Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
McLaren vs. Ferrari. It is one of the greatest continuous rivalries in sport, right up there with Yankess vs. Dodgers, Michigan vs. Ohio State, or any of the other greats. Monza, site of the Italian Grand Prix, is Ferrari’s home circuit. But that didn’t stop Lewis Hamilton from taking pole, with his McLaren teammate Jenson Button joining him on the front row in P2. Right behind them on the starting grid was the first Ferrari, piloted not by championship leader Fernando Alonso but by teammate Felipe Massa, currently fighting to remain with the Scuderia for 2013. Alonso started the race in P10, one position ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who failed to make Q3.
Massa took P2 from Button at the start, with Alonso moving up to P6 during the first lap. Alonso got Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) for P5 on Lap 8, with Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) in P4. This running order held through Lap 17, as some of the cars further back made their first round of pit stops.
Button took P2 from Massa on Lap 19, with the Ferrari slowing as its tires aged. Massa hit the pits next time past and got new rubber. Vettel and Alonso both pitted on Lap 21, with the two coming out in that order behind Massa. Button came in on Lap 23 and had a slow 4.8-sec stop, but reentered the race in P3. Hamilton came in on Lap 24, executed his stop in 2.7 sec and came out in P2 behind Sergio Perez (Sauber) who had yet to pit.
Hamilton retook P1 from Perez on track during Lap 29, with Alonso taking P5 from Vettel after the German had forced him off track a lap earlier. Perez pitted on Lap 30 and came out in P8. Hamilton set fast lap on 31. Vettel was given a drive-through penalty on Lap 32 for forcing Alonso off the track. Button dropped out with a fuel pick-up problem on Lap 34, leaving the Top 5 as Hamilton, Massa, Alonso, Schumacher, and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus). The retirement ended Button’s 21-race finishing streak, the longest in F1 entering the race.
Perez took P5 on Lap 37, with Massa being advised to consider his tire wear. Perez set fast lap on 38, with Schumi pitting. Nico Rosberg took P5 from Raikkonen on Lap 39. Hamilton’s lead on the Ferraris stood at 13.5 sec on Lap 41. Perez continued to set fast laps, closing onto the rear end of Massa who had been passed by his teammate without much contest a lap earlier. Perez took P3 on Lap 44, putting the Top 5 as Hamilton, Alonso, Perez, Massa, and Raikkonen.
Perez took P2 from Alonso on Lap 45. Hamilton got the call to up his pace by a couple of tenths in the aftermath, Perez running 1.2 sec faster per lap. Vettel retired on Lap 48 with alternator problems, the team calling for him to save the engine and shut it off. Webber, meanwhile, caught a curb and spun on Lap 51 (of 53), remaining in the race, but falling quickly with engine problems of his own. Webber retired, putting both Red Bulls out of the race.
Hamilton took the win, McLaren’s third in a row, followed by Perez, Alonso, Massa, and Raikkonen. The Hamilton victory moved him into second in the drivers’ championship. Second through fourth – with Raikkonen and Vettel rounding that group out – were separated by just two points. Alonso and Massa’s finishes, meanwhile, moved Ferrari into third in the manufacturers’ championship over Lotus.
Perez’ charge from P12 to P2 was not the only big push of the day, Pastor Maldonado (Williams) moving from P22 on the grid to finish just out of the points in P11.
Driver standings - Top 10
179 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
142 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
141 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
140 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
132 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
101 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
83 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
76 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
65 – Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Sauber-Ferrari
47 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
272 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
243 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
226 - Ferrari - Alonso, Massa
217 – Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
126 - Mercedes – Rosberg ,Michael Schumacher
100 - Sauber-Ferrari – Perez, Kamui Kobayashi
63 – Force India-Mercedes – Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg
54 - Williams-Renault – Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna
12 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
Next event: 2012 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX – Sept. 21-23, 2012