Sebastian Vettel brushes title rivals aside to win

2008 Italian Grand Prix review

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.

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65 comments on Sebastian Vettel brushes title rivals aside to win

  1. Pedro Andrade said on 14th September 2008, 22:10

    Congratulations to Vettel! Great to see my two favourite drivers (Kubica and Vettel) scored their maiden wins this year. :) Vettel has looked very special ever since he was Friday driver for BMW in the end of 2006.

    Props also to Hamilton, his race was fantastic (despite the incidents with Glock and Webber, where I think he was too brash).

    Kovalainen and Raikkonen were the big let downs. Kovalainen should have at least fought for the win, he was never anywhere near Vettel, and Raikkonen as has been sadly usual this year, only decides to wake up for the last ten laps of the race, enough to bring home another fastest lap. If only the fastest lap still gave one champinship point…

  2. Pedro Andrade said on 14th September 2008, 22:11

    Oh, and no points to James Allen, for going on and on about “Minardi DNA”… Not only on the broadcast, but also on his itv website column.

  3. beneboy said on 14th September 2008, 22:18

    I agree, James Allen is totaly pointless.

  4. That Minardi DNA nonsense annoyed me no end. OK, we get it, the team used to be Minardi. It only needed to be said once, and there didn’t need to be any mention of DNA. What’s wrong with James Allen? It’s like he has a “phrase of the weekend” that he has to repeat over and over.

    Sorry for the rant.

  5. beneboy said on 14th September 2008, 23:02

    It’s OK Nathan, you’re not alone.

    He wasn’t so bad when he was working the pits but he should never have been allowed into the commentary box.

  6. teamorders said on 14th September 2008, 23:10

    Another great race to watch. Terrific to see another winner this year.

    Wonder why Hamilton felt the need to drive 2 cars off the track during the race in those conditions?

  7. @nathan

    haha I just thought of having a bet every race where people put money on stupid “phrases of the weekend” Allen might come up with. The one that is mentioned most often wins. For example, for Singapore, the choices could be:

    - “racing under starry skies”
    - “circuit has the character of monaco”
    - “i want to **** hamilton”
    - “hamilton lewis lewis hamilton lewis”

  8. beneboy said on 14th September 2008, 23:19

    @Shashi

    Thanks mate, that gave me a good laugh :~)

    Just about to watch the highlights to enjoy the action again & wondering if I should turn the mute on so I don’t have to listen to him.
    The only problem being that I love listening to Brundle’s opinions, even when I disagree with them.

  9. Bobulon said on 14th September 2008, 23:24

    James Allen did indeed spend the last 1/4 of the race coming up with every implausible, ridiculous scenario he could think of that would let Hamilton win the race. It was embarrassing and pathetic. However it IS a UK TV station and you have to expect some barracking for the local boy.

    “Super Vettel!!!!
    He will be next Schumi….”

    Mebe in terms of his driving skill, but Vettel is a nice guy, not an arrogant ******* like Schumi. Hamilton has got that part of the legacy already sewn up.

  10. @beneboy

    Allen is bad, but I still prefer ITV over Speed cuz of Brundle and also cuz the SPEED crew’s copulatory screams at every minor event drive me nuts.

    @Bobulon

    Vettel is nice now cuz he’s young and hasn’t really felt the pressure of success. I hope he stays that way but I ain’t holding my breath.

  11. beneboy said on 14th September 2008, 23:36

    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.

  12. beneboy said on 14th September 2008, 23:37

    @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 !

  13. 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?

  14. @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.

  15. 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.

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