For a dry race, Monza saw a very high attrition rate unlike the rest of the season where reliability records have been impressive almost throughout the field. Of course this was in part helped by Liuzzi’s best bowling efforts into turn 1, effectively taking out 3 cars within 30 secs after the start. The midfielders were worst hit by subsequent car failures, with both Saubers failing to score and the untimely retirement of Sutil for Force India could see his position as best of the rest behind the Mercs undermined. The high attrition in the midfield could provide some opportunity for the minnows to claw back important points and shake up the WDC. Half of the backmarkers also failed to finish the race, opening up opportunities for those who managed to keep going. But first: Let’s take a look at how the top dogs shaped up:
1. The Top Dogs
Yes, there’s still that annoying guy up front; and you have to be on crack to still believe anyone can take the WDC away from Vettel after yet another dominant victory. Building on the expert in depth analysis by Matt immediately after the Grand Prix, we can now really say that the WDC is over, done and dusted. Congrats Mister Vettel for a truly stunning season. Can you now please stay home for the remainder of the season so we can see some battles for the win instead of 2nd place? As you can see, the fight for second place is still hot as ever, with just four points separating the challengers. With another class drive Button has now completely recovered from his unfortunate double DNF to take 2nd place, albeit just one point ahead of the ever consistent Mr. Eyebrows. Without these DNFs, Button would probably be well clear of the pack by now to emerge as Seb’s challenger. As for Alonso, you have to hand it to the Spaniard. No matter what happens, no matter how (un)competitive his car, the man is always there or thereabouts. Hamilton saw his race ruined by Schumacher, but only has himself to blame for getting behind him in the first place. His initial getaway off the line was good, but despite being alongside Vettel into T1, he had Alonso mug him on the inside, and he braked earlier than Vettel allowing fingerboy to take p2. Then as the rubble from the Liuzzi bowling bonanza had been cleared, he was caught napping at the restart and lost his one chance to challenge for the win and to add insult to injury, Schumacher blasted past him with the Mercs’ superior top speed, and would stay ahead for a good 20 laps. Still, in light of his earlier escapades this season, Hamilton drove a smart race, avoiding the red mist and clinching good points in 4th. Had the race been a few laps longer he’d have passed Alonso for third as the Ferrari was yet again struggling on the harder compound but in the end he just lost too much time behind the Schum. Dashing hopes for my shock prediction to come through, Webber rammed into Massa in a way too optimistic move on the outside of T1, sending Massa into a spin to drive a recovery race from then on. Webber for his part suffered Red Bull’s first DNF of the season as he tried to limp back to the pits but encountered a barrier along the way. This leaves Massa in his natural position of last of the top dogs, and Webber dropping down to 5th. Everything is still to play for behind Vettel, and from now on I’m just going to ignore Vettel even exists so we can have some excitement up front.
2. The Midfield
With 5 of the midfielders failing to finish the race, there were opportunities for the survivors to rack up some important points, and so they did. Surprisingly though, the standings remain completely unchanged, as every driver fighting in the pack for the ‘best of the rest’ spot behind the Mercs failed to finish. This allowed those who had dropped back from the chasing pack to claw back valuable points, the biggest winners being Di Resta and Alguersuari. Schumacher took an emphatic win to reduce the gap to his unfortunate teammate but is still 23 points behind. It would have been very interesting to see how Rosberg’s tire strategy would have played out, starting on the medium tire, but Liuzzi decided it was not to be. As said, nobody fighting for third managed to finish the race with DNFs for Sutil, Petrov and Kobayashi. This allowed Di Resta to get back in touch after a solid third place giving him 15 points, leaving him now just 19 points off his teammate. Alguersuari was another driver profiting from the many DNFs by nabbing a brilliant 2nd place after yet again botching his qualifying. P18 is definitely a lucky place for Jaime to start this year, as he has scored all 4 times he qualified in that position. While he didn’t gain any positions he still closed to gap to his teammate, who finished 5th, down to only 4 points and the STR fight for next year’s seat is really heating up. With all these DNFs, both Williams drivers finally managed to pick up some decent points, with Barrichello pulling alongside the unfortunate Perez. Perez was on for another brilliant result when he had to retire from P7, again trying the Sauber trademark one stop strategy. Seeing he had a decent gap to 8th, and all around him were also still to stop for their second time, he was definitely on for another great points finish but his gearbox decided against it. Maldonado grabbed some points for the third race in a row to start making his results less embarrassing, while Senna got his first points on the board with an impressive 4th place finish after losing a lot of time in the turn one mayhem.
3. The Backmarkers
As in the midfield, the backmarkers were also badly hit with crashes and reliability woes, as only half of the drivers managed to finish. While Ricciardo did sort of race after having stalled on the grid, he was not classified by the FIA since he was 14 laps down by the end, thus earning him no points. Despite solidly outqualifying his teammate Kovalainen by over half a second, Trulli got caught up in an incident with a recovering Massa – again not covered at all by the FOM feed or commentators – forcing him to pit early for a new nose. According to Trulli, Massa lost it under braking into the second chicane and hit Trulli from behind, forcing him into an uncomfortable sandwich into the car in front. Thank you for the footage FOM…NOT. As we cannot see the incident it’s hard for us to judge, but it’s strange Massa didn’t get investigated by the stewards if indeed that is what happened. But since we didn’t see it, I guess it never happened huh?
After this early setback Trulli fought his way past Glock but Kovalainen was by then out of reach. The win sees Kovalainen reduce the gap to Trulli which is now again just 3 points. A gearbox failure saw D’Ambrosio retire on the first lap allowing Glock to put some breathing space between them in the fight for third, while Liuzzi completed his dismal weekend with his stupidity after Ricciardo outqualified him on his home track. Had he been a rookie and pulled that move, he’d have lost his FIA superlicense. Blaming Kovalainen for his own stupidity just makes it worse. Liuzzi got a great launch, but then got too greedy and instead of holding back took to the grass and swiped into the pack as he was sliding along helplessly. The five place grid drop penalty for Singapore is a bit of a joke of course, since 23-24th is his usual starting position anyway. What are they gonna do? Let him start from the harbor? Then again FIA needs some consistency with their penalties, and I guess it’s just fair. They can’t just change their system just because a car is at the back of the grid.