Sunday, September 8, 2013

Viva Vettel! Red Bull Racing Driver Wins Monza F1 Race

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

The conclusion of the European tour of the 2013 Formula 1 championship, the Italian Grand Prix at the historic Monza would be the ideal stage for Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to pull closer to Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel in the overall drivers' standings. Following a race at the Belgium Grand Prix, Vettel has continued to stretch the margin between himself and second place in the World Championship points. With eight races remaining in 2013, opportunities are quickly slipping away for anyone wanting to challenge the Red Bull-Renault driver's pursuit of a fourth-straight drivers' title. In Ferrari's home country, a strong effort in Italy could provide a serious symbolic message to Vettel and Red Bull Racing.

Choosing to send a message of his own in qualifying, Sebastian Vettel placed his car on the pole position as part of a Red Bull Racing 1-2 joined by Mark Webber. The Monza circuit serves as one of the fastest courses for drivers and cars. Requiring low downforce aerodynamic packages and peak engine performance, racing at Monza has the habit of producing unusual circumstances where mid-marker Formula 1 teams can operate at the front. In 2007, Sebastian Vettel's first pole and grand prix victory came at Monza driving a Ferrari-powered vehicle for the smaller Scuderia Toro Rosso organization. In this year's qualifying session, Nico Hulkenberg driving for the Sauber F1 Team sailed around the Monza track with a third-fastest time. Hulkenberg does have a Formula 1 pole earned in 2010 when he drove for the Williams F1 Team. While the Sauber is propelled by customer Ferrari engines, the factory team drivers rounded out the top-five. Felipe Massa was only 0.010 seconds slower than his teammate Fernando Alonso.

A few raindrops in the very early staging of the Italian Grand Prix sprinkled onto the Monza track just before the start of Sunday's 53-lap event. However, this rain never materialized into a major race-defining story. Prepared for a dry race, the 22-car grid started with Sebastian Vettel leading the way early. The only driver not to make it to lap one was Paul di Resta when his Force India-Mercedes collided into the back of the Lotus-Renault of Romain Grosjean.

Photo Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

The pattern for the Italian Grand Prix was a one pit stop strategy with teams starting their cars on medium compound Pirelli slick tires before switching to hard tires. Three drivers outside of the top-10 in qualifying (Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Gutierrez) started the grand prix on hard compound tires. Two of the three drivers electing to start the race on hard compound Pirelli tires wound up in trouble through the course of the event. A tire puncture on the Mercedes AMG car of Lewis Hamilton drew in the former world champion onto pit road on lap 12. Relegated to a two-stop plan that cost him track time, Hamilton struggled to finish ninth place. Kimi Raikkonen was the second driver on hard tires who coincidently suffered problems. A collision with Sergio Perez's McLaren-Mercedes on the opening lap forced the Lotus-Renault to the pit to repair damage. Like Hamilton, Raikkonen and the Lotus F1 Team had to abandon their plans of a single pit stop at Monza. Raikkonen finished 11th missing the Formula 1 championship points for only the second time this season. Driving a Sauber-Ferrari, Gutierrez was the only driver who started on hard tires to wind up sticking to the one-stop strategy. He finished 13th after starting 16th on the grid after 53 laps.  

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

Preserving a small lead and battling concerns with a tire at the beginning, Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 Italian Grand Prix. In post-race, Vettel commented on the win and his early challenges. "It’s fantastic to win this event again. I just managed to make turn one! I locked the front right and it just didn’t seem to come back. I had a big flat spot, which I felt straight away and I wasn’t sure if the tyre would survive, but fortunately I managed to make it round and have a strong first stint." said the 2013 Italian Grand Prix winner.

Ahead by 5.4 seconds, the winning Red Bull-Renault crossed the line with the Ferrari of rival Fernando Alonso next to see the checkered flag. Taking maximum points, Vettel's lead in the 2013 Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship now stands at sizable 53 points. Joining Vettel and Alonso on the podium was the second Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber. The result was Webber's fourth podium of the season as he concludes his 2013 stint with Red Bull Racing as a future part of the Porsche sports car prototype team awaits him in 2014.

Behind a solid effort from Felipe Massa in the Ferrari team's second car, Nico Hulkenberg crossed the Monza finish line fifth resulting in the strongest race effort posted in 2013 by the German driver and the Sauber F1 Team. Fellow German driver Nico Rosberg took sixth place to lead the Mercedes AMG teams effort. The whole Italian Grand Prix weekend effort from the Mercedes AMG organization was lackluster compared to the previous 2013 races. Contending for poles for much of this season, Rosberg's finish equaled his starting spot that served as the highest for Mercedes AMG while Hamilton stumbled for speed. Mercedes-Benz powered entry McLaren also faced difficulty finding race pace Sunday with Jenson Button holding on to a tenth place effort.

Leaving the European continent, the 2013 Formula 1 teams' next scheduled race is the night race at Singapore on September 22nd.

2013 Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
2 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault
4 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari
5 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber Ferrari
6 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
7 19 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
8 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
9 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
10 5 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
11 7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault
12 6 Sergio Perez McLaren Mercedes-Benz
13 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
14 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1 Renault
15 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
16 15 Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes-Benz
17 20 Charles Pic Caterham Renault
18 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Renault
19 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia Cosworth
20 23 Max Chilton Marussia Cosworth
21 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
22 14 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes-Benz

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