Tag Archives: Lewis Hamilton

2012 final driver rankings: 3rd – 1st

In the last of 4 articles, I rank the 25 drivers from the 2012 season in terms of their performances.

This final section deals with Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, and Kimi Raikkonen – but in which order? Let’s find out…

3rd – Kimi Raikkonen

Previous ranking: 5th

Previous quote: “Overall he has been hugely impressive, and I am tipping him as the dark horse for the 2012 title.”

While he was unable to keep up the pressure for the world title, Raikkonen did a hugely impressive job this year, establishing himself as one of the sport’s finest drivers.

Victory could have come as quickly as his third race since his return, but Kimi initially appeared rusty in racecraft. This cost him a well-deserved win, and was his only major flaw across the entire year.

If it wasn’t for his tyres falling off the cliff in China, he would have finished every single race in the points. Not spinning and making a slow recovery in Brazil would have meant that he would have completed every single racing lap in 2012. These are very impressive feats from a driver only just returning to the sport.

Kimi only got more impressive as the season progressed. He took three podiums in a row from Germany to Belgium, then a string of good finishes kept him within striking range of Alonso and Hamilton. A worthy win followed up in Abu Dhabi, but it was too late to keep him in contention for the title battle.

Raikkonen appears perfectly at home within Lotus, a team that actively encourages his laid-back behaviour. Is it a match made in heaven? I think it might just be.

2nd – Lewis Hamilton

Previous ranking: 2nd

Previous quote: “2012 has seen a new evolution in Lewis Hamilton”

Hamilton’s 2012 title challenge will go down as a failure, forgotten within only a decade or two. However, this doesn’t do justice to what was a magnificent flourish in form for Lewis.

From the offset, he was quick. He deserved wins immediately, but luck was not on his side – being passed by Button in Melbourne, Alonso and Perez in Malaysia, and crucially, a series of disastrous pit stops.

McLaren are entirely to blame for Hamilton losing the championship. Once they had sorted out their horrifically slow pit stops, the car began to fall apart. Technical failures robbed Lewis of good results in Germany, Korea, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Nevertheless, we were able to see how good a driver he really is. Outstanding victories in Canada, Hungary, Italy and USA were a joy to watch – when the team and car allowed him, Lewis was unstoppable. After announcing his move to Mercedes, he was freed from the shackles of a restrictive contract, and the next few seasons will show if he is legend material.

Will 2013 yield any results at Mercedes? I doubt anything will come just yet. But it will be hugely interesting to watch – if Hamilton can transform the team like Schumacher did to Ferrari, he will go down as one of the best drivers of the modern era.

1st – Fernando Alonso

Previous ranking: 1st

Previous quote: “For Alonso never to get a third title would be a tragedy.”

To put it simply, Alonso’s performances this year have been nothing short of astounding. I would even suggest that this is the best season performance we have ever seen from a Grand Prix driver.

By pre-season testing, it was already clear that the Ferrari was several seconds off the frontrunner’s pace. Yet Fernando managed to drag the car into 5th by the first race. When the opportunity arose in Malaysia, he grabbed it and never looked back. He battled tooth and nail with Pastor Maldonado in Spain, never giving up despite the Williams’ speed advantage.

At no point in 2012 did Alonso have the fastest car. Yet he managed 3 wins and another 10 podiums, more than any other driver on the grid. If it wasn’t for crashing out on the first laps of Spa and Suzuka, he could have taken 9 podium positions in a row.

His determination and raw speed throughout the season cannot be underestimated. It is something of  miracle that he found himself battling Vettel until the final lap of Brazil, but he somehow pulled it off. A mere 3 points separated him from the greatest championship victory in the history of the sport.

Fernando has already said that he can never recreate this season’s performance again, and to an extent I believe him. In 9 years of watching F1, this was the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever seen.

Top 10: Overtakes of the 2012 season

Like the previous year, 2012 was a fantastic season for overtaking. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the best passes of the 2012 season:

10th – Sergio Perez on Lewis Hamilton, Japanese Grand Prix

Perez eliminated himself from the Suzuka race later on with an ill-judged pass on Hamilton at the same corner. But his first move was brave, albeit slightly clumsy.

The Sauber came from miles behind at the Turn 11 hairpin, threw his car into the corner, and just about made it stick.

9th – Lewis Hamilton on both Toro Rossos, Spanish Grand Prix

An overtaking article wouldn’t be complete without Lewis Hamilton. Recovering from a disastrous 2011 season, he immediately set out to prove that he is one of the finest drivers on the grid.

Arguably his best pass was on Ricciarado and Vergne in quick succession in Barcelona:

8th – Kimi Raikkonen on Nico Hulkenberg, Grand Prix of America

Nico Hulkenberg performed admirably in the second half of 2012. But he was left completely helpless when Kimi made a ruthless move around the outside in Austin.

Passes like these are very underrated – the sheer level of bravery and confidence required is unparalleled.

7th – Romain Grosjean on Lewis Hamilton, European Grand Prix

Despite the (justified) criticism of Grosjean’s antics this year, he remains a fiesty racer when the opportunity arises.

His best move of the year was this ballsy pass on Hamilton, where he refused to budge and forced the McLaren off the racing line.

6th – Fernando Alonso on Romain Grosjean, European Grand Prix

Before this season, who would have guessed that the Valencia street circuit would throw up one of the best races of 2012?

Another great pass from that race was Fernando Alonso’s incredible move around the outside of turn 1. It’s even tougher than it looks –  the exit barriers of that corner close in rapidly, so even a few kp/h too many, and you’re in the wall.

5th – Kimi Raikkonen on Paul di Resta, German Grand Prix

Raikkonen spent several laps behind the Force India before he made a proper attempt to overtake. But it was well worth it.

After attempting to undercut Di Resta exiting the Spitzherhe, he dived around the outside of the following corner, and muscled his way through.

4th – Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher, Brazilian Grand Prix

Raikkonen and Schumacher were back to their old antics in Brazil. At the same corner, Raikkonen squeezed past Michael on the race of his first retirement in 2006.

This time though, it was around the outside, and not a millimetre of space was shared between the two. Just look at that photo, and that tells you everything you need to know.

3rd – Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher, Belgian Grand Prix

As you can tell, I’ve hugely enjoyed Raikkonen’s performances this year. He’s been absolutely outstanding all year – but more on that in another post.

This time, he bravely shot down the inside of Schumacher’s Mercedes entering Eau Rouge. It wasn’t as brilliant as Mark Webber’s similar move last year, but still very commendable.

2nd – Felipe Massa on Bruno Senna, Singapore Grand Prix

After a miserable start to the season, Massa picked up his game hugely.

The first sign of Felipe’s comeback was in Singapore, where an incredible slice up the inside of Bruno Senna netted him an extra place. Bonus marks go for the dramatic slide entering the corner. Awesome stuff.

1st – Nico Hulkenberg on Lewis Hamilton & Romain Grosjean, Korean Grand Prix

While the Korean Grand Prix wasn’t a standout race, it brought one of my favourite passes from one of the best upcoming drivers on the grid.

Hulkenberg has been brilliant in the final few races of 2012, and this move was icing on the cake. After waltzing past Grosjean, he proceeded to barge his way alongside Hamilton, and then shoved his way past entering the next corner. Brilliantly calculated, and fantastic to watch – a classic overtake.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many videos of the pass online. This is the best I could come up with.

The heroes of Interlagos 2012

To put it simply, the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2012 was one of the best races I’ve seen in my life. Aside from 2008, you couldn’t ask for a better conclusion to a fabulously entertaining season.

What make the race even more special was that it wasn’t just the two title contenders driving their hearts out. Throughout the field, we saw some astounding performances, resulting in a race that will be talked about for years to come.

Let’s have a look at the stars of Brazil 2012:

Sebastian Vettel

Couldn’t write this article without him. Punted into a spin at turn 4, his championship battle appeared to be over before it even begun.

What happened next was pure magic. Vettel blitzed through the field at an astounding pace, even with a damaged floor and exhaust. He tore his way up to an incredible 6th place after only 10 or so laps.

A mistake deciding what tyres to go onto, and then a slow pit stop, left him down in 12th as the race entered its final 20 laps. However, he again laid waste to the midfield, tearing back up to 6th to seal the title.

What was even more impressive is how he continued to push his way up the field, even when the championship was effectively decided. A true triple world champion’s performance.

Nico Hulkenberg

This was the true shock of the day. With the rain falling, a smart tyre choice helped Hulkenberg gain 25 seconds over most of the grid.

With this opportunity, he kept Button and Hamilton under massive pressure, and shocked most viewers by putting a pass on the McLaren.

Even more amazing was how he managed to pull away from the fastest cars on the grid. A small error at turn 1 ruined his chances of victory, but the subsequent penalty was too harsh in my opinion. Still, it doesn’t detract from an absolutely enthralling performance.

Felipe Massa

The fast-starting Ferraris laid waste to the Red Bulls at the start, and surprisingly were able to pull away comfortably for most of the race.

Massa’s start was particularly impressive, moving up as high as 2nd before shuffling down the order soon after. After losing a lap to the leaders after a delayed pit stop, the safety car period gave him an opportunity to fight back, and he seized it with both hands. He picked off car after car, and eventually relieved 2nd to Alonso.

His resurgence in form has been extremely impressive, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him fighting on equal terms with Fernando next season.

Lewis Hamilton

Again, Lewis did everything right, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

After taking his 7th pole of the year, he was all set to dominate the race, but several factors collided to take him out. The first period of rain allowed Jenson Button to briefly take the lead off the sister McLaren. A poor call for intermediate tyres dropped him down the order, but the safety car slashed a 45-second deficit, and gave him another chance to take a final win with his childhood team.

But like so many times this year, it didn’t happen. A mistake by Nico Hulkenberg took Hamilton out on the spot, and ruined what could have been a beautiful end to the McLaren-Hamilton relationship.

Kimi Raikkonen

All set to finish every single lap of the 2012 season – an incredible record – Raikkonen decided to entertain the fans watching at home instead. A true heroic performance!

Title fight will go to Brazil – Hamilton pips Vettel in thrilling American GP

Lewis Hamilton has continued his streak of winning every single United States Grand Prix he has competed in, with an excellent drive today at the Circuit of the Americas.

The McLaren driver hunted down Sebastian Vettel for the majority of the race, then had to hold him off in a tense final few laps. Fernando Alonso did all he could to minimize his championship losses, but was half a minute behind in 3rd place.

At the start, all the even-numbered starters slided down the field, with Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen losing out in particular. Alonso leaped up to 4th place, while Jenson Button couldn’t get his hard tyres up to temperature, falling to 16th.

As is the case these days, Michael Schumacher began to slip away, causing a large train of cars to form from 8th all the way down to 15th. Hamilton quickly recovered from his disappointing start, dispatching of Mark Webber for 2nd place.

As Michael slipped down the order, Button began his recovery drive, his prime tyres proving to be particularly effective once they were up to temperature. Up front, Hamilton began to close on Vettel, but was unable to get close enough to make a move just yet. Red Bull’s reliability fears were proved, as teammate Webber pulled over with an alternator failure on Lap 17.

This elevated Alonso to 3rd, which he immediately lost after a slow pit stop. Kimi Raikkonen opted to stay out while the frontrunners pitted, and spent several laps just behind Sebastian before stopping. However, a similar mistake with the right rear tyre resulted in the Lotus falling behind the Ferrari.

Felipe Massa’s gearbox penalty seriously disadvantaged the Brazilian, but he shrugged it off, and pulled off an impressive performance to pull himself back into contention. By the end of the pit stops, he was able to reel in and put a move on Raikkonen, who was not as fast initially on a new set of rubber.

On a completely different strategy to everyone else, Jenson Button stayed out until Lap 36, pulling out a string of impressive – and fastest – laps to rejoin the race behind the Raikkonen/Massa fight.

Nico Hulkenberg – who was the subject of an epic pass by Raikkonen earlier – had made it as high as 5th in the opening stages, but the Force India proved to be uncompetitive in race trim, and lost another place to the other Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

After a brief lull in activity at the front after the stops, Hamilton again got up close behind Vettel. Lap after lap he tried to get close using DRS, but the gap to the Red Bull was just too big. However, an opportunity arose when Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT held up Vettel in the first sector, and Hamilton wasted no time in punishing Sebastian’s misfortune. Once he got past, he did his best to pull out a gap.

Further back, the two Williams drivers began to tussle, with both drivers’ contracts on the line for 2013. Bruno Senna had got up as far as 9th, but an ambitious pass by Pastor Maldonado relegated him to the final points-scoring position.

Although Lewis had done his best to pull away from Sebastian, the Red Bull’s pace proved to be undeniable. Vettel was able to reduce the gap to around a second in the final few laps, and chased Hamilton all the way to the flag in an extremely tense finish.

Alonso was over half a minute off the battling duo, but later stated that his podium finish felt as good as a win. Felipe Massa was able to find his way past Raikkonen and Button to take an excellent 4th position. After a decent grid position, race day was a disaster for Michael Schumacher, falling all the way to 16th.

The most important piece of news from this race is that the title fight will go on to Brazil. Vettel now has a 13-point lead over Alonso, while at the same time Red Bull have clinched the constructor’s championship with one race to spare.

Hamilton back on form, takes pole in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton has taken his first pole position in Abu Dhabi since the Singapore Grand Prix. The McLaren driver was miles ahead of anyone else, taking pole by over 0.3 seconds ahead of Mark Webber.

Sebastian Vettel was disappointed with 3rd, but Fernando Alonso was even angrier with 7th position. Here is what happened:

Q1

Pastor Maldonado was the first driver to set a 1:42, while the Lotuses could only manage 1:43s.

Fernando Alonso was out on track early, but could only pip Maldonado’s time. Jenson Button could only take 3rd place, even when most frontrunners hadn’t left the pits yet. Surprisingly, Maldonado set another good lap time, retaking the fastest time by 0.2 tenths.

Lewis Hamilton had a momumental lock-up on his first flying lap, ruining his front right tyre. Alonso retook the lead, until Lewis’ next attempt slashed the top time by 0.6 seconds.

Sebastian Vettel typically left his laps until late, but scraped the barrier on his first lap, causing a huge array of sparks to come out of his right rear tyre. His next lap left him 5th, while Mark Webber took 2nd.

Jean-Eric Vergne had a huge spin while lying 18th, which sealed his exit from Q1. Charles Pic impressed his team by splitting the Caterhams.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:44.048

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:44.956

20) Charles Pic – 1:45.089

21) Vitaly Petrov – 1:45.151

22) Timo Glock – 1:45.426

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:45.766

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:46.382

Q2

Again, Maldonado impressed right away in Q2, setting a 1:41.9 to take top spot in the early parts of Q2, until he was displaced by both Lotus drivers.

Following a dominative lap in Q1, Hamilton again went fastest in Q2. Vettel’s first lap was aborted, after he took too much kerb on the exit of a corner.

On his next lap, he took 2nd place, while teammate Webber pipped Hamilton’s time by just under a tenth of a second. However, that didn’t last long, as Lewis immediately responded with a 1:40.901.

It appeared as if Mercedes were going to have another embarassing exit from Q2, but Nico Rosberg pulled off a good lap to put himself 7th. After their impressive showing in Friday practice, Force India could only manage 11th and 13th.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:42.019

12) Sergio Perez – 1:42.084

13) Paul di Resta – 1:42.218

14) Michael Schumacher – 1:42.289

15) Bruno Senna – 1:42.330

16) Kamui Kobayashi – 1:42.606

17) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:42.765

Q3

Kimi Raikkonen was the first out of the pits, his Lotus sparking heavily as he undertook his first lap. A 1:41.756 set the benchmark, which was quickly annihilated by Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button and Webber.

Sebastian Vettel took 2nd, but was almost half a second away from the charging Hamilton. A lock-up for Felipe Massa put him out of contention, with the second Ferrari only taking 6th place.

After good showings in Q1 and Q2, Pastor Maldonado was able to split the Red Bulls, taking 3rd position. After Mark Webber displaced the Williams and his teammate, Vettel was unable to improve, finishing in 3rd. He pulled over at the end of the session, indicating a car problem.

Fernando Alonso struggled on his final lap, and was knocked all the way down to 7th place by Button and Raikkonen.

Hamilton was left unchallenged to pole, and was absolutely ecstatic as he aborted his final lap. The championship battle has taken another twist, with both Vettel and Alonso further back than they would have wanted.

Lewis Hamilton to replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes for 2013

In a move which has taken place amongst immense speculation in the past few weeks, Mercedes have finally confirmed that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the squad in 2013.

Hamilton, being the key to the 2013 driver market, has been under huge pressure to announce his future for some time now. It is believed that his move to Mercedes will allow him and his management team to enhance and market the Hamilton brand around the world.

This new 3-year deal will partner Lewis with his former karting teammate Nico Rosberg. The two shared a podium at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix for the first time since their childhood racing days.

Hamilton today said:

"It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin 
a new chapter racing for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Mercedes-Benz 
has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which 
I share.

Together, we can grow and rise to this new challenge. I believe that I can help steer 
the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning the world 
championships."

Team principal Ross Brawn was extremely cagey when he talked about Michael Schumacher’s future:

"On behalf of Mercedes AMG Petronas, I would first of all like to thank Michael 
Schumacher for the important contribution he has made to the growth of our team 
over the past three seasons.

His energy and commitment have never wavered, even when results have not matched 
our own expectations, and we are determined to finish the 2012 season together on 
a high. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with Michael."

Mercedes have also announced that former world champion Niki Lauda will join the team as a non-executive chairman on the board of directors.

Hamilton comfortably takes Singapore GP pole position

Lewis Hamilton has taken his fifth pole position of the year at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Hamilton comfortably led both Q2 and Q3, while Sebastian Vettel was unable to maintain his pace from the practice session. Pastor Maldonado impressed hugely with second, while championship leader Fernando Alonso is down in 5th.

Q1

As expected, the huge gap between the softs and super-softs caught out a few drivers. The Lotuses were both forced to expend a set of options in order to secure their place in Q2.

After hitting the wall in Friday practice, Bruno Senna again clipped the barriers, but got away with it, taking 17th.

Fastest laps were exchanged between Vettel and Hamilton, before Grosjean topped the timesheets on the super-softs.

Further back, Kamui Kobayashi was knocked out of Q1 for the first time this year.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Kamui Kobayashi – 1:49.933

19) Vitaly Petrov – 1:50.846

20) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:51.137

21) Timo Glock – 1:51.370

22) Charles Pic – 1:51.762

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:52.372

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:53.355

Q2

Again, Senna was involved in an incident with the walls – and didn’t get away with it this time. The Williams driver smashed his rear suspension at turn 21, and was out of Q2.

Romain Grosjean also spun and hit the barriers, but was able to continue after checks.

Again, the battle up front was between Vettel and Hamilton, with Lewis winning out by a tenth of a second.

The last-gasp scramble saw Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez all eliminated, while Michael Schumacher just pipped his way into the final qualifying session.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:47.975

12) Kimi Raikkonen – 1:48.261

13) Felipe Massa – 1:48.344

14) Sergio Perez – 1:48.505

15) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:48.774

16) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:48.849

17) Bruno Senna – N/A

Q3

Most cars exited the pits at the start of Q3, but only Hamilton, Vettel and Button actually set laps.

The Mercedes drivers made a brief appearance, but soon dived into the pits, indicating that they would be starting on the prime tyre.

Vettel’s next attempt was able to put him past one McLaren, but a 1:46.362 from Hamilton put him well ahead of the Red Bull. Sebastian was further surprised, when Pastor Maldonado put in an excellent lap to put him second on the grid.

Fernando Alonso was never on the frontrunners’ pace, and lined up 5th. The same went for Mark Webber, who starts a disappointing 7th, behind Paul di Resta.

With only a slight improvement from Vettel in the dying seconds, it was an easy pole position for Lewis Hamilton – even if he clipped the wall on his final attempt.

Disaster for Red Bull as Perez pushes Hamilton to Monza win

A surprisingly drama-free first corner

A surprisingly drama-free first corner

Lewis Hamilton has taken another victory at the Italian Grand Prix, but was pushed all the way by Sauber’s Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso recovered from his poor grid position to take a podium, while Felipe Massa faltered and could only manage 4th.

The Red Bull’s races fell apart, as Sebastian Vettel was handed a drive-through penalty, and both drivers retired with only a few laps to go. Here is the full report:

At the start, Hamilton defended his lead against Felipe Massa, who had charged past Jenson Button on the main straight. Button made a move on the Ferrari, but was held back. Fernando Alonso began his charge back up the field, while Mark Webber had another awful start, dropping to 14th.

Michael Schumacher lost 4th place to Sebastian Vettel, while Alonso began pressurising the Mercedes from behind. After a few laps of tussling, Fernando used KERS to blast past him on the main straight.

Further back, Paul di Resta shoved Bruno Senna off the road at the Roggia chicane, and the Williams lost a place, nearly crashing into Mark Webber’s car when he rejoined.

Jean-Eric Vergne flies over the kerbs

Jean-Eric Vergne flies over the kerbs

Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a terrifying crash, as his suspension failed entering the first chicane, and the Toro Rosso nearly flipped crashing over the kerbs. The safety car was not called out, but DRS was temporarily disabled while the wreckage was cleared.

After a terrible few opening laps, Mark Webber sliced his way past Paul di Resta for 10th. However, by then, his teammate was all the way up in 4th, getting closer and closer to Jenson Button. Interestingly though, his team complimented the Brit on his pace, indicating a possible 1-stop strategy.

On lap 18, when most of the frontrunners were thinking of a pit stop, Sergio Perez pulled an excellent move around the outside of Kimi Raikkonen for 6th. At the same time, the sister Sauber was passed by Mark Webber for 9th place.

There were problems for Felipe Massa, as his team informed him that his car had lost telemetry transmissions. It got even worse for the Ferrari, as Jenson Button easily got past him at the Roggia chicane.

Massa pitted in response, taking on the harder tyre. After Pastor Maldonado set the fastest lap on a fresh set of tyres, Vettel and Alonso pitted in unison. They emerged just behind the slowing Massa. This pack of cars all battled to pass Daniel Ricciardo, and Alonso did his absolute best to get past the Red Bull.

Button soon pitted, but an unusually slow stop put him out only just ahead of the Massa-led pack. Hamilton pitted a lap later, leaving Sergio Perez in the lead of the race.

Alonso gets pushed off the track

Alonso gets pushed off the track

Alonso and Vettel soon began to battle lap after lap, with Sebastian eventually pushing the Ferrari onto the grass before Roggia, in a similar fashion to last year. Alonso just about held the car in a straight line, and rejoined the track behind the Red Bull.

Perez still led, but his hard tyres simply didn’t have the pace, and Lewis easily re-took the lead. At the same time, Alonso finally got past Vettel for 5th position. Surprisingly, the stewards showed unusual discipline on Vettel, handing him a drive-through penalty for forcing Alonso off the track.

Soon after, McLaren’s 1-2 fell apart, as Jenson Button pulled over with a mechanical issue. This left Felipe Massa in second, with Alonso fast approaching behind, and Schumacher 4th after Vettel’s penalty. However, Sebastian wasn’t slowed for long, finding his way past Mark Webber for 7th place.

Sergio Perez got past Kimi Raikkonen for 4th, and began closing in on the Ferraris at rapid pace. The situation was very clear, so Massa offered no resistance against the charging Alonso, allowing him into 2nd.

Almost 2 seconds a lap faster, Perez eased past Massa with absolutely no trouble. After only a few more laps, he managed to get past Fernando Alonso as well. Despite an amazing charge up the field, he didn’t stop there, instead putting the pressure on Lewis Hamilton for the rest of the race.

Alonso entertains the fans on the podium

Alonso entertains the fans on the podium

With only 5 laps to go, a disappointing race ended prematurely for Vettel, with a mechanical issue. Amazingly, it got even worse, as a spin and ruined set of tyres ruled Mark Webber out of the race with 2 laps to go.

Despite his insane pace, Perez was unable to catch Hamilton, who crossed the line 4 seconds ahead to win the Italian Grand Prix. Perez and Alonso took excellent podiums, while Michael Schumacher pushed Kimi Raikkonen all the way to the line, finishing in 6th place.

Kamui Kobayashi took a quiet 9th, while Bruno Senna leaped up from 12th to 10th on the last lap to snatch a point.

In terms of the championship, this leaves Alonso still well in front, while Hamilton moves up to 2nd, with Raikkonen further behind. Their double retirement leaves the Red Bull drivers 4th and 5th.

Hamilton heads McLaren lockout in Monza

Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the Italian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso was expected to challenge him, but a slip-up by Ferrari left him languishing in 10th place, while Felipe Massa enjoyed 3rd on the grid.

Jenson Button joined Hamilton on the front row, while Paul di Resta impressed with 4th. Predictably, the Red Bulls struggled massively, with Vettel 6th and Mark Webber not even making it into Q3. Here is what happened:

Q1

One-off Lotus driver Jerome D’Ambrosio was one of the first out, setting a 1:26.712, while Nico Hulkenberg went straight on at turn 1. Teammate Paul di Resta briefly went a second faster, before he was displaced by Nico Rosberg.

Local hero Fernando Alonso set a 1:24.5, while Hulkenberg was forced to stop, after losing a gear on his Force India. While other drivers scrabbled to beat the Ferrari’s time, Alonso improved on it by another 0.4 seconds.

After several mistakes on his opening laps, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest sector 1 and 2 of the session, but lost a tenth in sector 3, and went 2nd. Jean-Eric Vergne was the first to take on the medium tyre, but didn’t improve on his time.

Jerome D’Ambrosio pulled himself out of the drop zone, but was pushed all the way by Heikki Kovalainen. Nico Hulkenberg was eliminated from Q1 for the first time in his career.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:26.441

19) Vitaly Petrov – 1:26.887

20) Timo Glock – 1:27.039

21) Charles Pic – 1:27.073

22) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:27.441

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:27.629

24) Nico Hulkenberg – N/A

Q2

After one Force India was taken out of Q1, the sole remaining car driven by Paul di Resta was out first in Q2. All drivers took on the medium tyres, apart from Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Fernando Alonso’s time of 1:24.2 was again the time to beat. Jenson Button was fastest in S1 and S2, but again fell short to come 2nd. Lewis Hamilton was a tenth off his teammate, but claimed he was held up.

The Red Bulls were off the pace, with Vettel 9th and Webber 13th. The Mercedes drivers both made mistakes on their flying laps, leaving both drivers several tenths off the frontrunners.

After Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado all improved on their times, the Red Bulls were in serious trouble. Both left the pits with a few minutes to go, but only Vettel was able to move back into the top 10. Mark Webber was 11th, 0.06 seconds off Raikkonen.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Mark Webber – 1:24.809

12) Pastor Maldonado – 1:24.820

13) Sergio Perez – 1:24.901

14) Bruno Senna – 1:25.042

15) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:25.312

16) Jerome D’Ambrosio – 1:25.408

17) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:25.441

Q3

The Ferraris were first out of the pits for Q3. However, on their first lap they played a very interesting tactical piece – Alonso slowing down, giving a tow to Massa’s car. This small aero advantage put Massa on top with a 1:24.436.

Jenson Button got to within a tenth of Massa, before Hamilton went 0.4 seconds faster than anybody else. Alonso and Massa pitted, with Fernando not yet setting a fast lap.

Nico Rosberg went 4th, with Vettel back in 5th, before they were both displaced by Michael Schumacher. On his first lap with a minute to go, Paul di Resta immediately went into 2nd position.

It appeared as if Ferrari were about to repeat their slipstreaming trick, but Massa appeared to pull away from Alonso, setting his own fast lap, going 3rd on the grid. Alonso’s sector 1 was unusually poor, leaving him 10th.

Jenson Button improved on his time, but could only get within a tenth of his teammate. Lewis Hamilton led a McLaren front row lockout of Monza, while their rivals stumbled. Although Di Resta qualified in 4th, he will take a gearbox penalty for tomorrow’s race.

Italian GP practice: McLaren edge ahead of Mercedes

After Friday practice at the Monza circuit, it appears as if McLaren are the team to beat this weekend.

However, Mercedes and Michael Schumacher have shown promising one-lap pace, and several technical issues in FP2 stopped them from showing their full potential. Ferrari have decent pace, and the gap between Alonso and Massa is at its lowest in years.

Red Bull, meanwhile, are disappointed with their pace, stating they need drastic improvements by tomorrow afternoon.

First practice

Much focus was on Ma Qing Hua, making his debut appearance for the HRT team, and the first ever Chinese driver to take part in an official F1 session.

He ended the day last, 1.9 seconds off Pedro de la Rosa. On his first flying lap, he misjudged the braking spot at the first chicane, and clattered over the kerbs.

Kimi Raikkonen made the same mistake, before later crashing his Lotus over the harsher kerbs of the Roggia (second) chicane.

Michael Schumacher set the fastest time on the harder tyre – a 1:25.422, over 0.3 seconds faster than Jenson Button. Teammate Nico Rosberg was third, followed by the two Ferraris. The Red Bulls struggled back in 9th and 11th.

There were two retirements near the end of the session, both appearing to be technical-related. Fernando Alonso stopped at the first chicane and Pastor Maldonado pulled over at Lesmo 1 with his DRS flap open.

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time      Gap     Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:25.422          26
 2.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.723  +0.301  29
 3.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:25.762  +0.340  26
 4.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1:25.800  +0.378  22
 5.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1:25.861  +0.439  27
 6.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.944  +0.522  30
 7.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1:26.046  +0.624  25
 8.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.323  +0.901  26
 9.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:26.390  +0.968  24
10.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1:26.504  +1.082  19
11.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1:26.508  +1.086  18
12.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1:26.518  +1.096  21
13.  Valtteri Bottas     Williams-Renault      1:26.641  +1.219  26
14.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.746  +1.324  23
15.  Jerome d'Ambrosio   Lotus-Renault         1:27.180  +1.758  29
16.  Jules Bianchi       Force India-Mercedes  1:27.192  +1.770  22
17.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:27.373  +1.951  25
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:27.789  +2.367  24
19.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1:27.855  +2.433  27
20.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1:28.578  +3.156  20
21.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1:28.751  +3.329  26
22.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1:29.207  +3.785  21
23.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1:29.331  +3.909  21
24.  Ma Qing Hua         HRT-Cosworth          1:31.239  +5.817  26

Second practice

Local hero Fernando Alonso was forced to retire again with 20 minutes to go in FP2, cruising back to the pits in second gear. Despite not appearing for the rest of the session, he still managed third place, 0.05 seconds off Lewis Hamilton.

The McLarens were separated by 3 hundreths of a second at the front. Again, the Ferraris were very evenly matched, but Mercedes were unable to perform in FP2, due to a raft of issues.

Both cars lost their DRS systems at some point during the session. Schumacher’s car stopped communicating telemetry, while Rosberg suffered a variety of technical glitches.

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time      Gap     Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.290          32
 2.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.328  +0.038  35
 3.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1:25.348  +0.058  17
 4.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1:25.430  +0.140  43
 5.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:25.446  +0.156  41
 6.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1:25.504  +0.214  42
 7.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1:25.546  +0.256  40
 8.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1:25.547  +0.257  36
 9.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.068  +0.778  32
10.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:26.094  +0.804  38
11.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:26.104  +0.814  35
12.  Jerome d'Ambrosio   Lotus-Renault         1:26.157  +0.867  36
13.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1:26.394  +1.104  31
14.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1:26.404  +1.114  42
15.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:26.724  +1.434  33
16.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.730  +1.440  17
17.  Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      1:26.783  +1.493  39
18.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1:26.841  +1.551  39
19.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:26.864  +1.574  36
20.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1:27.222  +1.932  36
21.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.944  +2.654  36
22.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.968  +2.678  36
23.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1:28.575  +3.285  34
24.  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth          1:28.779  +3.489  21
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