Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hamilton Scores 20th Career Win at Monza

By Luca Barni via Wikimedia Commons   

by Lisa Reese

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton took home his 20th career win at Monza today leading almost every lap from the pole. Those laps not held by Hamilton were led by Sauber's Sergio Perez. Perez was one of only four drivers making their start on the harder compound Pirelli tires. He managed to maintain them until Lap 30 when he flew into the pits and made the mandatory change onto the medium compounds. It was great strategy for Perez who would eventually weave his way back through the pack to finish second in front of the Italian crowd’s favorite, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. The current point leader, Alonso made a fantastic trip from a 10th-place start to a third-place finish.

Jenson Button got off to a slow start as Felipe Massa slid in between the two McLarens and drove hard to overtake Lewis Hamilton in the first turn but was unable to do so. By the end of the first lap, Alonso had already moved up three places.

For a week that was all atwitter over driver standards, penalties and calls made by the stewards at Spa, most drivers were on their best behavior except for a few incidents. During Lap 8, Paul Di Resta left Bruno Senna with very little of the pavement leading into a turn. No penalty was given. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel repeated the same mistake with a little more aggression during Lap 27 against Alonso and was handed a drive-through penalty by the stewards. In the words of Will Buxton, "Its very, very clear. If a part of the following car is alongside you, you may not use the full width of the track." Lap 9 saw the retirement of Jean-Éric Vergne as his rear brakes locked and he briefly went airborne. When he came to a stop and walked away, he complained of back pain.

The race had great moments of individual battles. Lap 16 saw Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen and Perez very close until Schumacher made a 4.1 second pitstop and came out in 15th place. Felipe Massa and Jenson Button fought for second place during Lap 19 with the latter finally making the pass and Massa, whose career with Ferrari is questionable, went into the pits for a fresh set of tires, coming out in ninth place behind traffic. Di Resta and Kobayashi raced closely while two championship contenders, Vettel and Alonso, hit pit row at the same time, with Vettel exiting pit lane slightly ahead. This put Vettel between the two Ferraris with Massa just ahead and Alonso hard behind.

Race leader Lewis Hamilton took the opportunity to make his first and blazingly fast pit stop of 2.7 seconds on Lap 24, coming out behind Perez who had yet to make his own first pit stop. The incident between Vettel and Alonso mentioned above happened during Lap 29 at Curva Grande at speeds of approximately 160 mph. Coincidentally, both drivers battled it out at the same area of Monza last year only the offending party was reversed. Alonso passed Vettel toward the end of Lap 29 as race leader, Perez, pulled into the pits and he resumed in eighth while Schumacher and Räikkönen battled it out for sixth place.

The stewards handed Vettel his penalty during Lap 32 but his troubles had only just begun. As so often happens in any motorsport, surprises happen that can change the outcome of the standings- sometimes in a large way and others in small. Today was no different for Formula One as Jenson Button was forced to retire on Lap 34 due to mechanical issues and Vettel retired six laps from the finish with an alternator problem.

During Lap 37, Mark Webber tried to defend against Vettel, who had just finished his drive-through. Räikkönen and Perez fought corner after corner through the della Roggia chicane with Perez gaining a place in front of the Finn, setting fast lap.

With 11 laps to go, the running order for the top five drivers was: Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Perez and Räikkönen. Nothing would have pleased the crowd more than to see the both Ferraris podium but it was not to be. Perez passed Massa on Lap 44, then took aim at Alonso. Two laps later Perez overtook Alonso, and Massa's hope for a podium were dashed. In the midfield, Rosberg overtook Kobayashi for tenth place and one point toward the championship. Vettel's retirement came during Lap 48, also due to an alternator problem. The caution lights came on briefly but the car was quickly removed and out went the yellow lights. Schumacher passed Webber easily at Lap 49 for sixth place. Rosberg passed Di Resta on Lap 50 which, if it held, would give Mercedes nice points towards the Constructors Cup. Two laps before the finish sees Webber spun off the track but recovered. It appeared he had mechanical issues.

Across the finish line, our top five finishers were: Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Massa and Räikkönen. With some big contenders either finishing near the back or retiring and Alonso finishing third, not only did he hold onto precious Championship points, he increased them with Hamilton only 37 points behind him.

Here is a complete look at the standings for the Drivers Championship.


PsDriverNatPts
1Fernando AlonsoSPN179
2Lewis HamiltonGBR-37
3Kimi RäikkönenFIN-38
4Sebastien VettelGER-39
5Mark WebberAUS-47
6Jenson ButtonGBR-78
7Nico RosbergGER-96
8Romain GrosjeanFRA-103
9Sergio PerezMEX-114
10Felipe MassaBRA-132
11Michael SchumacherGER-136
12Kamui KobayashiJPN-144
13Paul Di RestaGBR-147
14Nico HulkenbergGER-148
15Pastor MaldonadoVEN-150
16Bruno SennaBRA-154
17Jean-Eric VergneFRA-171
18Daniel RicciardoAUS-175
19Heikki KovalainenFIN0
20Vitaly PetrovRUS0
21Jérôme D'AmbrosioBEL0
22Timo GlockGER0
23Charles PicFRA0
24Narain KarthikeyanIND0
25Pedro De la RosaSPN0


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