Hamilton spins out on opening lap as Alonso holds off Button

Lewis Hamilton's grasp on a second World Championship title slipped yesterday after the British driver crashed out on the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix, leaving Fernando Alonso to give Ferrari their first win on home soil for four years.

Alonso has now closed the gap to 21 points on new championship leader Mark Webber, who finished sixth, the Australian deposing Hamilton.

For 36 of the 53 laps at Monza, Hamilton's McLaren team-mate, Jenson Button, seemed set to score a superb victory under the most intense pressure from Alonso. The Spaniard never gave him a moment's peace. It was, Button was man enough to admit, "mentally draining".

But in the end it was Alonso who took the big prize with a stunning triumph that did much to erase the bad memories of team-mate Felipe Massa's enforced gift to him in Hockenheim, on a day when a clash with Massa sent Hamilton skidding into a gravel trap on the opening lap, while Webber's Red Bull was again sluggish getting off the startline.

The turning point for Alonso and Ferrari came with the pit stops, and Button's post-race mien suggested that he felt that was where McLaren lost the race. He'd been happy on Bridgestone's softer-compound option tyre but his engineers persuaded him that the harder primes were quicker. They were not.

"We pitted a lap early and that was possibly a mistake," Button said. "The team felt that the prime tyre was better than the option, but getting up to speed on the out lap was, for me, where I lost time. I think it wasn't the right call. We made a bit of a mistake there."

When Alonso stopped on the 37th lap, he couldn't believe how fast his pit call was. Button was stationary for 4.2 sec; Alonso was ready to roll after 3.4sec.

"We had two possibilities, to stop one lap earlier than Jenson or one lap later," he said, "and when we saw him coming in we knew we had only one lap because the prime tyre for sure was quicker. So I pushed 100 per cent and then the pit stop felt very good. I stopped, they changed the tyres, green light – I didn't even have first gear in or time to do anything with the buttons on the steering wheel. I think this race was thanks to mechanics and the team, they did a perfect job."

Button conceded: "Pit stops are always tricky; I thought mine went pretty smoothly. But when I got out I struggled on the primes and could feel straight away that the car was worse on them, so it wasn't just the pit stop."

Clearly he wished he'd stayed out longer on the option tyres, and as it transpired they were good for virtually the whole race distance. After an engine problem had cost Sebastian Vettel a place to Webber, Red Bull cleverly kept the German out until the 52nd lap, then switched him to primes for the last one. By then he had risen to fourth place as Nico Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg and Webber stopped to change their rubber, and the strategy crucially kept him in that position by the flag.

As usual at Monza, there was much excitement at the start as everyone funnelled into the tight first chicane. There Button just hung on down the inside of Alonso as Massa tried to go round the outside of his team-mate until Alonso found better traction on the exit. It was, the winner admitted later, a very stressful moment.

"It wasn't possible for me to defend," Alonso said, "and as I tried to negotiate the first corner I touched Jenson's left rear with my front wing and my car jumped a little bit. When I landed I touched Felipe, so that was two touches within two metres of the first corner. I thought probably something is damaged to the car, so in the first few laps I was checking how it was behaving, so for sure the first 10 laps were quite stressful and negative."

But not the last 10. "Our car was quicker in the straights than Jenson's," he continued, "so I kept attacking, but he was driving superbly, not making a single mistake, and it was not possible to overtake. After my stop I thought I was OK to the first corner and I had seen Jenson some way back when I came out, but I forgot that he was coming at 300kph. That was a shock. I nearly spun when I got on throttle in first chicane, but it was OK.

"After that, I had no problem to stay ahead. And to win here, at Monza, for Ferrari, is something I am only really able to compare with winning in Spain in 2006, a really emotional victory. To be on the top of the podium with all these people supporting Ferrari has been great for me, and a big shock."

Perhaps almost as big a shock as Ferrari's victory was for their rivals.

"We didn't have the pace I expected, and the Ferraris were superfast the whole race," Button said. "I was never more than 1.4sec away from Fernando, and I was surprised they stayed so close in the corner. We had a very quick car but these guys had the edge. But second is OK. It's a happy day, and all three of us here have done very well for our championship hopes. But obviously you want to win."

Results and standings

FIA Formula One Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy (53 Laps): 1 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1hr 16min 24.572sec; 2 J Button (GB) McLaren 1:16:27.510; 3 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:16:28.795; 4 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:16:52.768; 5 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:16:54.514; 6 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:16:55.848; 7 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Williams 1:16:57.384; 8 R Kubica (Pol) Renault 1:16:58.600; 9 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:17:09.520; 10 R Barrichello (Br) Williams 1:17:28.785; 11 S Buemi (Swit) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17:29.572; 12 V Liuzzi (It) Force India 1:17:30.678; 13 V Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:17:43.491; 14 P de la Rosa (Sp) BMW Sauber at 1 Lap; 15 J Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap; 16 A Sutil (Ger) Force India at 1 Lap; 17 T Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing at 2 Laps; 18 H Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 at 2 Laps; 19 S Yamamoto (Japan) HRT-F1 at 2 Laps; 20 L di Grassi (Br) Virgin Racing at 3 Laps. Not classified: 21 J Trulli (It) Lotus F1 46 Laps completed; 22 B Senna (Br) HRT-F1 11 Laps completed; 23 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 0 Laps completed; 24 K Kobayashi (Japan) BMW Sauber 0 Laps completed.

Drivers standings: 1 M Webber 187pts; 2 L Hamilton 182; 3 F Alonso 166; 4 J Button 165; 5 S Vettel 163; 6 F Massa 124; 7 N Rosberg 112; 8 R Kubica 108; 9 M Schumacher 46; 10 A Sutil 45; 11 R Barrichello 31; 12 K Kobayashi 21; 13 V Petrov 19; 14 N Hulkenberg 16; 15 V Liuzzi 13; 16 S Buemi 7; 17 P de la Rosa 6; 18 J Alguersuari 3; 19 H Kovalainen 0; 20 K Chandhok (India) HRT-F1 0; 21 L di Grassi 0; 22 J Trulli 0; 23 B Senna 0; 24 S Yamamoto 0; 25 T Glock 0.

Manufacturers standings: 1 Red Bull 350pts; 2 McLaren 347; 3 Ferrari 290; 4 Mercedes GP 158; 5 Renault 127; 6 Force India 58; 7 Williams 47; 8 BMW Sauber 27; 9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 10; 10 Lotus F1 0; 11 HRT-F1 0; 12 Virgin Racing 0.

Remaining races: 26 Sept Singapore GP; 10 Oct Japanese GP; 24 Oct South Korean GP; 7 Nov Brazilian GP; 14 Oct Abu Dhabi GP

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering