Hamilton Takes Victory in Monza as Alonso Extends Championship Lead


Lewis Hamilton took an easy win at the Italian Grand Prix in another race where some key championship contenders suffered retirements.

Sergio Perez executed a one-stop strategy beautifully and, having started from twelfth place, finished second to collect his third trophy of 2012.

Fernando Alonso took the final podium place, and also made huge gains in the title standings thanks to both Red Bull drivers, and Jenson Button, retiring from the race through mechanical problems

Felipe Massa missed out on a podium position, finishing fourth, whilst Kimi Raikkonen was fifth and Michael Schumacher was sixth.

Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna picked up the final points.

Apart from a short period where Perez led, Hamilton was always at the front for what appeared to be another easy win for his McLaren team. He got the best start of the two McLaren drivers off the front row and was leading into the first corner while Button lost a place to Felipe Massa, who had started third. Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen all held their grid positions into the first corner.

The man on the move in the opening laps was Fernando Alonso. He passed Paul di Resta off the line, had disposed of Kamui Kobayashi by the end of the first lap, and took Raikkonen in the first corner of the second lap. It was from tenth to sixth in just over one lap for the Spaniard.

Vettel overtook Schumacher on the fourth lap to take fourth place, and the seven-time world champion quickly fell into the clutches of Alonso. One would have expected Alonso to fly past Schumacher straightaway, but it took the Ferrari driver until Lap 7 to overtake the German and take fifth.

On Lap 9, Jean-Eric Vergne had a failure on his Toro Rosso coming into the first chicane. The car snapped round and slid over the large kerbs at that corner, which launched him into the air. The Frenchman came to a stop on the grass, and got out of the car without problems.

Jean-Eric Vergne found himself launched sideways over the curves at the first chicane when something appeared to break on the rear of his Toro Rosso – Photo Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

 

At the end of Lap 10, Hamilton had managed to build a lead of 3.4 seconds over Massa. Button was nearly two seconds further down the road, Vettel was fourth, and Alonso’s charge through the field seemed to have come to a halt in fifth place.

Schumacher was the first of the front-runners to pit, coming in at the end of Lap 15. Raikkonen was another driver two stopping. He came at the end of Lap 17, but emerged, once again, behind Schumacher.

Jenson Button was passed Felipe Massa into the second chicane on Lap 19 to take second place, just before the Brazilian came in for his first stop of the afternoon.

Both Vettel and Alonso responded to that stop on the following lap (and the increased speed of Pastor Maldonado, who had just come in for a fresh set of tyres), coming in from what was third and fourth. They emerged in the same order and, crucially, behind Massa.

Button came into the pits at the end of Lap 22. He emerged comfortably ahead of Massa and the chasing pack of Vettel and Alonso. Hamilton was in on the next lap. The gap between him and his team-mate before the stops was 6.4 seconds, so it came as no surprise that he re-emerged ahead of Button.

At half distance, there was a treat for the watching Tifosi as Alonso began to challenge Vettel for that net fourth position. That involved an ambitious move by Alonso around the outside of Curve Grande, similar to the spectacular move that Vettel pulled off on the Spaniard last year.

For Alonso this year, the attempt just descended into a bumpy trek across the grass on the outside of the track, and Vettel remained ahead. Alonso eventually got past on Lap 29, and was now free to hunt down third-place man Felipe Massa. Vettel was deemed to have pushed Vettel off the track in that move, and was given a drive-through penalty for his efforts.

Sergio Perez was the last runner to pit, doing so at the end of Lap 29. He was in the lead when he came in for his stop, and re-emerged in eighth place.

Just has Vettel was about to take his penalty, there was further drama at the front when Jenson Button slowed dramatically and pulled off the circuit, ruining McLaren’s quest for a 1-2. The subsequent radio message suggested it was a fuel pick-up problem.

Vettel emerged from his drive-through penalty in ninth place, just behind team-mate Mark Webber.

Schumacher was the first of the top ten to make his second-stop of the afternoon, pitting from fourth place. Meanwhile, Perez was showing how quick new tyres were, with a series of fastest laps, and an impressive climb up to the fourth place that Schumacher had just vacated.

Massa was getting the ominous messages from Rob Smedley about how close team-mate Alonso was too him. It was clear what Ferrari wanted him to do, and the ‘overtake’ came on Lap 40. Alonso was now up to second place, and 13.4 seconds behind leader Hamilton. Massa was down to third, and about to come under pressure from Perez.

When Perez arrived to challenge from that last podium place, Massa could not put up with much of a fight. At the end of Lap 43 he was past, and now the Mexican was ready to hunt down Alonso. Just to demonstrate this, he set another fastest lap.

The overtaking move, when it came on Lap 46, was also easy. It was a simple pass into Ascari and Sergio Perez was up into second place. At the end of that lap, the gap to Hamilton was 11.2 seconds, and there were seven laps remaining.

Vettel’s day went from bad to worse on Lap 48 when his car had to be parked at the side of the road. He had been running sixth. To compound the bad day for Red Bull, Mark Webber made a mistake on Lap 51 to spin and drop down to tenth. The next time the television cameras picked him up, he going slowly down the straights, signalling a double retirement for the team.

Meanwhile, at the front, Hamilton comfortably saw off Perez to collect his third win of the season.