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. I think Vettel may well have the ability to be as good a driver as Schumi but I don’t think he’ll be the next Schumi for a few reasons:
    There are several very good drivers at the moment, Lewis, Kimi, Felipe, Kubica, Webber. Schumi never really had more than 2 other drivers competing for the championships for his last 5 seasons.

    Vettel seems to be a really nice guy – I’m not being snide her, I love Schumi and am still a big fan of his but I have to admit that he’s not the nicest of guy’s.

    It’s unlikely we’ll ever get another team so much built around a single driver for so long again. Schumi’s biggest advantage was the team he had around him, Ferrari knew they were not just signing him but also the team that came with him and this gave him a position in the team that I don’t think even Lewis will get at McLaren.

    There are others too.

    Still think Vettel is brilliant though and hope to be able to enjoy watching his rise to stardom over the next few years.

  2. @Shashi

    I’m with you on Brundle, he’s one of the best commentators I’ve heard on any form of sport.

    If he doesn’t go to the BBC I’ll be very upset !

  3. Shashi & Beneboy – I had to laugh when James Allen said the ‘story of the day’ was Lewis’ recovery from 15th !

    Um, I don’t think so !

    And Beneboy, you left Alonso out of your list of drivers. On that topic, I thought Fernando was supposed to be making an announcement this weekend re contract for next year. Did I miss it, or has he not said anything yet?

  4. @Pink Peril, in James Allen’s defence (not a phrase I use very often!), he actually said that there was only one story of the day, and the story of Hamilton was a good one, but didn’t come close to the story of Vettel.

    What a great race, the only reason I didn’t give it a 9 or 10 was the lack of a battle for the lead over the final laps. But it was great to see the Vettelster take his first win. Thoroughly deserved – he was the quickest all weekend.

    It’s also great to see the amazing amount of driver talent on the grid. In the past it has sometimes been hard to see who could fill the best seats on the grid, now there aren’t enough top seats to go around.

    F1 is in great shape at the moment and I’m looking forward to each race more than any season since I started watching mid80s.

  5. After this race, I’ve come to a pretty clear conclusion:

    The future of Formula One will be a three-way battle among Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica, and Sebastian Vettel.

    All three of these guys were fantastically SUPERB today. Vettel simply drove an expert race, and Toro Rosso took advantage of the wet and did a great job with the car. This win by Vettel is up there with Senna’s performance at Monaco in 1984 in the Toleman.

    Hamilton put on a brilliant drive from 15th to second, and he was gunning down Vettel before his first pit stop. Had McLaren put inters on the car rather than the extreme wets, it would have been a very tough race between Hamilton and Vettel for the win. We saw just how good Hamilton is today.

    We also saw just how good Robert Kubica is today. He also started from a disadvantageous spot, and he did a great job. He didn’t put a wheel wrong the whole day, and he executed the one-stop strategy with a change to inters to maximum effect.

    These three drivers are simply outstanding, and they’re all younger than 23. They all have tremendous car control. I think Vettel is still a little rough in his technique and his transitions, but he’s still young and will surely learn.

    It will be interesting to see where Kubica and Vettel end up 2-3 years from now. Lewis is set for McLaren in the long-term. Ferrari seems to be aiming for Kubica, and vise-versa. However, Vettel is going to be the driver who everyone will seemingly pursue. Schumacher has spoken extremely high of him on numerous occasions, leading me to believe that he’s most certainly on Ferrari’s radar. There were reports that McLaren made a run at him before the season to replace Alonso, but that Toro Rosso declined their buyout offer for his contract. And as we all know, Vettel has a history with BMW, having tested for them and substituted in races for Kubica last season. I could see both McLaren and BMW being very keen to acquire him, given that both teams are either German or have a German engine partner who surely would like to have a German driver aboard. I think it’s very interesting that McLaren seems to have a seat open right now for 2010, and that BMW is delaying their annual announcement of their driver lineup for next season and the terms of their drivers’ contracts.

  6. Vettel made my day when he said ” we had balls today”
    Geesh i allmost did die. I hope hamilton did hear that lol.

    Vettel was really good and he seems to be nice guy, When somebody called him next Schumi he said that its ridigilious call him like that. So sounds that vettel wont be next Big mouth like some other driver…

    And ofcourse Hamilton could not keep his mouth. Howcome he can say that he would win if rain would continue???? Its like putting down all hard work and skills what vettel did.
    Then he had to say some nice things about massa ” Massa lost his opportunity to take WDC lead” Who have asked Hamilton say something nasty about every possible drivers in grid.
    “If i will not win WDC i have not lost it. Kimi is champion and he is one who will be loser if he do not win it”
    Can somebody give some duck tape to Lewis and close his mouth pleaseeee.
    BTW. Lewis will cause some accident one day if he continue pusjing other drivers away from track like he did in Monza.


  7. Bobulon, I agree with you. The “Lewis can still win this” theories were increasing so illogical they were almost funny, “o.k. Lewis is in 8th place, 26 secs behind and has one more pit-stop but I think he can still win this”….

    For all those who say the stewards are anti-Lewis, how Lewis escaped without a penalty after his incident with Webber, I don’t know. There is an argument for aggressive legal driving but in my mind, the Webber incident was not legal.

    To DC: why should the interviewers ask the podium people about Hamilton? Let them talk about their race, they earned it.

    Speaking of which, I have so much admiration for Vettel and Kubica. They are young & talented and show terrific good sportmanship. Hamilton does have some talent but his arrogance is overwhelming. There is confidence and then there is arrogrance. It has been really interesting this week, that no other F1 driver has spoken out in support of Hamilton getting the steward’s decision overturned. Not one. Lately, Ham’s driving technique resembles demolition derby, not F1. I am all for competitiveness, absolutely, but not at the cost of sportmanship.

  8. The “Lewis can still win this” theories were probably because at one stage he was 1.1 seconds behind Vettel when both had 1 pit stop remaining. But lets not let the facts get in the way of a good Hamilton bashing.

    Keith, great website. I first came here about 3 months ago and I’ve been a daily reader ever since. I do have to say though, that I’m amazed at the vitriolic anti-Hamilton comments that appear on just about every topic. Has any other driver ever provoked this sort of reaction before?!

  9. First BMW now Torro Rosso win – stand by for yet another faceless corporate reshuffle at the uninspiring corporate monster that is Toyota.

  10. Congratulations to Vettel on his first win and hope there will be lots more to come. I notice a lot of people jump to conclusions after one race , sure a very exciting and demanding race , but to conclude for example that Raikkonen is no good , is premature. Obviously he was set up for drier conditions , which showed later in the race . He took a gamble and it never paid off. The fact Ferrari have signed him for another year tells a story on it’s own. Hamilton was great , makes passing look “easy” , but again he had a wet set up together with a McLaren which is better than Ferrari in cooler conditions , which allowed him to do that , and as we saw , in drier conditions , he lost some of that awesome pace. But still a sensational drive , and as usual he get’s everything out of the car that he can and even a bit more. Massa drove a consistent race , also under considerable pressure from Hamilton . That itself shows how the set up makes a big difference – compare his drive at Monza to the one at Silverstone (similar conditions) , again Massa after Silverstone had been written off as hopeless in the rain , yet he has performed well at Monza. All in all , the show is improving , with Vettel having won , my count makes it 11 drivers on the current grid who have won GP , 4 of which are not recent winners , making it SEVEN who currently have the potential to win in the right car. Adding to that , are drivers like Glock and Heidfeld , who could take a win in the right situation.

  11. Owen – thank you very much! As for Hamilton, I don’t think F1 drivers usually provoke such extreme reactions before they’ve won a world championship. Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna had pretty fierce detractors though…

  12. Grande Vettel, grande Toro Rosso. The guy did a brilliant job and I am so happy to see new faces on the top specially if they don’t have a big mouth 

    BTW, did you notice that yesterday we had in the podium the three drivers that have scored their maiden win this year?? Also, was great to see how others drivers came to congratulate VET (including ALO who lost his record).

    On the other side, I am sorry for Bourdais, he made a great Q3 and had a great pace. He could have been in the podium as well.

    ALO really impressed me yesterday; first he managed to end fourth in Monza with that Renault. Then the way he read the race was amazing. I was watching the race on TF1 (French TV) and the guys were saying “the race line seems to be drying out, I wonder if the intermediate tires would be a good idea”, in that moment they put the ALO’s radio on and the guy was asking for intermediate tires… is amazing how he can think about strategy while racing in those conditions.

    Also HAM proved as well that he is the only title contender that deserves to take it home. He fought for the points and that attitude should pay off at the end off the year. TF1 was saying that maybe MCL has found a way to bring back the TC, but then, what about KOI??, he did not get it?? 

    On the other side of the ladder, MAS was just driving home his Ferrari, he missed a great opportunity to take the WC lead and put some pressure on HAM. On the bright side, some can say that with his poor wet driving skills and the wetter season that I can remember he is one point from the lead… so just bringing points home and waiting for the sun???

    RAI, this is not his season and that is. Whether is lack of motivation, a Ferrari not adapted for his driving style or strategy problems Ferrari has a problem with him. He is earning much more than MAS and till date he has not played the n1 role. Still, he scored the 9th fasted lap of the season, respect!!

  13. Talking of Brundle, anyone got any idea what Ecclestone’s quip about him being fired by ITV was about?

  14. I guess my reply to Owen was deleted. Surprising, didn’t think it was offensive?

  15. Kate – if it broke the Comment Policy it will have been deleted. But if you send me details of the comment via the contact form I can check it wasn’t just eaten by the spam filter, which does occasionally remove legitimate comments. The same goes for anyone who think a comment of theirs has gone missing.

  16. What the hell has Vettel´s wins to do with Lewis Hamilton? Aren’t someone’s here missing the point?

    Lewis was polite and praised Sebastian using hyperbolic adjectives. Lewis drove an amazing and brave race, showing how he wants to win this championship more than Massa or Kimi.

    It is funny how Lewis bashers shift any discussion to put him down. Let’s stick to the point and praise Sebastian, who won a fantastic race because this post is about that.

    Even Massa has said that he can´t see anything behind him on his mirrors. Why this could be different with Lewis? Kazuki tried to overtake by the outside of parabolic, why anyone remembers that? Oh, I just guess…

    Here in Brazil, the most popular F1 Blog has a plenty of F1 fans praising Lewis for his race yesterday, supporting him in the case of penalty in Spa; saying how Lewis´ race remembered them Senna´s on the old days; how they desired Lewis to be a Brazilian; how Lewis has more “balls” than Massa on a wet track…

    Why we have always to read this kind of rubbish against Lewis? Give him a break!!!!

  17. 2nd try :) Hopefully will make it through the spam filter as I am confident that it did not breach rules. Actually can’t remember exact post but approximate post was:-

    Firstly to Owen, I don’t think that Bobulon was Lewis bashing at all, although Lewis had worked his way through the field and was close at one point, increasingly James’s commentary just got so silly towards the end, James kept pushing the theories that Lewis could win even in the dying laps (4 laps to go)of the race, while at the same time saying he was dropping off the pace and that something was seriously amiss with the car. Normally mutually exclusive, I would have thought, especially in those weather conditions?

    Also I do not class myself as a Lewis basher, I just think that the stewards should have looked very, very closely at his incident with Mark Weber. I would say that about any driver who had been involved doing the same thing, whoever they were, especially given his pattern of driving throughout the race. I think F1 drivers have to be supremely confident to do what they do, it would scare the beejeebas out of me to drive like they did on the weekend but there is such a fineline between confidence and arrogance & often Lewis crosses that, both in interviews and in his driving moves. If that is Lewis bashing, maybe I am guilty.

    Becken: I believe that Hamilton is mentioned in this line of discussion by many, including myself, as his race & movement through the field is mentioned in Keith’s article above. My comment is to discuss and debate, not a deliberate Ham put down.

    By the way, Keith, do I win a prize for predicting pre-race that the top “rivals” would not win due to rain and that Kubica would come third…

    Finally I think it was so refreshing to see a fresh face on the podium and as Vettel says, to see a smaller team who works just as hard as the larger teams be rewarded for the hard work. I really liked that part of his post race reply, and agree with it, it must be hard to put in the effort but not be noticed because your team is lower down in the points table. I also just loved his “we had the balls” comment :) Very nice replies for someone “speechless”, imagine if he could have speech, what would he have said!

    Thank you for your indulgence with such a long post

  18. Since we’re back onto Lewis’ driving, I have to say this carping is a little ridiculous. Is he over the line? Maybe, but Schumacher rubbed out that line, and every driver not swerving one extra time “to regain position for the corner” and “taking his line” straight through another car is not earning his pay. (Remember DC giving Schumi the finger at Magny-Cours? That was Schumi’s only punishment and so it has been since.) So this piling on by some drivers is some amazing hypocrisy.

    Specifically, as to Webber, little more need be said about the “width” of his nonetheless frequently passed car.

    Fernando Alonso has never balked at running someone off the road, including the man he was heartily criticizing yesterday. And I recall Alonso’s ridiculous berating of Massa after he hit the Ferrari while passing it at Nurburgring.

    Kimi has said little, to his credit. But there was not a word of censure after he almost ran his teammate off the road at 200 mph at Spa, hit another car from behind hard enough to lift his own clear into the air, and willfully passed under yellow. As a long time Raikkonen fan, I found all of that rather curious.

    Glock’s Curva Grande move was silly, and Hamilton merely “took his line” out of the corner as modern analysts advise drivers may. Glock is not stuffing the Toyota in the fence so often these days, but he has a long way to go to editorialize on other’s driving.

    A cursory review of any race will find any number of ridculous maneuevers and “avoidable accidents” that go unpunished (Nakajima must have been invisible when he smashed into DC at the Parabolica). The FIA’s selective but rare enforcement has created a law of the jungle.

    Hamilton does not have to fight by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. And if he wants his titles, like Schumacher, he will have to rack up many one-finger salutes and endure much whinging from lesser drivers.

  19. @Snoopy
    “If i will not win WDC i have not lost it. Kimi is champion and he is one who will be loser if he do not win it”

    Hamilton was asked if he felt the championship was his to lose, and he replied, Kimi was the world champion so its Kimi’s championship to lose. Don’t take things out of context so you can have fun bashing a driver.

  20. “…I just think that the stewards should have looked very, very closely at his incident with Mark Weber…”

    Oh, reeeaally?

    Coulthard, Webber´s team mate, the same guy who crash at any race, defended in his column at iTV, Kimi´s right of defense at SPA:

    “Clearly Kimi took a defensive line into the corner, making Lewis go the long way around – but that was his right as the lead car, and HE DID NOTHING UNFAIR.”


    If Kimi did nothing wrong, why has not Lewis the same right?

    Another point is that Coulthard is the same guy who complained about his mirrors at Australian GP in his “incident with Massa”. Coulthard could explain why is so difficult to deal with his tiny mirrors and we can understand why this could be even worst in that EXTREME WET CONDITIONS…

    Oh, talking about Massa he almost pushed Fernando to outside at Nurburgring last year. Massa whom already had pushed Fernando outside the track at Barcelona´s start. Fernando was the same guy who dangerously pushed Lewis off the track at the Start of Belgium GP in 2007. After that, In the middle of the Eau Rouge, side by side with Fernando, Lewis just back off, he already knows that some drivers has died there.

    Why nobody seems to remember that? Do you remember?

    Did you watch the same Timo Glock in GP2/2006 against the same Lewis on Turkey race? I guess you´re not! Timo has pushed Lewis outside the track a dozen of times and in a dry track, in a sunny day, with his mirrors clean…

    I do not have noticed that Lewis has complained. Do you?

    In the same GP2, in Barcelona, Lewis were leading the race and fighting for the championship and his team mate, Alexandre Premat, pushed him off track and won the race. Do you know what Lewis had said after the race? “This is racing…”

    I´m still waiting for you to enlighten us on Kazuki´s case at Parabolica. Tell me what you think about it…

    I think you´re not guilty of be a Lewis’s basher because I´m starting to get used to read this kind of nonsense against Lewis, even when he provide us with a race to remember.

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