Every calendar year, as the F1 circus heads to Italy for the final European leg of the F1 World Championships, there are only two significant aspects which characterizes the Italian Grand Prix – Ferrari and the Tifosi. For Ferrari of course, this is their home grand prix and one which every driver representing the red Prancing Horse would love to win. The Tifosi on the other hand, is by far the most passionate crowd of supporters mankind will ever witness on an F1 track.
Coming into this grand prix, Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will be determined to put on a grand performance in front of their adoring Tifosi. The following are the main features and stats of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit.
Race Date: 8 September 2013
Circuit Length: 5.793km
Total Race Distance: 306.720km
Lap Record: 1:21.046 -Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari, 2004)
Prior to this race, Red Bull’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel viewed this race as one which his team would struggle the most, taking into account the Red Bulls’ apparent lack of performance down the straights. Therefore, teams such as Ferrari, Mercedes and Force India came into this race with cautious optimism, hoping that their machines’ superior straight line speed would provide them with the appropriate boost to challenge for good positions in the race. This was definitely something Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were fingers crossing for, as they definitely need to take this opportunity to cut into Vettel’s lead which is painfully growing upon every race completion.
However, much to the surprise of the F1 paddock, the Red Bulls dominated all three practice sessions, with only Alonso in his Ferrari chasing Vettel close in Saturday morning’s Free Practice Session 3. Things were definitely looking not so rosy for Vettel’s championship rivals, and come Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, their fears were inevitably realised in the most emphathic way possible.
The Red Bulls blitzed the field and Vettel led teammate Mark Webber for a front row lockout. The Ferrari cars ran them close for awhile, but eventually had to settle for P4 and P5, with Massa surprisingly out-qualifying Alonso. Championship hopefuls Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen both experienced torrid afternoons, finishing P12 and P11 respectively. The surprise of the session however, to my utmost happiness, was Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who puzzled the formbook to net P3 on the grid. As a Sauber fan I was extremely pleased, and the C32’s recent improvements were wonderfully realised.
Came Sunday morning, the questions around the paddock were what can the Ferrari’s pull off come Turn 1 to challenge the Red Bulls. The red cars are well known for their lightning fast launches off the line, and any chance for a race win for them is to take at least one of the Red Bulls right at the start. Elsewhere the Sauber in P3 will be hoping to hang on as long as it realistically can to the leaders. Hamilton and Raikkonen on the other hand, would be hoping to cut through the field in double quick time before the leaders run away with the race.
As the five lights went off, bar a few lockups and Raikkonen unfortunately losing his front wing after collecting the rear of McLaren’s Sergio Perez, most cars got through rather unscathed. The Ferrari’s, as expected, were massive off their lines, with Massa up to P2 and Alonso up to P4. Hulkenberg’s Sauber then subsequently dropped to P5, holding off Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
As the race carried on, it was slowly but surely becoming a procession. Eventually, Vettel was running away in front, with Alonso managed to claw his way up to P2, a position he would keep until the end of the race. Webber kept him honest throughout but failed to find a way through. Massa was racy early on, but settled for P4. However, my personal highlight was Hulkenberg’s unexpected great pace right till the end, finishing just a second behind the Ferrari and quite comfortably held off Rosberg’s challenge. With P5 yielding a massive chunk of 10 championship points, this would be a massive tonic to the Swiss team, who has been having a poor season so far.
With this result, Vettel further increased his championship lead over closest rival Alonso up to 53 points. Signs are looking ominous for those chasing the German, with Singapore’s night race coming up next, they might need more than just luck to close in on him.