Vettel takes third Monza win despite gearbox scare

2013 Italian Grand Prix review

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Arriving at Monza, Fernando Alonso said he had two goals for the race: to finish on the podium, and to finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Given the championship situation he surely cared more about the latter than the former. But at the chequered flag, as he scored his fourth podium finish as a Ferrari driver in Italy, he trailled just one of his rivals: Sebastian Vettel.

With Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen losing further ground the championship contest looks to be between the two drivers who finished first and second today – if there’s much of a contest left to speak of.

Vettel holds lead despite flat-spot

After two days of sunshine clouds loomed at an overcast Monza ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. A shower hit the GP2 sprint race earlier in the morning. F1 drivers headed to the grid on intermediate tyres after fresh rainfall.

But come the start of the race the track had dried and almost all of the drivers were on the medium compound slick tyres. With most of the planning to pit just once, the tyres would need some looking after.

That is exactly what Vettel didn’t do as he hurtled towards the first corner with 21 of his rivals chasing him. He snatched the front-right brake and had to keep the pressure on the pedal to slow the car and ensure he turned in to the first corner.

Behind him Sergio Perez dodged in front of Kimi Raikkonen, who then nudged the McLaren as they brake for the Rettifilio. Perez bumped over the escape road while Raikkonen traipsed back to the pits, his front wing broken.

The other Lotus was involved in a collision at the second chicane, but Romain Grosjean was blameless: Paul di Resta hit his right-rear wheel with such forced that it smashed the Force India’s suspension. Grosjean’s car impressively remained intact.

Alonso climbs to second

While Vettel pulled away from Felipe Massa, Mark Webber had slipped back and was being hounded by Alonso. It only took until lap three for the Ferrari driver to break his defences with a superb move on the outside of the Roggia chicane.

“Mark had a little slower exit in the first chicane,” Alonso explained. “So I used all the KERS on that straight hoping that with the KERS plus the slipstream it will be enough to pass, but it was not enough so that we arrived side by side.”

“At one point, I thought ‘well, I will miss the second chicane and I will give the place back’ but at the last moment I get the grip.”

Webber considered edging his rival wide, but perhaps thought back to how Massa did the same to him two years ago, which had consequences for both drivers, and thought better of it.

“I could have been I think a little bit naughtier,” he said, “bit harder maybe for him and smashed him on the kerb a bit harder. But in the end that can also put both of us out.”

Alonso was now in third and his subsequent promotion to second was a foregone conclusion. Sure enough on lap eight Massa slowed down by a full second and then let his team mate past.

Vettel pits early

Vettel radioed his team more than once asking them to keep an eye on his damaged front-right tyre. “We are monitoring it, we known it’s not good,” said race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin. “No concern with right-front for now.”

Behind him Alonso spied Vettel’s rain light – which drivers have to use in wet conditions – was flashing despite the track still being dry. He notified his team on the radio, which race director Charlie Whiting also listens in on. “It was disturbing a little bit,” Alonso explained afterwards, “obviously it’s a very strong light with no rain”.

Vettel wouldn’t need his rain light – the showers stayed away for the rest of the race. His tyre damage raised the prospect of having to pit twice instead of once, but that proved unnecessary: “Fortunately we weren’t front limited on this circuit, so the front tyre was not a big issue,” said Vettel later, “so I tried to look after the rears after that and we still got far enough to make the one stop work”.

Nonetheless Red Bull brought him in slightly early to be on the safe side. They also summoned Webber in on the same lap, as the pair were separated by almost 11 seconds on the track, giving the well-drilled Red Bull pit crew enough time to service both. Impressively, Vettel and Webber’s complete stop times were among the four fastest of the race.

Webber’s rapid stop gave him the chance to undercut Massa for third. The one-and-a-half seconds Webber took from the Ferrari on his out-lap was enough, and Massa lost another half-second in the pits to seal the deal.

Alonso’s only remaining card to play was to drag out his first pit stop as long as possible, giving him fresher tyres for his last stint. A rain shower at this point would have tipped everything in his favour, but the clouds were not obliging. With Webber pressing on Alonso had to come in on lap 27 to ensure he didn’t lose the place.

Hamilton recovers from puncture

Behind the lead quartet of Red Bulls and Ferraris the chase was, remarkably, led by Nico Hulkenberg. The Sauber driver held onto his fifth place after his lap 24 pit stop, until Hamilton took it off him on lap 32.

But this was only a temporary state of affairs. Hamilton had a second pit stop looming, having made an early visit to the pits on lap 13 due to a slow puncture, possibly caused by debris from the Raikkonen-Perez collision. His radio had also malfunctioned, meaning his team were having to make several attempts to pass each message.

Hamilton’s second pit stop on lap 38 promoted Hulkenberg back to fifth, Nico Rosberg sixth and Daniel Ricciardo seventh – the trio back where they started and where they would finish.

Hamilton rejoined the track behind another driver who’d made an enforced early visit to the pits – Raikkonen. The pair made their way back towards the points, passing Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil in succession.

But Hamilton wanted to force a faster pace than Raikkonen, and five laps from home he passed the Lotus. The two McLarens capitulated on successive laps – both struggling with a seventh gear ratio that had been set too short – and Hamilton produced the fastest lap of the race as he pressed on after Grosjean.

Red Bull overcome gearbox gremlins

The Red Bull drivers had gearbox problems of a more serious nature. The team had replaced the fifth, sixth and seventh gears in their cars ahead of the race and Webber’s car had several other parts replaced as well.

Webber was the first of the two to be warned to short-shift to guard against further damage. This came at an inconvenient time as he had latched onto Alonso’s tail and, with the benefit of DRS, was beginning to put him under pressure.

Soon Vettel was getting a similar message about his gearbox. It was a problem the team had been alerted to earlier in the weekend but were not expecting a repeat of during the race. “We already saw something on Friday,” said Vettel afterwards, “Friday to Saturday we changed the gearbox and then I think in the race it was a surprise.”

With memories of Vettel’s race-losing gearbox failure at Silverstone in their minds, the final laps were a tense affair for the Red Bull team. Finally Vettel rounded Parabolica for the 53rd time and, despite having backed off enough to allow Alonso within five seconds of him, gunned it towards the line for his sixth victory of the year.

Alonso kept his streak of home podiums for Ferrari going. For Webber, his twelfth and final appearance at Monza as an F1 driver saw his first visit to the podium.

Massa was not far behind in fourth and nor was the impressive Hulkenberg. The Sauber driver seemed happier on the hard tyres in the second half of the race than the Ferraris were, and withstood race-long pressure from the other Nico to claim his team’s best result of the year so far.

Ricciardo took seventh after team mate Jean-Eric Vergne dropped out with a blown engine. He and Grosjean began the final lap under pressure from Hamilton but the Mercedes driver ran wide at the Roggia chicane and had to settle for ninth.

Button took the final point for tenth, suffering severe vibrations from a flat-spot. Raikkonen failed to score for the second race in a row – following his record-breaking run of points finishes – coming in 11th ahead of Perez, Gutierrez and the Williams drivers.

Adrian Sutil stopped in the pits with brake problems on the final lap. Caterham again had the beating of Marussias – Charles Pic coming out on top of the quartet of cars.

Vettel’s ‘damage limitation’

Vettel’s triumph means he has now won more than half of the races so far this year. He is also more than two wins clear of Alonso in the points standings, with Hamilton and Raikkonen over three wins’ adrift.

Most worrying for his rivals, Vettel won at a track which historically has not played to Red Bull’s strengths, something he mentioned to Adrian Newey as they headed towards the podium and the jeers of the tifosi.

“On the way up to the podium, he said ‘I thought that it was going to be damage limitation this weekend,'” Vettel recalled.

“I said to him ‘well, if damage limitation is like that, I want to have a lot of damage for the rest of the season’.”

2013 Italian Grand Prix

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Images © Red Bull/Getty, Daimler/Hoch Zwei

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Vettel takes third Monza win despite gearbox scare”

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    8th September 2013, 21:18

    Great article Keith. Season is far from over, but a 2-race cushion is perfect to start the Asian leg, and if Vettel keeps on this current form, I think he can repeat his last year streak winning four-races-in-a-row (Singapore-Korea-Japan-India) and maybe Abu Dhabi too, where he clinched his first championship.

    1. @omarr-pepper I’d be very surprised if Vettel doesn’t seal the title by India, and if it doesn’t happen then I simply can’t see it not happening in Abu Dhabi at the latest. If Vettel doesn’t have any retirement and keeps racking up podium finishes, then most top teams will probably divert all their focus to 2014.

  2. Hardbrakingmike
    8th September 2013, 21:21

    Oh well. Bring on 2014 because this years championship is over..

  3. Why did hamilton not look for his Pit Board earlier? I do not understand, surely the default thing to do when radio is down is to look for it? Do they just use it for fun now, and the drivers do not even realise it is there? Did hamilton forget it existed?

    Just thought it was odd it took them three attempts to pit him, when he seemed to know there was a radio issue.

    1. The pitwall messages are notoriously difficult to read at Monza because the cars are going so fast (200mph+) and the straight is so wide (over 11m). Also, there are many signs being shown at once, and the drivers are fiddling with so many buttons for KERS, DRS, etc. Lewis Hamilton’s visual acuity is phenomenal, but give the guy a break.

      1. I thought the speed might have somthing to do with it, so I kind of understood….don’t worry I won’t hold it against him….

        Although…I thought it was funny when Ham was asked what it was like without Radio and he more or less said that it was…very difficult because he had to manage the car, guess tyre temps race positions, all by himself.

        Hmm….It could be much more fun if Team Radio was taken away, and only used for Saftey Information…..Bernie!!!

        1. Sorry for the cranky tone… I’m a Kimi fan, so my mood is kinda snappish today ;) ! Ham gave Sky an interview where he said that it was sort of like driving blind. I am reminded of an astronaut being out of contact with mission control.

          1. I hear you bro. The plethora of obsenities I hurled at Perez was legendary! :-)

    2. He said in an interview that he was looking for his pitboard but its hard to pick it out when theres loads of boards out at once and your flashing by at 320kph

    3. He said that he had a hard time trying to read the pitboard because there were many and he was going so fast.
      Also I think he missed the call just once

  4. funniest tweet today by @stephvettel – “Red Bull fuel is made up of a tightly controlled balance of petrol and ferrari fan’s tears.”

    1. Not sure why we forget the Red Bull gives you wings… (-g = wins, too, so there’s two ways to read it)

      1. lol. I made that joke ages ago, its a funny coincidence isn’t it :-)

        (say like in RB adverts)

        “Red Bull Gives You Wins”

  5. GEARBOX change/rebuild ! Could someone who knows please explain how this did not attract a penalty ? I’m not calling for a penalty, just confused, Ferarri break seal on Massas’ gearbox = penalty, RBR change internals = no penalty. @keithcollantine, please can you elucidate .

    1. There are certain parts on a gearbox wich you kan change/repair without a penalty. Not sure wich ones, as I am not that technical.

      1. Thanks but I would like a more definite answer.

    2. @hohum I think , the rule is that you can partially open a small part of the car and look inside . If you can see visually that any particular gear has a problem , you can change those parts. However , if you cannot see the problem and have to tinker with it to find it , then you attract a penalty . Can anyone confirm what I heard on the TV feed ? is Mr ScarbsF1 here on F1f ?

    3. it’s article 28.6d in the sporting regulations

      At each Event seals may be broken once, under supervision and at any time prior to the second day
      of practice, for the sole purpose of changing gear ratios and dog rings (excluding final drives or reduction gears). Competitors must inform the FIA technical delegate which ratios they intend to fit no later than two hours after the end of P2. However, one additional change of ratios and dog rings will be permitted if a gearbox change is necessary on the first day of practice before the end of P2. Gear ratios and dog rings (excluding final drives or reduction gears) may also be changed under supervision for others of identical specification at any time during an Event provided the FIA technical delegate is satisfied there is evident physical damage to the parts in question and that such changes are not being carried out on a systematic basis.

      1. @tmf42, Thanks, that clears it up, and thanks to all the other respondents as well.

    4. @hohum I think the explanations everyone’s already given are sufficient :-)

    5. So gearbox penalty. How is that Massa got a penalty last year for breaking the seal? Did Ferrari ask to be given a penalty? I ask this because I can only assume they did not do any work on it. Yet last race the cars of Massa, Webber and Vettel were allowed to make minor repairs within the regulations.

    6. The regulations quoted above make it clear, but just thinking logically: The teams can change gearbox ratios for every event, so clearly, they are able to open parts of the gearbox at every event, even though the main part of the gearbox needs to stay the same for five (?) races.

      1. Up until qualifying teams play with different gear ratios. After qualifying seal are put on the gearbox and possibly other parts to ensure that the qualifying car is the race car. My question is how they got Massa a penalty last year. Did they break the seal and do to the race officials and say whoops. Or did they tell the officials they needed to change the gear ratios. Or was it something else. Basically I am interested in how you give yourself a penalty because I am pretty certain you can’t go to the officials and ask to be moved a few places back in the grid.

        1. The regulations state that if you need to change a faulty part, you can do that under supervision and if the technical delegate agrees… if you just break the seal without supervision you’d already get a penalty, so that’s most likely what they did.

  6. So sick of Newey crying after every win…

    1. Those aren’t tears, it’s champagne!

    2. I really don’t see how this could be an issue to anyone?
      If he’s that passionate about winning, let him do so. It’s not harming anyone :X

  7. Keith mentioned Vettel’s rain light flashing throughout the race. I was wondering about that, and I’m curious about the rules regarding its use when the track is dry (I couldn’t find this addressed in the FIA regs). I’d assume that a car would be black flagged if the light was inoperative in wet (bad visibility) conditions. I’m not suggesting that Vettel would have had anything to gain by leaving his light switched on … just wondering if there isn’t a rule stating that it must be off when visibility is normal.

    1. I have often wondered about rear light on in the dry. I have seen other drivers do it from time to time. As a viewer watching TV I find it distracting so I can imagine it is more so for the driver behind that car.

    2. @schooner
      No, there isn’t such a rule.

      Apparently Red Bull used a gearbox setting for smooth shifts, which usually only gets used during wet conditions. Hence the light was turned on. I found this strange as well, though.

  8. “Alonso’s only remaining card to play was to drag out his first pit stop as long as possible, giving him fresher tyres for his last stint.”

    That may have cost hm the win. He lost about five seconds while Vettel was whizzing around on new tyres and it turned out that the margin of victory was about five seconds. A bad call by somebody in the Ferrari camp.

    1. @jonsam, but in reality he wasn’t going to win by doing the same as Vettel and as long as he stayed ahead of Webber there was nothing to lose but maybe something to gain in these desperate times.

      1. @hohum..yeah absolutely agree.

        Ferrari were never going to beat Vettel on pure pace.

      2. There is never anything to be gained from deliberately going slower than your competition.

        1. @jonsan, you normally acute understanding seems to have deserted you, tactical tyre conservation, which often means going slower than your competition, has been at the heart of F1 for 18 months.

          1. As written on the article also, if you lack the speed to attack on track, you can split the stops with opponents and hope for some rain to come in your favor.

    2. If Ferrari is preserving its tires better than they should have pitted Alonso in the same lap as Vettel and by the end of the race thy would have as advantage. Only if they knew that Red Bull would have gear box issues.

  9. Mixed feelings! Dull race but thanks to Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen & Lewis Hamilton ‘s efforts for proper racing and great overtakes. Both Kimi & Lewis had pace and were really mighty fast in the last stage of Monza race yesterday, shame that their qualifying went the wrong way. I don’t know what will happen to Felipe Massa but i still hope he’ll find a place in another team (even a midfield one is not that bad) Webber is a class act, really said the booing isn’t fair; he organized a party for his farewell and someone alongside him in the team didn’t even bother to come (of course ‘respect him but we’re not friends’ was the reply…i wonder how Button & or Hamilton who isn’t absolutely friend with most of the field managed to go and say hi!) I’m not happy but tomorrow I’d probably don’t care just that I wish all the top drivers could have the cars to race each other & compete at their best all things being equal! Also good luck Kimi, wherever you’ll go! Nico Hulkenberg deserves top team seat too…
    Yawn* Bring on 2014.

  10. I’m a little surprised to see several radio equipment/systems failures this year. I can remember at least two races with Raikkonen radio malfunctions, now Hamilton, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some more.
    So, as an electronic technician, I’m confused about the nature of these issues. Radio equipment can be designed to be very powerful, stable and reliable under tough conditions. Furthermore, it requires little maintenance.
    I tried to do some research about it, but i didn’t get so much info. Does anyone can help me with radio regulation from FIA, or radio equipment allowed manufacturers, or further explanations about the failures we’ve seen this year? Maybe the omniscient @keithcollantine ? Thanks in advance.

    1. I recall them changing a steering wheel on Hams car last year because of a radio problem- just a faulty connection. Also, do you remember the telemetry broadcasting failures during the first two races? That wasn’t very pro.

  11. Am I the only one who was quite disgusted with the clear media bias against Vettel on Sky? And here I mean the intro to the race that was clearly made with the purpose of establishing Newey as the sole reason for all of RBR success. If a casual fan or an actual complete stranger to the sport was watching that what they take away is that RB success= Newey taking away all the accomplishments of Horner, Vettel and Webber. I wonder if Merc build amazing cars the next two years and Lewis or Nico blow away the field will we see a similar video about how all their success is due to Brawn and Lowe. I think not…

    1. If you think that’s bad do not go to the BBC website. They are quite savage there. I always thought reporters were not supposed to use personal opinions. I think it goes like this. 1st WDC everyone is excited, 2nd WDC everyone is impressed by the margin but now concerned. 3rd WDC everyone thinks that someone else should get it. Almost 4th WDC is starting to look like the old Schumacher days.

  12. Can you answer one question? If it is Newey and not Vettel that is winning the championship why the last time a Newey car won a WDC before Vettel in 2010 was in 1999 with Mika?!? From 2000, Mika, Coultard, Kimi and Montoya couldn’t win with his cars and in case of Kimi in 2003, and 2005 it was definitely the car’s reliability that let them down.

    Newey is no doubt a genius, but there is more to win 4 championship in a row and as Schumacher showed, the final ingredient that deals the deal is a driver that not only gets his job done, but also spurs the team forward.

    Did you look at Newey’s body language? It was more a like proud parent at his son’s graduation: he has finally found somebody that will bring his machinery what it deserves. It is the Red Bull team we should praise. Newey, Vettel, Horner, and many others we don’t their names deserve the credit.

    1. Renault engine is the best so Newey can use is as he likes. It’s not the most powerful but it fits perfectly with current regulations. Vettel was told to push accelerator as hard as he could on the exit of a corner.

    2. I obviously meant “seals the deal” :-)

  13. @sankalp88 An interesting perspective, but one rather lacking in context. What you are forgetting my man is that the 1999-2008 period you are describing was a highly multi-factorial era. Budget though is the most crucial factor that you don’t seem to be taking into account. Or rather the lack of budget restraints in Ferrari’s case, and the access they had to a bottomless pit of funds, and the Fiorano test track gave Ferrari a massive advantage over McLaren in that era, something that even Newey couldn’t compensate for. Williams also had BMW pouring money into their campaign, so for the first time in its history, McLaren were actually quite poor in the early 2000s when compared to its rivals. And you talk about cars like the MP4-15, the MP4-18 or especially the lightening fast MP4-20 of 2005 as if they were bad cars, yes, they were unreliable, but so was the RB6.

    I don’t think a logical F1 fan can look at the brace of cars that Hamilton and Alonso have driven over the past few seasons, compare them to Vettel’s, and conclude anything over than “they’re slower”. Logical dictates then that the fact that Hamilton has won eight races in the “Vettel era” and that Alonso have taken the title challenge all the to the final race on two occasions means that they have out-performed their machinery to a greater extent than Vettel has. I actually find the sheer irrationality of someone trying to suggest that the F10 or the F2012 were Red Bull equivalents rather amusing…

  14. People will appreciate vettle only when he leaves the Red Bull unfortunatel……..
    Curious to know what will happen when he put on the red suit ????????He will be Popular????????
    MS WDCX7 At stake!!!!!!!
    We are fortunate that we see a legend in the making!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. It’s sad that no one commented on Massa’s performance this weekend. He outperformed Alonso in qualifying despite Alonso getting a tow, had a better start than Alonso, and was told to give up his place to Alonso. The only thing that Alonso did right this weekend was getting past Webber. But Massa earned that second place. It should have been his.

    1. +1 with respect to the race.
      Unfortunately it’s the Championship that earns the money for the team :-(
      Which begs the question, why not return to prize money for each race :-?

  16. I know that these new front tyres suit the RBR better but these Asian races have lots of long corners true front tyre killers so perhaps we will see more excitement, more winners but I don’t really think RBR is going to lose more than a couple races let alone losing ground on the championship, even with the fear of some retirements they somehow manage to not fail even when they are seriously concerned.

  17. This is nice proof for Vettel’s personal top racer capabilities and Ferrari’s incompetence to use such golden man and make a triumph with him.

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