Sunday, September 14, 2008

Italian Grand Prix: Vettel Wins Historic Race

In a very wet and historic Italian Grand Prix we saw Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel take the win in dominant fashion. It was his first win, it was Toro Rosso's first win, and he became the youngest Grand Prix winner in history breaking Fernando Alonso's record. Earlier in the weekend Vettel also became the youngest driver to sit on pole position.

The race started under the safety car but quickly peeled off to allow the real racing to begin. We saw Vettel's fine skills in wet conditions and was left unchallenged by any of the other drivers. Lewis Hamilton finished 7th but demonstrated wet weather driving skills reminiscent of the late Ayrton Senna. Hamilton's chief rival, Felipe Massa finished 6th and did nothing to ruin his title chances in variable conditions, which is not his strength. The title chase narrows to just a single point with the appeal of the Belgian Grand Prix penalty against Hamilton looming in the background.

In terms of points of interest:

1. Speed differential. It is difficult to assess given the wet conditions but Ferrari power was strongly represented in the speed traps. However, to see the Red Bull Renault in the speed traps with an engine that everyone admits is down on power, we know the chassis has a very good aerodynamic package. As we can see with the Toro Rosso team who share a similar chassis to Red Bull, the benefits of engine power in this engine freeze period is critical.

2. Renault. Renault and Fernando Alonso seemed rather bleak about their chances. Their muted optimism was that there was rain for the race. It has be rather frustrating that they are not making the development gains necessary to challenge consistently at the front and to see Toro Rosso go from a tail ender to the front of grid in the course of one season, which is near impossible. Nevertheless, Alonso and Nelson Piquet made good with the situation and have maintained an upward performance curve. Alonso was one of the first to go to the standard wet tire from the extreme wets and benefited from the strategy choice. Piquet performed well although he had a few moments and both had 1 stop strategies. They finished 4th and 10th respectively.

3. Nick Heidfeld. BMW seem to have lost there way or have extracted what they can out of the F1.08 chassis. Moreover, Heidfeld looks like he has extracted as much as he can out of himself. With BMW openly waiting for Alonso to make a decision about a future drive, Heidfeld is not doing enough to save his job.

Other drives worth noting are Williams' Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. After a good first portion of the race, Rosberg fell off the face of the earth. He encountered a fuel rig problem and never seemed to recover. He finished behind his teammate Nakajima who finished 12th. At this point, Rosberg (14th) is too inconsistent for my taste. Raikkonen's race was just bad. He languished in the midfield the entire race. Although he came on at the end to set the fastest lap of race, I think it is a question of motivation and the new extension will not help matters. He finished 9th.


1. Vettel
2. Kovalainen
3. Kubica
4. Alonso
5. Heidfeld
6. Massa
7. Hamilton
8. Webber
9. Raikkonen
10. Piquet
11. Glock
12. Nakajima
13. Trulli
14. Rosberg
15. Button
16. Coulthard
17. Barrichello
18. Bourdais
19. Sutil

Fastest Lap: Raikkonen, 1:28.047


Anonymous said...

This was one of the most improbable results in the history of F1. It is unlikely to be repeated. Kimi is the same as he has always been. The car simply does not suit him well. We shall see next year if Ferrari can set this problem right. And what of Honda? This proud marque is just an absolute disaster!

Pete DaSilva said...

It was a great improbable result. However, in hind sight the result probably is not so far fetched given the recent performance of Toro Rosso. What is more striking in uptick in performance during a period where the FIA is really clamping down on development. I think Raikkonen's problem is between his ears or inside of his chest. Clearly he has the speed and is doing little with it this year. Honda is a completely out to lunch. One can only hope that the introduction of KERS will help given that there is performance to be gained and they have had little issues with its development.