Vettel takes Italian Grand Prix
IT was his rivals who should have been crying after the Italian Grand Prix, but on the podium the emotion of the moment got to Sebastian Vettel as he moved ever closer to a second consecutive world championship just three years after he had stood there savouring his first victory here.
The success brought Vettel's points advantage to 112, meaning that a podium finish in Singapore in two weeks' time will cement his title. But as somebody pointed out after a routine win, it might make the competition better if he were to take a holiday until Abu Dhabi, whereupon he could resume racing and still win the crown.
"It was a very emotional moment, because this circuit means a lot to me," Vettel said. "I scored my first win here, and as I crossed the finish line I remembered every single bit of it. When you stand up there on the podium, you feel so blessed because it doesn't happen to many people. And to see all these people below you... The only way it could get better was if you were wearing a red suit."
The last comment referred to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who made a startling getaway from fourth on the grid to take the lead by the first corner. Vettel stayed behind him for the first four laps, three of which were run under the safety car after an out-of-control Tonio Liuzzi had spun down the grass on the inside going into Turn One and triggered mayhem at the start which accounted for his HRT, Nico Rosberg's Mercedes and Vitaly Petrov's Renault.
The race resumed at the end of the fourth lap and it quickly became clear that the Ferrari was not going to stay ahead. On lap five Vettel went round the outside of Alonso in the fast Curva Grande right-hander, at around 180 mph, and despite having to put two wheels in the dirt made it stick.
"I didn't know where [Alonso] had come from at the start," Vettel admitted. "When I saw my chance he didn't give me much room and I was half on the grass, but once I got ahead the car was fantastic."
Further back, fast-starting Michael Schumacher was preoccupied trying to keep ahead of the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who had both made poor starts. Lap after lap Hamilton tried to pass, but Schumacher was in his usual uncompromising mood. The Englishman briefly made it by in Turn One on lap 13, only to be repassed immediately in the Curva Grande thanks to the Mercedes' greater straight-line speed. Then on lap 16 as Schumacher closed the door there, Hamilton had to put his right-hand wheels on the grass and, as he lost momentum, Button used his Kers system to drag past and then took advantage of his DRS to squeeze by Schumacher going into the Ascari corner.
Behind the scenes, the race stewards had advised Mercedes that Schumacher was moving around too much in his defence of third place, and he had left Button a little more room than he had been giving Hamilton. Eleven laps later Hamilton was able to duplicate the move. According to the Mercedes' team principal, Ross Brawn, he and Schumacher were having a discussion and as the veteran mistakenly hit the rev limiter he fluffed a gear change and Hamilton was finally able to squeeze through and pull away.
Button, meanwhile, had settled into pursuit of Alonso, passing the Spaniard for second on the 36th lap at Curva Grande, while Hamilton then hunted down the Ferrari and was only half a second adrift of it when the chequered flag came out.
"It was a really fun race, fighting with Lewis, Michael and Fernando," Button said, "but it wasn't for the lead, which was a shame. I'd seen Lewis struggle on the outside with Michael a few times, but gave it a go and pulled it off. It was one of my best passes."
A philosophical Hamilton said: "We were a little bit slow on the straight today, which meant it was hard to get past Michael who was faster even when I had my DRS activated. I had to really fight him, but the fact that I finished ahead of him meant everything was OK. That's racing."