Lewis Hamilton admitted he was “caught napping” during the lap four restart.
That moment’s hesitation dropped him behind Michael Schumacher and defined the rest of his race.
It took him 30 laps to pass the Mercedes and by that time his chances of finishing on the podium – never mind winning – were badly damaged.
The race progress chart makes it clear how much time Hamilton lost stuck behind Schumacher. Having started alongside the Red Bull, by the time Hamilton cleared the Mercedes on lap 27 he was 21 seconds behind.
Had Hamilton made his earlier pass on Schumacher stick on lap 13 he would have saved 11 seconds, not fallen behind Jenson Button, and had more time to attack Fernando Alonso at the end of the race.
But Hamilton fell behind Schumacher in the first place because of a poor restart on lap four. Without that, he might even have been able to put Vettel under pressure for victory.
There were fewer pit stops than usual in Monza – Bruno Senna was the only driver to make three visits to the pits.
The typical strategy was two stints on soft tyres followed by a final stint on mediums. Senna was the only driver to score points using a different strategy: starting on mediums, discarding them after one lap behind the safety car, then running to the end on three sets of softs.
Sebastian Vettel was probably the driver who least needed a quick pit stop but he enjoyed the fastest of the race when he came in for his final visit.
For 18th on the grid Jaime Alguersuari climbed to finish seventh. He made up seven places on the first lap thanks to the first-corner crash.
Felipe Massa’s collision with Mark Webber dropped him to tenth. He picked off Alguersuari, Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldonado in the next five laps to regain sixth place but was never able to catch Button again.
Also look out for Heikki Kovalainen on the lap chart. He was up to 11th after the restart but was defenceless against the cars behind him and lost four places in two laps.
All lap times
Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour in his pursuit of Alonso. Button lapped within two-hundredths of a second of that on the same lap.
Senna set the race’s fourth-fastest lap, aided by running on soft tyres in his final stint.
Did Hamilton have the pace to challenge Vettel? Their lap times over the final stint suggests so.
It’s true that Vettel had a 15-second lead and little incentive to push. But it looks as though he didn’t begin to back off until after lap 49, when he set the race’s fastest lap up to that point.
2011 Italian Grand Prix
Image © Daimler