Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen finished the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in second place. After 53 laps with intermittent rain and changeable track conditions, Heikki came home 12.5sec behind maiden winner Sebastian Vettel in his Toro Rosso. Lewis Hamilton who had started 15th made his way up through the field to second and eventually finished seventh. The team had planned a one-stop strategy for him; however, on a drying track Lewis had to change to intermediate tyres and came in a second time. After 14 out of 18 races, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes lies second in the Constructors’ Championship with 129 points behind Ferrari with 134 points. Lewis leads the drivers’ ranking with 78 points ahead of Felipe Massa on 77 points. Heikki is sixth with 51 points.
The start: Heikki had qualified second fastest, 76 thousandths of a second behind pole position. Lewis started 15th on the grid after failing to set a quick lap when the qualifying session was at its driest and fastest. Due to the rain, the race was started behind the Safety Car.
The race, lap 3: The Safety Car came in at the end of lap two. Heikki was second at the first chicane; Lewis was in 14th place.
Lap 4: Lewis improved to 13th position.
Lap 10: Lewis outbraked Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India Ferrari) before the first chicane (Variante del Rettifilio) for 12th place.
Lap 11: Exiting the Variante della Roggia, Lewis overtook Kimi Rà¤ikkà¶nen (Ferrari) and was now 11th.
Lap 14: Lewis passed Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) and was in the top ten.
Lap 16: Passing Timo Glock (Toyota), Lewis took ninth place; one lap later, he overtook Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) and was eighth.
Lap 18: Sebastian Vettel came in for his first pit stop; Heikki took the lead. One lap later, Lewis was seventh ahead of Fernando Alonso (Renault).
Lap 22: The top three came in for their respective first pit stops. Heikki was stationary for 5.0sec and resumed in sixth place behind his team mate.
Lap 23: Lewis overtook Jarno Trulli (Toyota). At the beginning of the next lap, he also passed Nico Rosberg (Williams Toyota) and was third.
Lap 27: Lewis pitted (9.7sec) and rejoined the race in 10th place. Heikki was again 10th now. One lap later, Lewis was eighth.
Lap 31: Lewis was sixth, 9.2sec behind Felipe Massa (Ferrari).
Lap 33: Massa pitted for the second time; Lewis took fifth place.
Lap 34: Heikki completed his second stop (6.4sec) and resumed in fourth place; Lewis was second.
Lap 36: Lewis came in for a second stop (5.2sec) to change to intermediate tyres due to the drying track. He was now seventh, 7.9sec behind Massa. Heikki was second again.
Lap 40: Lewis had closed the gap to Massa; in front of the Brazilian were Heidfeld and Alonso, all four were covered by about three seconds.
Finish (53 laps): Heikki came home second and Lewis was seventh.
“In today’s tricky weather conditions I struggled to keep temperature in the brakes, and in the opening stages of the race I had problems with my extreme-wet tyres. First I thought it would improve after a few laps, but it didn’t. Only at the end was I able to match the lap times of Sebastian Vettel in front of me. In today’s conditions he was just too fast for me – congratulations to him for his very first grand prix win. I’m happy to have scored eight points, and I look forward to the next race in Singapore.”
“I felt I drove a really good race and was moving through the field very quickly when the circuit was at its wettest. If it had kept on raining, I feel pretty confident I probably could have even won from 15th grid position; but, as the circuit dried out, my tyres overcooked and I had to defend my position from Mark Webber. Still, today was all about damage control: I came away with some points and kept my lead in the world drivers’ championship. Finally, I’d like to offer my congratulations to Sebastian on winning his first grand prix – I know what a sweet feeling that is!”
“Heikki drove well to finish second and bag eight valuable world championship points. The visibility in the rain early on was dreadful, and it was sensible of him to drop back a little from Sebastian in the first few laps. As the race unfolded we thought he might be able to catch Sebastian, but he was prevented from doing so when his tyres began to lose grip as the rain abated. Lewis made excellent progress in the wet conditions early on, moving swiftly from 15th on the grid to a potential points-scoring position, and he could well have been able to record a podium finish had the rain persisted and had he therefore been able to maintain his one-stop strategy. As it was, he was forced to make an unscheduled stop in order to exchange his extreme-wet tyres for wet-weather tyres, which dropped him back down the field. At first his wet-weather tyres performed well, and he began to catch up impressively; but then, along with various other drivers, his performance deteriorated as his wet-weather tyres began to overheat and lose grip on the drying track.
“Yesterday I congratulated Sebastian and his team boss, Gerhard Berger, on their first pole position; today I commend them on the occasion of their maiden win. It was good to see, and I want to say ‘Well done!’ to the entire Toro Rosso team for doing a fantastic job.”
“At various stages of the race it looked great for Lewis, who drove a first-class race. Unfortunately, the rain we had expected for his one-stop strategy did not persist. However, after yesterday’s grid position it’s okay to score points. A good race from Heikki and another 10 points in the constructors’ world championship. Currently, we’ve scored 28 points more than our closest competitor, Ferrari, in the past six races, since Lewis’s win at Silverstone, and now we will concentrate on continuing this trend. Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Toro Rosso – a sensational and well-deserved victory.”