Sebastian Vettel brushes title rivals aside to win

2008 Italian Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his magnificent win in the Italian Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel celebrates his magnificent win in the Italian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel announced his arrival as a force in F1 with a masterful win in slippery conditions in the Italian Grand Prix. He led from the start on the wet track and held the lead for most of the race, switching from extreme wet tyres in the later stages.

Meanwhile the championship rivals struggled: Felipe Massa finished where he started, sixth, with Lewis Hamilton right behind him having started 15th, and Kimi Raikkonen ninth from 14th.

Vettel vanishes

Sebastian Vettel leads Heikki Kovalainen and Mark Webber at the start
Sebastian Vettel leads Heikki Kovalainen and Mark Webber at the start

Vettel led the field away from pole position as the race began behind the safety car. While Kazuki Nakajima and Jenson Button started from the pits, Vettel’s team mate Sebastien Bourdais was out of luck, being stranded on the grid with a problem. He eventually got away one lap down.

The first few laps were tentative as the drivers struggled to get a feel for the conditions. Most of them were very heavily fuelled, but as the surface water washed away and the fuel loads came down the race came to life.

Having started near the back, Raikkonen and Hamilton were queued behind David Coulthard and Giancarlo Fisichella in a four-way battle for 11th. Coulthard dropped behind the trio and Raikkonen began attacked Fisichella, finally passing the Force India on lap eight. Hamilton followed him the next time around.

But by this stage they were already over half a minute behind the flying Vettel, who in the opening stages had dropped Heikki Kovalainen by up to two seconds per lap. By lap nine Kovalainen was only losing a few tenths to Vettel, but even so the gap grew from 6.4s to 11 over the next eight laps. Vettel was accurate and quick, and only seemed to miss a chicane once, at the Variante Della Roggia on lap six.

Hamilton goes on a charge

By this stage Hamilton was coming to life and after picking off Fisichella was quickly with Raikkonen. On lap 10 he got a better run out of the Della Roggia and neatly out-braked Raikkonen into the first Lesmo.

He passed a car per lap from laps 14-16, taking Nick Heidfeld, Timo Glock and Robert Kubica to get into the top eight. He also slashed his deficit to Massa, while leaving Raikkonen trailling.

Vettel pitted from the lead on lap 18, coming out behind Massa. Massa had passed Nico Rosberg for fourth at his second attempt, having done so by cutting a chicane the first time and yielding the place back.

The prospect of an edgy battle between Hamilton and Fernando Alonso for seventh amounted to nothing. Hamilton was over two seconds per lap quicker than the Renault and Alonso saw the futility of offering any more than token resistance, even to his arch-nemesis.

Glock was making rapid progress as well despite having lost a position to Robert Kubica by spinning on lap six. He took ninth off Kubica on lap nine and went past Alonso the next time by as well.

Hamilton’s progress was briefly halted by Jarno Trulli on lap 21 as the McLaren driver cut the chicane. bearing in mind the ‘clarification’ of the contentious rule after Spa, Hamilton gave the position back, and took care not to pass Trulli at the following corner. The next lap, however, he was past.

Drivers gamble on wet weather tyres

The following lap Kovalainen, Massa and Mark Webber pitted from first, second and third respectively, putting Vettel back in the lead. That promoted Hamilton to second as he tore seconds out of Vettel’s lead with each lap. Massa came out of the pits behind Heidfeld, and was stuck with the BMW for a couple of laps, losing precious time.

Trulli and Raikkonen came into the pits on lap 26 and, although the rain had stopped some time ago and the track was drying, they followed everyone else’s lead by taking a new set of extreme wet tyres. Hamilton did the same when he came in on the next lap.

On the very next lap David Coulthard came in and switched to the ordinary wet tyres. When he went back out onto the track he skated past the first corner with his front wheel locks, but that didn’t discourage Renault who put Alonso on the wet tyres on lap 30. Alonso, he feel for tyre temperature always strong in these conditions, was soon lapping at similar times to everyone on the extreme wets.

The forecast claimed heavier rain was on the way but only a few drops arrived – not enough to keep life in the extreme wets. One by one the leaders surrendered to the inevitable and came in for standard wets – some of them having pitted just a handful of laps earlier and having fuelled to the end.

Massa made the switch on lap 33, one lap before Kovalainen and Webber. That allowed him to take advantage of Webber and pass the Red Bull driver, who then spun at the exit of Ascari.

Of the one-stoppers BMW called the conditions best, as Kubica came in for his single stop on lap 34 and switched to the intermediate tyres, leaving the pits in third place. It also played into Vettel’s hands beautifully, as he was fuelled to make a second stop anyway, and he didn’t even lose the lead when he pitted on lap 36.

Raikkonen finds pace too late in the race

Hamilton came back in on the same lap, have waited three laps longer than Massa. He came out behind Webber and pounced immediately, taking seventh place. Massa was now getting stuck into Heidfeld and by lap 38 Hamilton had caught them, the trio covered by just over a second.

But Hamilton was struggling to make his shallower-grooved wet tyres last, and dropped back briefly from Massa. That allowed Webber to get a run on him again, and the pair banged wheels at the first chicane, Webber cutting the corner but letting Hamilton pass again.

Raikkonen now finally found some pace, rather as he had when the track dried at Silverstone. He set a string of fastest laps and began moving through the field, taking Nakajima for 13th on lap 46. As several more drivers in front of him pitted he moved into tenth before demoting Nelson Piquet Jnr for ninth. Piquet, as at Hockenheim, was the last man to pit for fuel and it helped him move up the order, but there were no points on offer for him this time.

Had the race been a few laps longer the flying Raikkonen would have reached the Heidfeld/Massa/Hamilton/Webber train, but it wasn’t to be. If he gambled on a dry weather set-up, it didn’t pay off, and for the third race in a row the world champion failed to score.

Vettel’s record-breaking win

But Vettel produced a drive of such calm, mature composure he looked like a man with dozens of F1 wins already to his name – in fact, he is the youngest person to win an F1 race, by almost a whole year.

Kovalainen was an unhappy second, no doubt well aware that an awful lot more was expected of him given where he started. Kubica kept himself well in the championship hunt with a calm and tactically astute drive to third.

Fernando Alonso’s wet tyre gamble paid off and he delivered fourth. Behind him were Massa, Hamilton and Webber each with a few seconds of each other. Massa has now cut Hamilton’s title lead to a single point.

Behind Raikkonen and Piquet were the Toyota-powered quartet of Glock, Nakajima, Trulli and Rosberg. The latter was badly caught out by the timing of his pit stops and a problem getting away on his first visit to the pits.

Jenson Button was the last unlapped driver, ahead of Coulthard who had a late collision with Nakajima, spreading debris across the track which was hit by Massa. Barrichello was 17th after a late switch to dry-weather tyres failed to pay off.

Bourdais, 18th, must have been crushed, knowing that his seat was on the line before this race. Adrian Sutil was 19th and Fisichella was the only driver not to finish – he had nudged the back of Coulthard’s car, loosening his front wing, and ploughed straight into the barriers at Parabolica when the wing broke free.

Sebastian Vettel was the man of the weekend. He was very quick throughout qualifying and was every bit as impressive in the wet as he had been at Fuji last year – up until that fateful collision with Webber. This exceptional win will have banished all memories of that. And now he will join Webber at Red Bull in 2009 as a race winner.

65 comments on “Sebastian Vettel brushes title rivals aside to win”

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  1. Grrrr, arrgggg, my god!

    I had to leave the blog because we were invited for lunch, when the race become so exciting with all drivers going for intermediates.

    Ok I said, I’ll try to get connexion through my IPhone. And when I got connected, to this blog, everybody were celebrating about Vettel win, Keith posting Constructors points, but NOBODY posting the final drivers result!!!!!

    Anyhow, thanks a lot to Sebastian Vettel for bringing all F1 aficionados an amazing race!!!!!

    Rain, rain, rain. What’s next? Singapore in the night!!!! Rain and Night?

    More exciting with two drivers with one point difference in the WDC, I cannot wait!!!

  2. Great drive for Vettel. It is really exciting to see someone new up there.

    It was strange that the post-race interviewer didn’t ask everyone about Hamilton. It seems that he always brings Hamilton up to the other drivers. I thought it was funny after qualifying that he would ask Heiki about Hamilton’s strategy! Poor Heiki gets overshadowed even when he beats his teammate.

  3. ScuderiaToroFerrari4Eva
    14th September 2008, 17:04

    Poor Heikki but Vettel shows that he is class and that Toro Rosso could be on the up man cant wait for singapore rain and night now that could be a mouthwatering prospect poor Raikkonen he simply hates the wet if he found that pace earlier on things couldve been different i dont think Kubica has a strong enough car for a title bid but Toro Rosso will get 4th place i can assure you:)

  4. Kimi likes the rain, just apparently had a dry set up.

  5. Really felt bad for Sebastian Bourdais because had his car not stalled who knows maybe a Toro Rosso 1-2 as he as extremely fast!!

  6. What a ****!!! Had a weekend off and missed a thriller like this??? Keith, pls post some exciting videos…I cant wait!!

  7. As a harbinger, this will overshadow Schumacher at Spa in the Jordan. This guy will be champion. No driver in a top team save Kubica, Hamilton and Raikkonen should feel secure in his drive for 09 or 10—it won’t take much to convince Vettel that his new car is below his abilities.

    Beyond the historic win of Vettel, the news is that title race here was a disaster for Ferrari, with a chance, realistically, to follow Kovy home in 2d or 3rd and force Hamilton to win out the season to have even a chance at the title, Massa instead let Hamilton catch him and retain his lead. Raikonnen dissolved after Hamilton blew by him—KR’s new duty as #2 should have been to drive Lewis off the road if necessary to keep him off Massa’s tail. He failed at that and also scored no points. Result, even with Kovalainen’s pitiful submission to the sugar water car, McLaren takes 10 points home to Ferrari’s 3.

  8. Fantastic race for Vettel, and Hamilton. Some people said let’s see what is Hamilton is really made of having to start from 15th place, but the fact is Hamilton overtook all these people:


    Have a good Day.

  9. Brilliant GP, supremely cool and confident driving from Vettel (congratulations), and real courage and skill from Hamilton, daring much more than KR and FM, possibly a championship-defining performance. Pity we didn’t see wet weather throughout, Hamilton’s strategy pay off and a final race for pole between Vettel on 2 stops and Hamilton on 1. But Vettel’s victory was well-deserved.

  10. I’m very pleased for Vettel and STR. I used to love it when someone put a Minardi ahead of expectations and it’s great that many Minardi employees are still there to enjoy this.

    Great that Hamilton cut through the field and limited the WDC damage but what about Massa?
    I’d love to see Massa throw off his reputation as a driver who can only win from the front (after the first turn if not necessarily on the grid). I missed the race and will have to catch up with the reports and highlights later but Grid6 Race6!?! I’m sure there was a good reason but he appears to blame grip and traffic.
    If he’s to beat Lewis by 6 clear points he’s passed up an opportunity here.

  11. Those bashing Massa should know his pathetic wet weather driving skills. It is always damage control for Massa in the wet. He managed to get the ferrari home and not spin.. that is good enough..
    He may win races from pole later

  12. Given Massa’s wet weather skills..

    P6 seems like a win :). Wet races are always damage control for Massa. He got the car home in one-piece without spinning. That is good enough

  13. Congratulations to Vettel!…way to hold’em off!I knew he was the real thing,just wish he was still with BMW.

  14. I agree that Vettel had a wonderful victory, perhaps the most impressive in ages, not because he won with an underdog team, but because there was only one retirement – Fisichella’s Force India, that would never have finished ahead of him anyway.

    On the other hand, Kovalainen must be embarrassed for being unable to outrun a Toro Rosso, while Hamilton, with the same car, came crushing the opposition, and only didn’t manage to finish higher in the standings because his one stop strategy was ruined by the way the track dried.

    Massa, as you said, could have been better, but it was more down to details in crucial moments (surrendering his position to Rosberg, failing to pass Heidfeld) than to an outright inability to drive in the wet. Felipe is improving as a driver in every and each aspect, including wet weather racing…

    And now those who think Raikkonen (57 pts) is still realisticly in the title fight must concede that also Heidfeld (53 pts) and Kovalainen (51 pts) still have their shots, because, as it was proved last year, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over…”

  15. I have just come to realize that today’s podium in one way was very similar to the Monza 2006 podium. On every podium step there was exactly the same driver’s and constructor’s nationality. (1. GER&ITA, 2. FIN&GER, 3. POL&GER)

  16. Good point Rav (although McLaren are British, not German!)

  17. @ Keith: You’re right, I got misleaded by their co-owner – Mercedes. :)

  18. Great win for Vettel and amazing result for Alonso having a car that only lacks in Monza grip, stability and speed :-)). They are for me the two men of the weekend.

    Disgraceful for Kimmi. How is it? Is it only bad luck?. He should be much more relaxed now he has renewed with Ferrari.

    Great at times for Hamilton, but luck was not this time with him as he had to pit one more than expected. Weather people should be fired as they werent right in any team, so the gamble taken first by Coulthard and later by Alonso was the right choice against the weather predictions.

  19. Ok, so where did all this performance come from today that’s elluded the team all the time before?

  20. off tangent i know but I felt compelled to share my plight, after seeing a great race today (i rate it 8, two thumbs up) I’ve been excited at the prostect of watching top gear then Indie MotoGP only to find that BBC 2 just told me to PRESS THE RED BUTTON to watch the MotoGP…. WHAT?, you muppets, the red button is the power button!

    SOME OF US DON’T HAVE SKY! why has the BBC put such an important race on obscure channel 500 eleventy billion??

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