Hamilton wins as Perez charges to second

2012 Italian Grand Prix review

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Monza, 2012Lewis Hamilton scored a dominant win in the Italian Grand Prix for McLaren.

But he finished less than five seconds ahead of Sergio Perez, who battled through the field from 12th on the grid, passing both the Ferraris on the way.

Fernando Alonso also made a recovery drive, finishing third after team mate Felipe Massa gave way to him.

Massa splits the McLarens

Massa made a strong getaway from third on the grid at the start, quickly passing Jenson Button. He drew alongside Hamilton as they braked for the first corner, but had to settle for passing just one of the McLarens.

Michael Schumacher held fourth behind him, under pressure from Sebastian Vettel, while team mate Nico Rosberg fell back.

Alonso appeared behind Vettel after a scintillating first lap. He picked up two places at the start, then slipstreamed past Kamui Kobayashi. He crossed the start/finish line in Kimi Raikkonen’s tow and easily dived up the inside of the Lotus for sixth.

Vettel put Schumacher between himself and the Ferrari but it didn’t take long for Alonso to find a way past and appear behind Vettel. A few laps later Schumacher headed for the pits, the Mercedes driver having to make two pit stops on a day when most got away with just one.

Vettel handed penalty

Massa was gradually dropping back from Hamilton, the gap between the two opening up to 4.7 seconds by lap 15. But as the teams paid close attention to the state of their tyres, Ferrari ran into difficulty as they lost the telemetry feed from Massa’s car.

On the 19th tour Button drew alongside the Ferrari on the outside as they headed into the Roggia, and claimed back the second place he’d lost on the first lap. Massa radioed his pits and told them he was coming in, and on the next lap Alonso did likewise, following Vettel down pit lane.

Ferrari’s stop was almost quick enough to get Alonso out in front of the Red Bull but it wasn’t to be: he emerged on the tail of the RB8. Along with Massa, the trio had dropped back into the midfield pack.

First was Daniel Ricciardo, who Vettel made slight contact with as they exited the Roggia. Alonso followed Vettel through at Lesmo 1.

Next was Bruno Senna, and this time Vettel briefly got the Williams between him and Alonso. But not for long – Alonso opened DRS, passed Senna on the run to Ascari, and latched back onto the rear of Vettel.

What followed next was a near-repeat of the 2011 incident at Curva Grande, but with roles reversed: Alonso was the one trying to pass Vettel, and Vettel edged him onto the grass.

The other significant difference was that this time a penalty was handed down – to Vettel. Alonso passed him later anyway, and Vettel came in shortly afterwards to serve his drive-through.

Perez comes into contention

While Alonso was passing Vettel, Hamilton was taking his lead back – from Perez. The Sauber driver had started on the hard tyres and ran a long first stint. He picked up places the hard way to begin with, taking Rosberg, Senna, Paul di Resta, team mate Kobayashi, and Raikkonen.

Hit belated first pit stop dropped him to eighth and he gained his first place when Button hit trouble on lap 34. A fuel pick-up problem ended his race as the approached the Parabolica.

Perez’s progress was delayed by Raikkonen at first, the Lotus driver re-passing him at Lesmo 1 after the Sauber had gone around the outside of him for the second time at the Roggia. Perez got the job done for good on the next lap despite approaching the Rettifilio on the outside of Raikkonen.

Vettel’s drive-through and Schumacher’s second pit stop brought the Sauber up to fourth, with plenty of laps left for his superior pace on the medium tyres to make trouble for the cars ahead.

Team orders at Ferrari

With Alonso now third behind Massa a change of positions between the Ferraris was an inevitability. Team orders being legal now, Ferrari could have simply instructed Massa to move aside.

If one was given, it was not broadcast on the team radio channel. Rob Smedley told Massa “think about how you’re going to manage the tyres” – not that Smedley was able to monitor Massa’s tyres via the lost telemetry.

Shortly afterwards Smedley advised Massa that Alonso was within DRS range, and the inevitable swap duly took place on the start/finish straight. After that it wasn’t long before Massa was given a hurry-up message as Perez appeared just over four seconds behind him.

But that was in vain. The Sauber was taking over a second per lap off the Ferraris and Perez was soon on Massa’s tail. He didn’t even need DRS to get the past, though he came perilously close to clipping the Ferrari as he blasted past on the way to the Parabolica.

His next target was Alonso, who could ill-afford any problems in a battle with a Sauber on a day when his closest championship rival was mired in the midfield. Perez claimed second place on the outside of Alonso going into Ascari.

Hamilton heads Perez at finish

Hamilton said afterwards he was pleased to hear Perez had demoted Alonso, but the team were sufficiently concerned about the threat from the Sauber to ask Hamilton to up his pace. He duly did so and had enough in hand to keep Perez at bay.

Alonso completed the podium ahead of Massa, who is still looking for his first top-three finish since 2010. Raikkonen held off Schumacher for fifth despite the Mercedes having fresher tyres, and Rosberg came in seventh.

The Mercedes pair gained two places late in the race at the expense of Red Bull, who had a disastrous final few laps. First Vettel, having passed Webber, pulled over with a repeat of the alternator problem he’d suffered in the final practice session – itself a recurrence of the problem that ended his race in Valencia.

Then Webber spun at the exit of Ascari, flat-spotting both his tyres, leading him to call it a day.

Di Resta was passed by both Mercedes and finished eighth ahead of Kobayashi. Ricciardo was in tenth place as the final lap began but dropped back with a problem and was passed by both the Williamses.

Senna took the final point which was some consolation for a bruising race. Rosberg edged him off at the Rettifilio early on and the Williams also took to the run-off while battling Di Resta. Senna returned to the track very close to Webber, who dodged around him.

Jerome D’Ambrosio ended his stand-in duty for Lotus in 13th, the last driver on the lead lap.

The Caterham pair crossed the finishing line separated by a tenth of a second, Heikki Kovalainen ahead of Vitaly Petrov, the pair just ten seconds ahead of Charles Pic’s Marussia.

Timo Glock and the HRT drivers were the last of the drivers running at the end. The two Red Bulls were classified despite stopping, as was Nico Hulkenberg.

Joining Button in retirement was Jean-Eric Vergne, who lost control of his car at the Rettifilio early on and flew through the air after hitting the kerb at the inside of the track. He complained of back pain but climbed out of the car and later said on Twitter he will definitely be fit for Singapore.

Hamilton’s win means he is now Alonso’s closest championship rival, with Raikkonen just one point behind. Alonso’s successful damage-limitation job leaves him ahead in the championship to the tune of more than a win.

With Perez joining them on the podium, the Italian Grand Prix belonged to the three drivers whose races where ended by the first-lap carnage at Spa one week ago.

2012 Italian Grand Prix

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111 comments on Hamilton wins as Perez charges to second

  1. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 9th September 2012, 22:27

    Hamilton’s post-race behaviour was very intriguing, although he seemed happy with the result but his body language just didn’t send that message. It was more like: ‘finally it’s over’ while it should be: ’Yes I outraced my championship opponent Alonso’. You can turn it any way you want but it seems his relationship with the team has gone very sour. Yes, Lewis and McLaren need one another but the last couple of years they have had their hands full with Mister Hamilton and it seems that the famous tweet was the last straw.

    I didn’t have the luxury of enjoying decent broadcasting, so I had to settle for a local Belgian tv station VT4. They tend to make a lot of mistakes but they analysed hamiltons team radio perfectly. It sounded as if he was saying goodbye to the team.

    The Hamilton-Mercedes rumors have been extensively discussed in recent days but the way Hamilton and McLaren have been acting only feeds them. Take martin whitmarsh when asked about the story he only said: ‘We don’t want any driver in our team, who is not 100% committed and not absolutely happy in the team’. That says it all no?

    The next GP is in two weeks, time enough to let things cool down and to look at the future from that point onwards. The contract is ready, it just needs signing but if it doesn’t happen soon you better prepared for a shocker. 2012 has been a crazy year so far, I’m ready for anything.

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 9th September 2012, 23:28

      I would guess the racing is a lot more boring for these guys. They have to drive so slow with a full tank of fuel and these degrading tyres. They barely break a sweat.

      So without any opposition and his only challenge being “not too drive too fast”, he probably doesn’t feel as happy as a hard fought race win like Canada. Even though really only the last few laps were any different.

  2. MattB (@mattb) said on 9th September 2012, 22:50

    An idea… If Ferrari hadn’t used team orders, Massa may not have slowed, and potentially Perez may not have caught him (probably would have) but did they miss a trick here?

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 10th September 2012, 8:30

      Possibly, if they had any heart they would have let Massa keep the podium position, it would have meant the world to him, whereas it’s just a few more measly points in the championship to Alonso.

      If 7 gifted points in Germany in 2010 weren’t enough for Alonso to win the Championship, I doubt that 3 from this weekend will be.

      But it’s all conjecture really, there’s no way Massa or Alonso could have stopped Perez in that flying Sauber.

  3. Armchair Expert (@armchairexpert) said on 9th September 2012, 22:59

    Nice quote from Beat Zehnder, Sauber Team Manager – “Auf den weichen Reifen hat sich Sergio fast in Trance gefahren. Er wurde immer schneller. Hut ab vor dieser Leistung.” – “On softer tyres Sergio was driving almost in trance. He was lapping faster and faster. Hats off to his performance”

  4. Kimi4WDC said on 10th September 2012, 1:28

    Extremelly frustraiting race as Kimi fan – car was simply not fast enough to give him the edge to get into clear air. As usuall unbelivable drive craft, we dont expect less of him. I was surprised he was able to hold on 5th.

    It’s all in Lotuses hands now, Kimi delivered every time this season. If they give up on development at any stage before last race, they deserve to loose him. Seems like more updates for next race, so hopefully Kimi will finish infront of Fernando and Lewis!!

    Great drive by Perez and Sauber, they nailed the strategy.

  5. JB (@) said on 10th September 2012, 8:22

    Very good article… I think the team order part is just a “filler” since everybody knows it´s legal now and anyways… Massa did say earlier in the season that he would help Alonso if it was in his hands… Anyways… it´s much like how the Toro Rosso´s jump out of the way for the RBRs… just saying…. I doubt my comment will make it though…. it seems someone on the site hates the fact that there is a Ferrari fan wanting to share his feelings with other Ferrari fans just because he is a die-hard RBR fan…

  6. I thought this race was awesome! I was completely enthralled the entire. I could not believe that Massa gave his spot up to Alonso though. I think that Massa deserved to have the podium finish.

  7. dot_com (@dot_com) said on 11th September 2012, 1:45

    So I guess I haven’t watched the whole podium/press-conference/post-race for a while now. How long have they been doing interviews ON the podium?? Or was Monza just a one-off?

  8. James (@jimbobian) said on 11th September 2012, 9:02

    Just watched the race and I noticed something that I thought was a bit strange. On lap 4 when Alonso is chasing Schumacher for 5th he gets in the slipstream with DRS open, catches up and then runs into the limiter and Schumacher pulls away. The onboard shot of Alonso’s car clearly shows him change up into 5th gear then 6th gear but he never goes into 7th. Correct me if I am mistaken but don’t F1 cars have 7 gears? Is this a mistake on Alonso’s part or would he have been told not to use 7th, perhaps for cooling?

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