Alonso Delivers Monza Masterclass

Nedzad September 9, 2007

Alonso Wins Italian GP

Fernando Alonso trimmed McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s title advantage to just three points by delivering a Monza masterclass in the Italian Grand Prix.

The world champion stamped his authority on the race from the off and was never challenged en route to his first win at the historic venue and his fourth victory of 2007.

Hamilton was unable to match Alonso’s pace but protected his points lead by putting a bold pass on Kimi Raikkonen after the Ferrari driver used a one-stop strategy to leapfrog the rookie following his second pit visit.

The 1-2 result was the best possible tonic for the beleaguered McLaren team on a traumatic weekend in which the latest developments in the spying controversy threatened to reduce the race to a mere sideshow.

Felipe Massa’s early retirement completed an unhappy home race for Ferrari, which virtually extinguished both its drivers’ chances of lifting the title crown.

The Maranello squad’s hopes now rest on a draconian penalty being handed to McLaren at next Thursday’s all-important FIA World Council hearing.

As they lined up on their grid hatchings Hamilton signalled his intentions by pointing his front wheels to the left.

From the dirty inside of the grid he struggled for traction, but moved abruptly to the left in a bid to fend off the faster-starting Massa.

Initially it didn’t work, as Massa squeezed by on the left on acceleration through the gears, but Hamilton braked later for the first chicane and boldly drove around the outside of the Brazilian.

For the rest of a frenetic opening lap he fended off Massa’s advances with some robust defensive moves – some of them only just within the bounds of the ‘one move’ rule – before a big accident for David Coulthard brought out the safety car.

The Scot had just made contact with Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault, and as he swept through the Curva Grande at 170mph, his front wing failed and he lost all steering control, plunging heavily into the barrier.

After a lengthy clean-up the field was released again at the start of lap seven.

This time Hamilton went on the attack, feinting to the inside of Alonso approaching the first chicane before deciding that discretion was the better part of valour.

By lap 11 Ferrari’s challenge had been cut in half, as Massa coasted into the garage to retire his F2007 with an unidentified mechanical problem.

Alonso maintained a narrow advantage at the head of the field throughout the opening stint, Hamilton closing to within 1.1s before making the first of two pit visits on lap 19.

The Spaniard’s fuel load took him two laps further, more than doubling his cushion as they embarked on the race’s middle stages.

Meanwhile Raikkonen inherited the lead, and when he waited until lap 26 – virtually the half-distance mark in the 53-lap race – to take on service for the first time, it became clear that the Finn was planning to stop only once.

That didn’t pose too much of a problem for Alonso, who was stretching his lead with every lap, but Hamilton’s second place suddenly looked vulnerable.

The Briton was struggling withy a vibration on his second set of hard-compound tyres and fell more than six seconds adrift of his team-mate by the time he made his final stop on lap 41.

Sure enough, Raikkonen slotted in between the two McLarens after they both made their final stops – raising a huge cheer from the assembled tifosi.

On the soft-compound Bridgestones Lewis seemed revitalised, though, and in no time at all he was back within striking distance of the Ferrari.

He made short work of his Finnish rival, steaming down the inside with a banzai outbraking move at the first chicane on lap 43.

With McLaren having re-established its stranglehold on the race, the top three drivers all cut their revs over the remaining laps in the interests of preserving their engines ahead of another stern test at Spa next weekend.

BMW Sauber took advantage of Massa’s retirement to claim fourth and fifth places, but the intra-team battle may well have turned on a botched first pit stop for Robert Kubica.

A problem with the jacks meant the mechanics had to lift Kubica’s car bodily to change the tyres and the Pole was stationary for an agonising 17.3s, scotching his chances of beating team-mate Nick Heidfeld.

In fact, Kubica temporarily lost fifth place to the Williams of Nico Rosberg, who drove a fine race on a one-stop strategy and spent much of the race in close combat with his rivals.

In the opening stint Rosberg enjoyed a great dice with Honda’s Jenson Button, the German finally gaining the upper hand after the pair ran wheel-to-wheel through the first two chicanes.

A fired-up Kubica repassed him easily with eight laps remaining, however, leaving Rosberg to settle for a very satisfactory sixth-place finish.

Heikki Kovalainen’s two-stop strategy didn’t work out quite as well for him but the Finnish rookie added to his points account with seventh place.

Button raced hard all day and took advantage of a welcome upturn in Honda’s competitiveness to claim the final point, only his second of the 2007 campaign.

Mark Webber (Red Bull), Rubens Barrichello (Honda) and Jarno Trulli (Toyota) were the other unlapped finishers.

Italian Grand Prix result, Monza, 53 laps

1. ALONSO Mclaren 1h18m37.806s
2. HAMILTON McLaren +6.0s
3. RAIKKONEN Ferrari +27.3s
4. HEIDFELD BMW +56.5s
5. KUBICA BMW +1m00.5s
6. ROSBERG Williams +1m05.8s
7. KOVALAINEN Renault +1m06.7s
8. BUTTON Honda +1m12.1s
9. WEBBER Red Bull +1m15.9s
10. BARRICHELLO Honda +1m16.9s
11. TRULLI Toyota +1m17.7s
12. FISICHELLA Renault +1 lap
13. WURZ Williams +1 lap
14. DAVIDSON Super Aguri +1 lap
15. R SCHUMACHER Toyota +1 lap
16. SATO Super Aguri +1 lap
17. LIUZZI Toro Rosso +1 lap
18. VETTEL Toro Rosso +1 lap
19. SUTIL Spyker +1 lap
20. YAMAMOTO Spyker +1 lap
R. MASSA Ferrari +43 laps
R. COULTHARD Red Bull +52 laps


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