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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing