• Sebastian Vettel wins ahead of Jenson Button
• Red Bull driver has 112-point lead in championship
For a brief moment on Sunday the massed ranks of tifosi saw their dreams come true when the lights went out at Monza and Fernando Alonso scythed up the inside of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, kissed the grass on the right and took the lead into the first chicane from fourth on the grid. Could these fervent fans have guaranteed him the win through enthusiasm and cheering alone, the victory would have belonged to the prancing horse at that very moment.
But passion alone is not enough. The race was yellow-flagged after several cars collided at the first corner, restarted on lap four and one lap later the natural order was restored. Vettel retook the lead in a brave manoeuvre, putting two wheels on the grass at Curva Grande (to the sound of a silent circuit-wide shrug) and drove on to a flawless, uncomplicated victory. He was followed home by Jenson Button, who gave another great fightback performance to take second, with Alonso in third. Lewis Hamilton, who was fourth, toiled well and with care while stuck behind Michael Schumacherh, whose fifth placing meant the top five slots were all occupied by world champions.
Uncomplicated it may have been but that is not to belittle Vettel or his team. Ferrari inflame the emotions of fans around the world and it has to be said there is little similar feeling for Red Bull. But over the weekend the team principal, Christian Horner, responded to dismissive remarks from the Ferrari principal, Stefano Domenicali, by pointedly remarking: “I think we’ve earned respect in the pit-lane.”
Which they have and which this emphatic win only reinforces. The victories here and at Spa, high speed, low-downforce circuits, both of which Horner has described as “bogey” tracks, prove that, while Red Bull may yet lack the heritage of their peers, they are, quite simply, an extraordinarily good motor racing team.
Many point to the designer, Adrian Newey, as the source of the their success. McLaren’s team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, likened him to a precious metal on Saturday, noting wryly that: “Adrian is a scarce resource.” All of which is true, to an extent. Red Bull’s access to Newey meant he brought the packages to the car that finally let them face down Monza.
It is not the whole story – witness the team’s final pit stop here. With a comfortable lead it was still executed as if the race depended on it, in a dazzling 2.9sec. They have been doing this all season and when it is combined with Vettel’s pace they are untouchable, a word Hamilton used to describe Vettel’s speed in qualifying.
Red Bull had gambled on using a shorter gear ratio for Vettel, limiting his top speed but hoping he would quickly find the greater-than-one-second gap that would prevent rivals from passing him using DRS. With the world champion in such form it proved a solid roll of the dice. After passing Alonso, he had three seconds on the Spaniard by lap seven and was under no threat from then on. It was a lead he would extend and consolidate to the chequered flag.
Behind him both McLarens suffered. Button had a clutch problem, dropped to sixth and was relegated to seventh as Mark Webber passed him on the restart, where Hamilton too also struggled, jumped by Schumacher and dropped to fourth.
Schumacher’s straight-line speed proved difficult to counter and the wily former world champion gave Hamilton no room, indeed closing the door on him at Curva Grande allowed Button, who caught up quickly, to pass his team-mate and Schumacher in short order. Clearly feeling the circuit and the car well, Button also soon caught and passed Alonso to take second, a place he, too, would retain with relative ease but without threatening the gap to Vettel.
Hamilton also finally cleared Schumacher at Ascari and began the chase for Alonso but although he had a clear track, there were no longer enough laps left to catch and pass him, while the Spaniard, whose team had struggled with the balance of the car all weekend, wrung all he could from the Ferrari to take the final podium place.
“It is the best podium in the world. The only thing that could make it better is probably wearing a red suit,” said Vettel but this was no come?and?get?me plea. Ferrari may have the passion but Vettel knows Red Bull have the pace and this was merely a driver wondering how experiencing even the finest moments may yet be improved.
He might find out at the next grand prix after this, his eighth win of the season. If he takes the ninth in Singapore and Alonso finishes fourth or lower with Button and Webber third or lower – the 24-year-old will experience becoming the youngest double world champion in history.