong car in 2009, to win".

 

He fired back a jab at Hamilton, prodded again about Spa:

 

"Fear, courage? I don't know, however, we have a driver who braked and respected the chicane. Another one who braked but ended up off the track…".

 

At this point, however, Alonso must resolve his doubts: Bmw? Honda? Renault? The German team will decide on Heidfeld after Monza, but Kubica-Alonso cohabitation could generate the same problems as in 2007 in McLaren with Hamilton. Honda could be a strong idea, but the Renault option takes on more force, provided the car is competitive. Finally, the last news of the day comes from the FIA offices: the Federation has decided on a first date for McLaren's appeal over the 25-second penalty to Hamilton for overtaking at Spa, Monday, Sept. 22, 2008 in Paris, but only to decide whether the team's appeal is admissible. 

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And about the chicane cut, the regulations changed after that incident: from now on, in addition to returning the position, the driver must wait until the first corner to attack the opponent. 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 behind 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".

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They say from the pits. Sebastian's response is laconic:

"Grazie ragazzi, gran lavoro. Ben fatto".

 

Screaming in Italian trying to make room for himself vocally, Germany's Sebastian Vettel, 21 years and 73 days old, as of today the youngest driver to set the fastest time in Formula 1 history. He is the surprise, along with the other Italy of Formula 1. The one from the poor province, the former Minardi now Scuderia Toro Rosso. Pole position boys, in Monza. Stuff to remember forever.

 

"Blessed be the rain".

 

Say the mechanics from Romagna over the radio, the heart of the team now owned by Austrian tycoon Mateschitz. The other Italy still mounts a Ferrari engine, this must always be remembered. Or rather, added to tell the tale of the italic day. But the architect of all this is a blond young man with a reassuring face, only twenty-one grands prix on his shoulders, crystalline talent and a predestined career. Many have already pointed to him as a future champion, primarily Michael Schumacher.

 

"Please don't say I'm the new Schumi. Don't call me that, out of respect for him mainly. I haven't done anything yet, and even if it happened one day I would be Sebastian, not Michael two".

 

Sacrosanct statement, after all. Yet it is in Kerpen, where Schumacher has his go-kart track, that it all began. And Kerpen contributed in some way to the Monza exploit.

 

"I went there to test some karts and asked for slick tires on the wet track".

 

Sebastian Vettel reveals.

 

"Are you crazy?"

Team people answer him.

 

"And me: I need it for Spa. Instead that madness came in handy here in Italy".

 

Right where he wanted it:

 

"In our home Grand Prix. Because there are two Italian teams, Ferrari which is the biggest and Toro Rosso which is smaller and from today the world will know a little bit more".

 

What a team man Sebastian Vettel is.

 

"He was born to build teams".

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He realized that a few Italian mechanics didn't speak German, and chewed little English, and so, self-taught, he set out to learn Italian.

 

"That's why he always speaks in Italian on the radio: he wants everyone to hear, everyone to understand".

 

Not only that: is there a dinner with the team? He is there. He only declines the social evenings, the disco ones. In that case, he politely apologizes and steps back. Sebastian Vettel is an F1 driver, but a sportsman.

 

"In the round".

 

They repeat from the team. He dives into skiing and surfing, in particular. He has to thank, and always has, Mateschitz and his Red Bull junior programs.

 

"I come from the nursery, I thank those who have always believed in me".

 

Without Austrian funding, the Vettel family could not have supported him.

 

"He comes from a normal family, about which he keeps confidentiality".

 

Also about the rest of his private life, including a girlfriend who exists but has never been seen in the pits. 

 

"I don't know if we can win, I don't know how much water there will be at the start. Yesterday, as a joke, I had told my parents: if it rains I'll make the pole. Now that I 've done it, I don't believe it".

 

He doesn't stop talking anymore:

 

"I'm a racer, of course I aim to fight for pole and victory, but I didn't think this was the day".

 

And he doesn't stop praising the team:

 

"You see the passion in everyone's eyes, everyone has a share of credit in this result. It's wonderful".

 

He is a punctilious, self-critical, if you will perfectionist guy. But not today, a day when everyone embraces him and almost collapses what, in the Scuderia Toro Rosso pits, is the gallery of memories (there are photos of the best moments). The team's technical director, Giorgio Ascanelli, averted the danger, demystifies and jokes:

 

"Hey Seb, did you see how beautiful it is? What a thrill? It's like the first time of sex....". 

 

There's a Ferrari engine in pole position. But at the crazy Monza it can't be enough. 

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The fastest driver is German, raised in the myth of Schumacher, weaned on the same kart track, the track churns out Kerpen champions, but in his hands he does not have a red car and red is not even his suit. Vettel, the incredible surprise of this soggy Saturday, with the battle for pole hampered by rain, drives the Toro Rosso and at best the Italians can rejoice, because that team used to be Minardi, the Faenza-based racing stable, before it ceded its sporting title to Austrian tycoon Mateschitz, the master of Red Bull. If they want, the fans, who invaded the 'racetrack yesterday wrapped in the tricolor, can console themselves: a little bit of Italy is there anyway, especially among the mechanics, but the Ferraris are behind, with Massa sixth, on the third row, and with Raikkonen fourteenth, on the seventh row. They suffered the deluge, incessant especially in the second round, the one that promotes the top ten, and foundered, especially the Finn. The curious thing, now that for Ferrari lovers is a consolation, is that back is also Hamilton, worse even than Raikkonen, fifteenth, just a step above the purged of the first heat, the five slugs of the group. Everything happened yesterday, with the craziest qualifying of the year, and the Englishman ended up resoundingly in the maelstrom, hurting himself more than his opponents. In the second round, the one that determined everything, he tried a gamble and paid dearly for it. In the evening McLaren spoke of contributory negligence, the Englishman with his words endorsed this thesis, but it seems that it was the driver who chose to use the intermediate tires, and not the extreme wet tires, for his fast lap. He did not derail on that 'occasion, but he threw valuable time to the wind. He wanted to feel the effect and after not even one lap he realized that with that type of tire it was impossible to stay on the track. Quick turnaround, but by then it was late, the rain had increased in intensity.

 

"This has never happened to me since I've been racing in Formula 1, I couldn't find the right spot for braking".

 

The fact is that he went long at Ascari corner, got sideways, lost another crucial second. And by the time he finally got it right, the track was now a swimming pool and finishing in the top ten an impossible feat. He finished 15th, cringing. But with a promise: 

 

"Raikkonen is close to me, but we're not going to war with each other at the first corner, it wouldn't be good for anyone".

 

Yeah, because the Finn is also within striking distance of pole. Raikkonen did not make a mistake on the tires, he just made a mistake at the Ascari corner (he too), when he was producing maximum effort. In fact, there is a tactical mistake in his case as well. His extreme wet tires were new, whoever kept the same ones from the first round was better off. The fact is that when he tried again, going fast had become impossible.

 

"The conditions were no longer there".

 

The punishment is the seventh row. Good for Felipe Massa, who came out of the storm with the sixth time. He got into the top ten, then took a few more steps forward. On Sunday he has a chance to take the lead in the World Championship. But some ask him: with Hamilton and Raikkonen wrecked, couldn't he have taken better advantage of the opportunity?

 

"I may not have taken it 100 percent, but I'm still satisfied. It's not like I'm Superman, I did the best I could. With all that 'water on the track, driving was complicated. The conditions were difficult for everyone, even for me".

 

Massa has the Ferrari, though; the Toro Rosso ended up on pole. 

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"I have the Ferrari, but if I want to win the World Championship I have to use my head. I'm ahead of Hamilton, I have to stay there. Woe betide if I mess it up. So I say I can win, hit the podium, do well, but without overdoing it. Anything with the car I have is doable, but I must not overdo it. If you want to be World Champion, you have to learn how to make your brain work".

 

Here he has a great chance to go to the top of the standings.

 

"I will try to take advantage of it. The world title for me remains a big dream. Maybe right now the dream is closer".

 

But was it really impossible to win the pole?

 

"The real feat was getting into the top ten. I was one of the few who managed to improve his time in the rain. I risked elimination, I passed the cut by 0.021s, that's the gap between me and Kubica, 11th. At Ascari Raikkonen and Hamilton made mistakes, it could have happened to me too".

 

What help does he expect from Raikkonen?

 

"He is ahead of Hamilton, it would be enough for me if he kept him behind until the finish".

 

Did he expect to be beaten by Vettel?

 

"He is good, but how much fuel does he have on board? Besides, we have a dry set-up. In Monza you can't afford to bet on one, compromise is necessary, otherwise in the fast sections you're screwed. We put a lot of bets on the straights, hopefully it will be the winning choice".

 

Sunday, September 14, 2008, and race start is set at 2:00 p.m. 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. 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.  

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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. 

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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 youngest of the realm wants to remember forever. And he deserves it, Sebastian Vettel because he set a record with a car that so many called a hatchback. Can you describe his emotions?

 

"The podium. The people. The anthems. A mix of things I will never forget".

 

Did he really believe in victory?

 

"Toward the end of the race the team kept signaling me P1. And I was telling myself: but if even on the last lap it says P1 it means I won".

 

Which it did.

 

"I only believed it when I saw the checkered flag".

 

What does he say about the Safety car start?

 

"It helped me, I can't deny that. I also gained precious seconds. But if I think back to the start I have other feelings, I remember the 'calm atmosphere".

 

No stress?

 

"No. I jumped in the car and everyone was telling me: now destroy them. They were joking around. What an atmosphere. Everybody motivated. Thanks again to everyone, especially Ascanelli, who did a great job".

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Rookie payback.

 

"Yeah, when I think back to the beginning of the season when they were finishing 15th without anyone noticing. We did a good job".

 

A great job.

 

"Oh yes, in that sense we can say we had the balls to do it. Oops, sorry".

 

Now everyone will compare her to Schumacher.

 

"And that's ridiculous. I am only at the beginning, I think only Alonso can be approached, compared to Schumi".

 

Was Vettel afraid of losing the chance? 

 

"No, I never had any problems. At first we didn't know when the others would stop, but we made the right choices".

 

He was not the fastest, though.

 

"No one knew what the track conditions would be. That's why the car was set up to avoid nasty surprises, either way".

 

Does he remember the last lap?

 

"And how could I not? The longest lap I ever had at Monza. But the sweetest, the most beautiful of all. Like this day in my life, the most beautiful. I am speechless, happy and proud".

 

Now he's taken a liking to it, but from next year he'll be changing helmets.

 

"But staying in the family, from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. There are no secrets, the packages are similar even though many people find excuses in the difference of the engines. In my opinion it's just a matter of hard work".

 

Now everyone will be watching it more carefully, waiting for it.

 

"My approach to the next race will always be the same. Of course it will be difficult to repeat this result, pole position and victory".

 

His goals, then?

 

"We have a good package, so I will try to be in the top 10 in qualifying, to get points. I don't want to be made out to be a hero, though. I don't want to go to Singapore to be a superstar, I don't expect another Grand Prix like this one. I was raised with a teaching: keep my feet on the ground".

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One thousand euros after only a few minutes on the track, overspeeding in the pits, also a record, though less rewarding than the youngest driver in points, June last year, Kubica's reserve in the Bmw, taken over for the accident suffered in Montreal by the Pole and immediately among the best at the finish line. A predestined, of that there is no doubt. Who managed to warm the heart of Monza, to exalt the Italian pride, to revive (not only to Schumacher, but to a good part of the public) sweet memories, when in these parts people went into ecstasy in listening to the German anthem and immediately after that of Mameli. Of course, Ferrari's triumphs are a 'different matter, and Ferrari did not cover itself in glory, Massa sixth, Raikkonen ninth, but Vettel's success constitutes more than a consolation for those who came wrapped in the tricolor. Let's face it, pole can make an impact, but it can also be an impromptu gesture, a random feat, perhaps aided by the rain. Leading a race from start to finish, on the other hand, is a real feat, and those in the stands go home with the feeling of having witnessed a historic moment. That then First Sebastian Vettel is Schumacher's favorite pupil, both of whom grinded out the first kilometers on the Kerpen kart track, only adds more poetry to an already extraordinary fairy tale. Vettel cries at the end on the podium, is moved in the car immediately after the finish, does not know what to say after the award ceremony, for how stunned he is, in disbelief of his triumph, happily amazed. Motoring Italy has won a lot, but the successes were almost always Ferrari-branded. To hear, unbranded by Maranello, Mameli's anthem one had to go back to 1951, a Grand Prix in Spain, Fangio driving, Alfa Romeo the car. Vettel must also be given credit for that, for remembering that the tricolor is also represented by Scuderia Toro Rosso. Too bad, think the men in Faenza, that now he is leaving, Red Bull Racing, the official team, is calling him and will put him in the car in 2009. But come to think of it they must be happy, the Scuderia Toro Rosso men, because he, if he had wanted to, could have moved up the schedule, Red Bull Racing had asked him, ready to retire David Coulthard a few months earlier. But he refused.

 

"Toro Rosso has balls, I couldn't abandon them".

 

Attributes as big as his own. To which he adds gratitude. Otherwise, the Italian Grand Prix was a race with somewhat crazy verdicts. Disappointed Kovalainen for second place, good on strategy Kubica, Alonso and Heidfeld, smarter than the others in mounting intermediate tires when the track was drying out. Massa finished sixth; Hamilton didn't need nine overtakes; he finished seventh. Raikkonen woke up only in the final. Ferrari shivers even before the start: there was an air leak in the tire system, as a precaution Massa changed the engine. He used the wild card, no penalty. That was all we needed. At the end of the Italian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa had no doubts:

 

"If the track had dried more quickly, given the set-up we had, I would definitely have ended up on the podium and maybe even could have won".

 

In short, it could have been better than sixth place finish. The Brazilian acknowledges, though.

 

"In the conditions in which it was run, it went well. Some drivers like Kubica, Alonso and Heidfeld took a big advantage of the strategy, they stayed on the track longer, they were able to refuel much later than me, and when they came back to the pits, with the drier track, they were able to mount intermediate tires. At that point they were ahead and catching them became impossible".

 

So considering Ferrari's great difficulties in bringing the tires up to temperature on the wet asphalt, a shortcoming acknowledged at the end of the race by Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari's team principal, it could have ended even worse. At the end of the day, Massa achieved his goal, to finish ahead of Hamilton. 

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He may have gained only a tiny point over his rival, but it is still an encouraging sign, considering among other things that the Brazilian has won one more Grand Prix and that therefore at this moment in the event of an even finish he would be the World Champion. Massa assigns this mini victory in the rainbow duel great psychological importance:

 

"Hamilton was great, he overtook a lot, he was spinning like a rocket, he had a very good strategy, yet he ended up behind. It's a sign that we at Ferrari aren't bad either".

 

Far from it. Appropriate, however, it would be, seeing the Brazilian's discomforts, but especially Raikkonen's enormous initial travails, to catch up with McLaren in wet-track tire exploitation as well. Time is running out now, only one series of tests left, this week at Mugello, at these tests (Raikkonen on Thursday, Massa on Friday) Ferrari will be asking for a miracle. For Domenicali, it is an obligation:

 

"Because there is a risk that rain will appear in all the last races".

 

Especially feared in Singapore, the next round, is the big news of the first night race in history.

 

"It will be run at 8:00 p.m. local, and at that time it usually rains in Singapore".

 

Massa then is convinced about Singapore that he has an extra weapon. It is a new track, and usually Ferrari is better than others at adapting to the debut. Instead, it remains to be seen what help Massa will get from Raikkonen. Who, however, gives his availability: 

 

"This competition does not satisfy me. At this point you have to make things go right for the team. For my part, I hope to have races where I can have fun".

 

Translated: my dream is gone, if there is a need, I will help. As for Hamilton, he leaves Monza untroubled.

 

"If it kept raining, I could have won. When it stopped, with my extreme wet tires I couldn't go fast anymore. You have to be realistic, though: on the grid I was 15th, at the finish line seventh. I limited the damage, it's okay".

 

On Tuesday, September 16, 2008, Felipe Massa will be in Turin. At the simulator he will get to know the Singapore track, try to empathize, take in valuable data, try to find the right weapons to triumph on Sunday, September 28, 2008. Thus begins his long sprint toward the rainbow title, the exciting sprint with Hamilton, from whom he is separated in the standings by only one point, a thin and practically nil gap, if one considers that at the moment the Brazilian has won one more Grand Prix, a decisive endowment in the event of a tied finish. Curiously enough, precisely Interlagos, his Brazil, his track, the place where he began to fly with imagination, could be the sweet end of his project, being the last race on the calendar, but first there are three appointments, Singapore, Japan and China, in which no mistakes will be allowed. Massa knows this and does not hide it: 

 

"By now even a single point can make a difference, getting a race wrong would have devastating effects, a retirement, perhaps because of reliability problems, would amount to a disaster. I have to try to always finish ahead of Hamilton, as happened in Monza, a feat not easy, but possible with my Ferrari. You have to be aggressive, but also smart. Use your head, woe to ruin everything with some risky maneuver".

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That is why for some time now Massa has added reason and, in the case, prudence to the impetuosity, a characteristic that in the past induced him to make a few too many mistakes in the race. At Spa he let Hamilton and Raikkonen duel like mad and settled for third place, later turned into victory thanks to the Finn's accident and the judges' penalization of the McLaren driver; at Monza, realizing that grabbing the podium would be impossible, he focused only on the duel with his rival, limiting himself to defending sixth place and the extra point with his fingernails. He is becoming a mature champion, the Brazilian, perhaps less spectacular than Hamilton (who sometimes unleashes overtaking in series, as at Monza, but still commits a few too many errors on the tactical level), but equally effective, this year 'has shown that he has what it takes to rise to the top of the world. There is a shortcoming, however, in his car that threatens to wreck everything. The Ferrari, at low temperatures and wet track, suffers too much, fails to get the tires to warm up to the right point, struggles a lot (emblematic Raikkonen at Monza, since in the final, with a free and drier track, he was running seconds faster than everyone), especially when stuck in traffic (essential to qualify in the first rows). A flaw that is of great concern, not least because it is associated with a weather warning in this season finale, with high chances of rain both in Singapore (it is run in the evening) and in Japan and China, races that were wet last year. The risk of another Grand Prix like the one in Italy is high, so Ferrari, as far as possible (the structure of the car certainly cannot be changed with four races to go), is trying to run for cover. On Thursday it will be at Mugello with Raikkonen, on Friday with Massa, the Maranello team's men are ready to wet the track (if the weather disagrees) and will experiment with special aerodynamic configurations. Says Stefano Domenicali bluntly:
 

"In certain conditions we are too slow, we definitely need to improve".

 

Lest at the sprint it is Hamilton who smiles. With Massa desperate in his Brazil. Circuit where he has always had an edge.


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