Vettel's grip tightens on Formula One world title
Sunday 11 September 2011
Sebastian Vettel now has an iron-like grip on his second Formula One world title following his eighth victory of an emphatic season.
Vettel took the chequered flag at the Italian Grand Prix by almost 10 seconds to McLaren's Jenson Button, who was forced to settle for second at Monza for the third consecutive year.
With Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber crashing out, the 24-year-old now has a 112-point cushion in the championship over his nearest challenger, now Ferrari's Fernando Alonso after he claimed the final podium place half a second ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
It means in F1 history only two drivers have scored more wins in a season - Michael Schumacher, whose record of 13 may be challenged, and Nigel Mansell.
On a track where Red Bull were not supposed to be strong, this was a crushing victory, rendering the title race a battle between the also-rans.
Behind Alonso, Button and Webber are now 117 points adrift, whilst Hamilton is 126 off the pace, and there is now every chance Vettel could wrap up back-to-back crowns in Singapore in two weeks' time.
For the main part, it was at least another captivating race, with the start one of the most enjoyable this season, primarily due to a first-corner accident that wiped out three cars.
To the roars of approval from the 'tifosi' in the packed grandstand along the main straight, and from fourth on the grid, Alonso made a perfect getaway.
Three abreast with Vettel and Hamilton on the long run down to the first chicane, the double world champion passed both on the inside to claim the lead.
Behind the leaders, though, chaos ensued, with the architect the unlikely figure of Hispania Racing's Vitantonio Liuzzi.
The Italian, starting from the back of the grid, managed to put a wheel on the grass around 200 metres from the opening chicane.
Unable to control his momentum, Liuzzi ploughed into Renault's Vitaly Petrov and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in the middle of the pack snaking its way through the initial two turns.
The damage to all three cars forced them into immediate retirement, and with it the deployment of the safety car.
By the end of the first lap the field had been reduced to 19 cars as the second Hispania of Daniel Ricciardo and Virgin Racing's Jerome D'Ambrosio exited with technical issues.
With the safety car staying on track until the end of lap three, it was the perfect scenario for Vettel as Alonso was unable to open up any kind of lead.
With DRS (drag reduction system) banned for the first two laps of a race, come lap four the German made his move on the Spaniard from which he never looked back.
From that moment it then became a battle for the remaining podium places, pretty much mirroring the championship battle.
One protagonist in Webber swiftly took his leave, the Australian suffering his first retirement for 15 races.
Failing with a move around the outside of Felipe Massa into turn one, Webber then had his front wing swiped off by the Brazilian.
Massa was spun round, but was at least able to continue, whilst in his bid to make it back to the pits, Webber locked up his front brakes heading into Parabolica.
His car then ploughed straight across the gravel and into a tyre barrier, making the Australian the sixth retirement.
Shortly before that Schumacher had used DRS to claim third from Hamilton, who then proved he could race cleanly without incident.
The 26-year-old, involved in six accidents this year which has led to much criticism, tried and failed on numerous occasions to fight his way past the seven-time champion.
When he did finally manage it on lap 13 into turn one, Schumacher responded immediately around the outside of the Curva Grande.
Three laps later another attempt from Hamilton saw his right-rear onto the grass, the Briton doing brilliantly to prevent a crash.
His loss of momentum, however, allowed Button to claim fourth which then soon became third later in the lap as he showed Hamilton how it should be done.
Not even the first round of pit stops aided Hamilton as he again found himself behind Schumacher until lap 27 when he made another move which finally paid dividends.
On lap 36 Button scythed past Alonso through the Curva Grande, and that was it as far as the leading positions were concerned.
Behind them, Schumacher and Massa claimed fifth and sixth, with Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari seventh.
Paul di Resta in his Force India was eighth and in the points for the fourth time this year.
He was followed by Bruno Senna for Renault in ninth, the Brazilian scoring his first points in F1, with Sebastien Buemi 10th for Toro Rosso.
Vettel shed a few tears on the podium such was his depth of emotion and in particular with the sea of fans underneath creating stunning scenes after the finish.
Following the 18th win of his career, and his second here at Monza after winning with Toro Rosso in 2008, he said: "Yes, very emotional.
"This circuit is very special, and when I crossed the line I remembered every single bit of my last win and the podium is incredible.
"You feel so blessed with so many people underneath. It's unbelievable
"It's a circuit that has been tough for us in the past, but the car was great in qualifying and even better in the race.
"So a great race for us, a very special win. Last time the Italian people were cheering a bit more, but it was still very special for me to be in that place again."
Button hailed his race a "fun" one, adding: "It was great fighting with Lewis, Michael and then Fernando.
"It wasn't for the lead, though, after what was a tough start to the race, but a lot of fun, and with the crowd here electric.
"It was a great job by the whole team, but there are still things we need to work on."
Alonso, meanwhile, felt his third was great reward for Ferrari and the fans who cheered him to the rafters when he received his trophy at the podium ceremony.
"It was a fantastic race and a fantastic feeling on the podium," said Alonso.
"It's so passionate, with the fans giving you big emotion after what has been a very stressful weekend for the whole team.
"And with one Red Bull and one McLaren behind us, that was great for us."
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