FRRRRRP-FRRR-FRRRRRRR… I’m sitting right at the braking point before the Parabolica turn watching Sebastian Vettel brake a little bit later than almost everyone and carry just a little more speed than everyone else into the fast right-hander. The blown diffuser sounds so different compared to the telly and the Red Bull one is definitely the loudest. Video I shot: http://youtu.be/xOrk-VEOD0E?hd=1
As I sit there enjoying an awesome race, I realize two things. This is the last time I will hear this noise in that manner as it is banned in 2012. Unlike most, I actually think it sounds pretty cool. Anything that reeks of ingenious engineering is appealing to me. The other thing is that I am watching a legend in the making in the form of Vettel. Its all about making the car work for you and not make any mistakes – his teammate could tell you about that.
Knowing that this track has been Red Bulls achilles heel in the past, many expected another car than a Red Bull on top. But it still was – with almost half a second. An unbelievable feat around Monza which typically always has been down to hundreds and even thousands between the cars. And it was done with a gearing that sacrificed top speed. Something that the other teams thought they would benefit from. But not so. Proving that there is much more than just one very smart head in the Red Bull team. Not to mention a driver that always seems to be able to draw the maximum performance out of the car. We are getting so used to it, that we are forgetting what a mighty performance it truly is.
The lights go out and it’s deja vu from Barcelona – Alonso flies in the lead from 4th position! A fantastic start. Give him a home crowd and he can obviously do wonders in the starts. We hardly have time to enjoy the start before a flying HRT spoils the party for Petrov and Rosberg. Ka-blam! 3 cars out. It also spoiled the party for the Russian girl sitting next to me who even came from the very hometown of Petrov 😦 A shame since the Renault looked good around here.
Vettel is close behind Alonso at the restart, but can he pass him with the short gear ratio they chose? Not on the start-finish straight but Vettel uses the better acceleration of the shorter ratio to his advantage through Curva grande. He makes a move on Alonso on the outside and then Alonso does something that I have not been used to see from him on the track. He is usually fair but this time he pushes Vettel onto the grass at about 300 kph! NOT cool Scandal-man! His explanation after the race was: “We have nothing to lose in the battles with Sebastian”. Apparently since he is so far ahead on points. Well, nothing except life and limbs, Alonso. Just because no one has died for over a decade doesnt mean it wont happen again. Swap seats and I am sure you would have felt differently.
Anyway, Vettel makes it stick at the second chicane. Another tick removed to the doubters of his race craft. Not to mention the size of cajones it must have required to keep his foot down in that situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFhPAvr_OMo
Next we see Webber do the opposite of a brilliant pass. As he goes on the outside of Massa in turn 1, instead of getting out of the way to avoid contact, he loses his front wing and gets it stuck under his car. As he brakes for the Parabolica the wing has wedged itself in a way that sends him straight into the barriers. Happened right in front of where I sat as well. And with that Ladies and Gentlemen, Sebastian Vettel just secured the 2011 championship. The only man that could probably challenge him is now another 25 points down. After the race the track personnel felt it would be good to hoist the Red Bull up in the air as an attraction! The RB7 underbelly at the worlds display..
The race goes on and an almighty scrap starts to take place behind Sebastian Vettel who has already begun to scamper off in the distance. It’s a battle between 4 world champions. It seems Schumacher liked the taste of Belgium where he drove a great race and he even starts to challenge Alonso for second place! The crowd around here goes nuts as they see Alonso, Schumi and Hamilton racing close together and trying to get one up on the other.
Alonso gets lucky as Hamilton now pressures Schumacher, forcing him to defend. This allows Alonso to break the DRS and then starts building a gap. Nothing seems to work for Hamilton. He throws everything in the book at the German, but the old fox have read every chapter and defends brilliantly (at first). Much to the obvious amusement of the crowd who still carries a passion for the one with the red helmet. Eventually even Button closes up and its another three-way scrap. Button being the sly racer he is, is just waiting for a mistake from either to pounce on.
Lewis gets a good run on the Mercedes on lap 10 up to the Ascari chicane. He goes for the inside and Schumacher moves over to defend and Hamilton concedes. I looked at this a couple of times and there was room for Hamilton. He might have been just slightly on the grass but he could have passed him there. In fact, I am pretty sure the “old” Hamilton, before all the penalties and critiques of this season, would have gone for it. If that is a good thing or not, I will leave to you.
On lap 13 Lewis passes the Mercedes at turn 1 but forgets to cover the outside in Curva grande, giving Schumacher the inside for the second chicane as he repasses him. Classic stuff! This is getting Hamilton a little more than hot under the helmet. On lap 16 he tries to go on the inside in the Curva grande, gets on the grass as Schumacher chops him off. Button does not think twice, applies KERS and swoops past Hamilton. Schumachers move was more than questionable and just as dangerous as Alonsos blocking move on Vettel. NOT cool, original Scandal-man!
What follows is the best overtaking move of the race along with Vettel on Alonso. Button goes around the outside of Michael in the Ascari chicane! An absolutely heartstopping move, that caught Schumi a bit by surprise I reckon. This frees Button to take up the hunt for Alonso. Unfortunately for Lewis, he pits after the Mercedes and is sent out looking into the gearbox of the Mercedes yet again. Elements of blocking are now occurring from the Mercedes until Ross Brawn comes on the radio telling Michael to leave some room for the other car. Replays show Lewis shooting by the Mercedes, seemingly almost being let by. Perhaps to avoid a penalty?
Now the battle is about Alonso and Button as Vettel is 15 seconds ahead. He is unable to pass the Ferrari for second, so McLaren opts to pit Button instead, hoping to get the undercut with fresher tires. On the way into the pits, Button encounters Barrichello who is being lapped and also pitting. An extremely slow entrance to the pitlane from the Brazillian frustrates Button. On top of that he is actually getting blocked by Barrichello for no apparent reason. A sign for me that Barrichello should hang up his helmet pretty soon.
One of my favorite drivers, Kobayashi pulls his car onto the grass right in front of our grandstand. Gearbox failure is the reason. He gives a wave to the crowd that applaud him for his efforts. The same problem would stop his teammate a few laps later.
Bruno Senna is having a good race considering he was dead last at one point after the incident on lap 1 where he had to put on a new front wing. He has made quite a few passing moves and is making another one on Buemi for 9th position. Well done indeed considering this is only his second race in a while. Now I just hope he has a good race in Singapore without any incidents on the 1st lap.
Button didnt get past Alonso in the stops but gets a good exit after the first chicane and goes on the inside with KERS fully applied. After getting by he defends the inside and makes it stick. Hamilton exits the pits after his final stop and change to hards and comes out just ahead of Schumacher. Now his quest to hunt down Alonso starts as Vettel has a 16 second lead up ahead with 15 laps to go.
Hamilton closes in on Alonso who cant quite get the harder compound to work on the Ferrari. Its going down to the wire as Vettel crosses the line to win the Italian GP for a second time. Button is comfortably 2nd. Hamilton is so close to the Ferrari but runs out of laps to finish in 4th behind Fernando. Schumacher comes in 5th to make it 5 world champions in a row. 6 in a row if you count Massas 30 seconds as a champion in 2008 😉 Then follows Alguersuari in 7th who didnt even make it out of Q3. A cracking race for him too.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Undoubtedly the young German, soon to be double champion. And the youngest double champion at that. Vettels performance was flawless from where I stood. Having now seen the race on TV didn’t change my mind. No one could touch him and he seems to be a legend in the making as I said earlier. He is a one lap specialist. And now he is a proven master of what they call racecraft. 10 years ago another German driver dominated in Formula 1. He won 5 championships in a row starting in 2000. (Having won 2 before) Now Vettel started with winning a championship in 2010 and will surely win again this year. Will it go on through 2014 as a little bit of history repeating?
DOUCHE OF THE DAY
Schumacher and Alonso both made a dangerous bonehead defensive move but Im going to give it to Webber. He had plenty of room on the left to avoid contact with Massa, but didnt and a DNF was the result. Effectively sealing up the championship by not finishing.
In my amateurish photographers mind, I thought it would be a good shot of Webbers car hanging sadly in the air with Vettel victorious on the podium on the screen in the background.
SORENS RACE RATING
Last year was pretty dull. This year we enjoyed some great races thanks to the Pirelli tires and the DRS system. In Monza we had a 4-way fight for podium positions from start to finish. Some incidents and a dominant winner. 8 out of 10.
I had a great time in Italy. The weather is so nice at this time of year. I recommend going to this race if you can. The smell of tradition and heritage is thick in the air. Walk the old banked track and stop to think that Fangio used to race here and you are in motoring heaven. Even going General Admission can get you some good seats at the exit of Parabolica where something always happens. (Yes, they even have a few grandstands for GA – just be there at 8-9 or earlier) Someone always goes wide at the exit as they try to get on the power as soon as possible. I was there on Saturday and just came late for the Maldonado spin and crash during qualifying. I saw a couple of spins and crashes from the GP2 guys as well. The speed is high but they are coming onto the straight, so its never more serious than a bounce off the wall.
On Sunday I bought the cheapest grandstand tickets which is 21C. I was lucky to get a seat at the very top where I had a great view of the cars coming down the back straight and braking for the Parabolica right in front of me. There is tall fencing there as you can see from the pictures. But even much more expensive stands have that. Mayhem at the podium.
Most of the pictures here are my own and therefore not even half as good as a pro photographer. But I thought it would be fun to use them. I have some video footage too that I will put together and post on this blog when I get done. Hopefully this week. Until then, take care my friends 😀
Images © Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic/Pirelli, Paul Gilham/Getty Images/Red Bull