Monza 2010: Alonso wins where it matters
5 September, 2011
Sep.5 (Mike Pettifer) With only six races to go in the 2010 season, the 2010 Formula 1 world championship title race was heating up as the F1 circus rolled into Italy. As is always the case at Monza, Ferrari tifosi were out in numbers from the beginning of the weekend, hoping to see Fernando Alonso or Felipe Massa take victory for their beloved team.
Lewis Hamilton lead the championship going into the weekend, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber only three points behind him in second place. Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso were also in hot pursuit of Hamilton, looking to put disappointing Belgium GP performances firmly behind them.
In qualifying three, Alonso managed to set the fastest time to the delight of the Tifosi crowd. Button qualified second, with Massa third for Ferrari. The two Red Bull cars seemed to struggle around the Monza circuit, with Mark Webber setting the fourth fastest time, and team-mate Vettel only managing sixth. Hamilton, who had chosen to set his car up completely differently to Button’s, could only find the pace to put him fifth on the grid.
As the five red lights went out to mark the start of Sunday’s race, it was Jenson Button, from second on the grid, who got away the quickest. The McLaren driver’s perfect start meant that he beat Alonso to the turn 1 chicane – the two cars touching at one stage, fortunately, without causing any serious damage to either car.
A few corners later, Hamilton, who had moved up to fourth position after a bad start from Webber, made a move on third placed, Massa. The attempted pass ended in disaster for the championship leader, as he collided with the Brazilian driver – breaking his front track rod in the process. Although Massa was able to carry on, Hamilton’s race was over as he cruised to a halt on the first lap of the grand prix.
“I only have myself to blame and I am very disappointed in myself,” Hamilton said after the race. “I was just trying to position the car in a certain way, got too close to Felipe, he clipped my wheel and damaged the front of the car.”
The Italian GP weekend continued to worsen for both of the Red Bull driver’s. Webber dropped back to 9th from his 4th place grid position, whilst Vettel, who was down in 7th after dropping a place at the start of the GP, reported mechanical problems with his car. After slipping back even further, Vettel’s mechanical problem seemed to fix itself as he re-gained power after lap 20, and he began working his way back up the field.
Meanwhile, with the tifosi willing him on, Alonso was pushing Button to his limit. The Brit, however, was able to draw on his experience and defend the lead until lap 36, when he decided to dive into the pits for new tyres.
Alonso did not follow the leader. Instead the Spaniard took a chance and stayed out on track for another lap – a risk that paid off, as the Ferrari came out of the pits one lap later, marginally ahead of the Mclaren. A skilled piece of driving through the first few corners, with the two cars side by side, saw Alonso hold on to first place.
Elsewhere on the track, Felipe Massa was looking strong to make it two Ferrari cars on the podium, running in third. Webber made it past Hulkenberg in the Williams who, despite having a good race, was holding the Australian up considerably. Sebastian Vettel was back to running at full power and was making his way through the pack.
Alonso succeeded in keeping Button at bay for the remaining laps, taking the 25 championship points, and capping off a superb weekend . Massa made up the podium with an impressive third place after a solid afternoon in Italy.
After the race, Alonso spoke of the pit-stop decision that changed the course of the race: “The possibilities were two, coming in one lap earlier or one lap later…there was one lap to push and rely on the mechanics (to make a quick stop). I think the lap was more or less okay, nothing special, but the pit stop was superb.”
The win clearly meant a great deal to the two-time world champion. “It is something really only possible to compare with the Spanish grand prix victory I had in 2006,” said Alonso.
After his earlier mechanical problems, Sebastian Vettel’s last lap pit-stop saved his day as he managed to take 4th ahead of Nico Rosberg and team-mate, Mark Webber.
“You’ve got to make the best of your opportunities, so it wasn’t the best day. We underperformed as a team and just sniffed around getting a few points,” said Webber.
Nico Hulkenberg took a highly unexpected 7th position for Williams, with Robert Kubica, Michael Schumacher, and Rubens Barrichello completing the top ten. Bruno Senna, Kamui Kobayashi, Jarno Trulli and Lucas di Grassi, joined Lewis Hamilton as non-finishers – all retiring due to mechanical failures, apart from Hamilton himself.