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FIA F1 - Hamilton Wins Monza

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Monza, Sep. 9, 2012: Lewis Hamilton dominated Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix for McLaren, to score his first-ever win at motorsport’s cathedral of speed and the team’s third victory on the trot.

Behind him, however, Ferrari suffered the indignity of being beaten by a customer team on their home ground as Sergio Perez got some payback for Malaysia with a superb drive which made the maximum of some excellent strategy by Sauber.

Everyone else started on Pirelli’s medium tyre but they opted for the hard, gaining a late-race advantage on the mediums which saw the Mexican climb from eighth to second after his pit stop on the 29th lap. By the end was he was just 4.3s adrift of the McLaren, but Hamilton had everything under control and scored a much-needed victory which brings him back up to second place in the world championship.

A damage-limiting drive from Fernando Alonso saw the Spaniard survive an uncomfortable off-course moment in the Curva Grande which was deemed by the stewards to have been caused by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, whom Alonso was attacking at the time.

A good start had helped Alonso to climb from his 10th place on the grid, and after his prolonged battle with Vettel he was aided by team mate Felipe Massa who had split the McLarens from the start. The Brazilian duly conceded second place to his partner on the 40th lap, and Alonso seemed set to finish there until the flying Perez swept by him on the 46th. The Ferraris thus finished third and fourth, garnering Ferrari 27 points to move them back to third place in the constructors’ points table behind Red Bull and McLaren.

Button looked set for second until he lost drive on the back straight on the 33rd lap, the McLaren team diagnosing a fuel pick-up problem.

It was also a very tough day for Red Bull. Vettel climbed up to third by Lap 20, but his indiscretion with Alonso earned him a drive-through penalty and later he was advised to switch off his engine rather than risk a failure, which was thought to be imminent after an issue with its alternator. With team mate Mark Webber making a bad start, and later spinning and flat-spotting his tyres on the exit to Ascari before creeping round to the pits to retire, the team lost a lot of their advantage in the constructors’ stakes. They now have 272 points to McLaren’s 243, Ferrari’s 226 and Lotus’s 217.

In the drivers’ stakes, Alonso has an enlarged 37-point lead, now over Hamilton, 179 to 142, with fifth-place finisher Kimi Raikkonen third on 141 from Vettel on 140, Webber on 132 and Button on 101.

Raikkonen battled superbly with Perez before conceding defeat, but was lucky to hold on to fifth as two-stopping Michael Schumacher was only 0.3s behind at the end, while Nico Rosberg in the other two-stopping Mercedes disposed of Force India’s Paul di Resta to take seventh. The Scot was eighth, like the majority of front runners relying on a single stop, with Kamui Kobayashi making it a good day for Sauber with ninth after a steady run on a different strategy to Perez’s.

Williams’ Bruno Senna took the final point after an adventurous race which saw him having to make trips over chicane kerbs after both Rosberg and Di Resta gave him a hard time. He dived past Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso on the final lap, as did team mate Pastor Maldonado who was only 0.5s behind him at the finish line. The unfortunate Australian was thus 12th from Romain Grosjean stand-in Jerome D’Ambrosio in the second Lotus.

A lap down, the Caterham drivers had a race-long fight, with Heikki Kovalainen leading Vitaly Petrov over the line by a tenth of a second as they took valuable 14th and 15th positions. At Marussia, it was Charles Pic’s turn to beat Timo Glock, in 16th and 17th, while Pedro de la Rosa’s 100th race saw him catch and pass HRT team mate Narain Karthikeyan for an eventual 18th.

Besides Webber, Vettel and Button, Nico Hulkenberg dropped out right at the end with mechanical problems on his Force India, while Jean-Eric Vergne was the first retirement early on when his Toro Rosso appeared to shatter a rear brake disc and was sent aviating over the first chicane kerbs.