Hamilton wins in Italy as Button and Red Bulls retire
9 September 2012 – Lewis Hamilton has won at Monza for the first time, keeping Sauber’s Sergio Pérez at bay after the Mexican came from twelfth position on the grid. Fernando Alonso made up lost ground by storming up to the podium, but it was a bad day for Jenson Button who stopped from second place. Both Red Bull cars also failed to finish.
This could have been a dramatic turning point in the championship for Alonso, starting in the dangerous midfield because of a broken anti-roll bar on Saturday. As it happened, the former double title winner put on one of his best displays of the year, stayed out of trouble and was allowed through by team-mate Felipe Massa.
Unlike Monza 12 months ago or Spa last weekend, it was a clean start to the race as Hamilton defended his lead from Button. At the same time, Massa charged past Button for second and challenged for the lead, but was fended off by his ex title rival. Michael Schumacher held up proceedings early on, overhauled first by Sebastian Vettel and then by Alonso. When Alonso attempted to overtake the Red Bull, he was adjudged to have been forced onto the grass at the Curva Grande and Vettel was duly handed a drive-through penalty.
At the front, Hamilton commandingly pulled away and was only headed by Pérez as the Sauber – one of only four cars to start on the Hard tyre – did not pit until well after half distance. Once he rejoined, Pérez began to calve through the field and homed in on the two Ferrari drivers who had already swapped positions. The possibility of a double red rostrum arrived when Button, who had run second to Hamilton in an unstoppable McLaren one-two, pulled off at the Parabolica with a fuel pick-up problem.
It was a miserable day for Red Bull. After his drive-through, which he strongly felt was not deserved, Vettel suffered his second alternator failure of the weekend – a mirror image of the issue which removed him from the lead in Valencia. Team-mate Mark Webber retired just three laps later, following a high-speed spin at Ascari which damaged his tyres. The double crisis for Red Bull means McLaren is now just 29 points behind in the Constructors’ Championship, with a maximum of 301 still on offer between Singapore and Brazil.
Pérez, once again demonstrating his superb ability to care for tyres, had already risen by eight places when he shot past Massa to pick up a third podium placing of the season on Lap 43. He easily hounded and overhauled Alonso for second with seven laps to go, even forcing Hamilton to pick up his pace. The McLaren and Sauber took the chequered flag just four seconds apart, with Alonso delighted to increase his championship lead on a day when a major dent into his advantage had seemed more than likely.
Kimi Räikkönen ended his damage limitation weekend inside the top five, fending off the two-stopping Mercedes of Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, as Paul di Resta picked up four points ahead of Kamui Kobayashi. Having taken advantage of compatriot Webber’s spin, Daniel Ricciardo was on course for a second points finish within the space of a week until Williams’ Bruno Senna grabbed tenth spot on the final tour. Jérôme d’Ambrosio was 13th, subbing for the banned Romain Grosjean, whereas Toro Rosso’s Jean-Éric Vergne flew into the air over a kerb when he suffered a suspected suspension failure at the Rettifilo.
Lewis Hamilton’s 20th career victory, putting him level with double McLaren Champion Mika Häkkinen, means he is only the third driver to win three Grands Prix in 2012. The result is McLaren’s first hat-trick of race wins since 2008 and the team’s 51st consecutive points score, closing in on Ferrari’s record. Red Bull’s failure to score – for the first time in 34 races – allows Räikkönen to seize third slot in the drivers’ table.
F1 continues, under lights, on the streets of Singapore in a fortnight’s time