By Pete Vack
Exclusive photos for VeloceToday by Roberto Motta
Just where did that guy come from? Sergio Perez, the rent-a-ride poster boy who has had a relatively lackluster year, took his Sauber from sixth row on the grid to finish 4.3 seconds behind winner Lewis Hamilton. In the process Perez set fastest lap, and dared to pass the two Scuderia Ferrari cars as if they were dragging anchors.
In a race stereotyped by mechanical ills, the Ferrari engine Saubers never missed a beat. Team mate Kobayashi also did well, finishing 9th and in the points to make a very happy and lucrative weekend for the Sauber team. Perez has been outperforming Kobayashi for most of the year, but it comes in spurts. When he’s good, he’s very good. Koby is more consistent, but both may be world champions in the making.
And then there was Hamilton, worried until the very last corner that the fuel pickup problem that sidelined Button on lap 34 would also cause havoc with his McLaren. But it didn’t, and Lewis led every lap save a few to Perez, whose tire strategy and management were faultless. Like Spa last week, it was another race run on the medium and hard compound tires and tire degradation, although present, was not a defining issue.
Or was it? By Lap 44, Alonso and Massa, running second and third, were getting near the end of their tire life, while the wily Perez, who had stayed out much longer on his medium tires, was getting much better grip. It is probable that rather than fight for second, Alonso (and Massa) let the Mexican get by, saving his third place and gaining more points in the World Championship, extending his lead over Hamilton. Such a defeatist move would normally be folly at Monza, but after the race the highly partisan crowd was cheering Alonso as if he had won. On lap 20, Massa was experiencing tire fade, and pulled in to change tires. Perez did not stop for tires until lap 30, hence gaining a lot of ground on both Ferraris.
Massa, who maintained second to Hamilton for most of the race, did what was expected and needed to stay on with the Scuderia for 2013; but nothing is certain yet for the Brazilian. Alonso, on the other hand, has secured a ride with Ferrari “until he retires”, whenever that is.
By winning at Monza, Hamilton may be back in the good graces at McLaren, but that too remains to be seen. They may have been married for a bit too long now; Hamilton has been guided by McLaren’s Ron Dennis since he was in Karts.
Often a procession, Monza this year was full of excitement, disappointments, surprises and aside from the leaders position, very much a passing race. Vettel passed Alonso for third but in the process ‘offed’ him on lap 38. By Lap 43 the Stewards had already decided to penalize Vettel with a drive through. Much grinding and gnashing of teeth, but nothing like what was to come on lap 48 when Vettel’s alternator lost its power to generate. Again. He walked back to the pits while Webber lost it and spun, putting him back in the field. He too, would eventually retire, a zero sum game for the Red Bull Renault team during the weekend.
Schumacher started from row two and was up to fourth but again went off the pace to finish a respectable? 6th in front of young Rosberg. But still nowhere. The Mercedes team has yet to get it together this year. Or last for that matter.
The race boiled down to watching Perez take a second a lap off of Hamilton as they raced toward the finish. He didn’t have quite enough time to finish the job, but there will be a next time.
A nice hand to our own Roberto Motta, who was at the track for Friday’s practice and provided the images seen here. None were taken during the actual race, but nevertheless great shots.
Singapore at night is next on the agenda. See you then.
Best of the rest…
|8||DI RESTA||Force India-Mercedes||+ 41.0s|
|14||KOVALAINEN||Caterham-Renault||+ 1 lap|
|15||PETROV||Caterham-Renault||+ 1 lap|
|16||PIC||Marussia-Cosworth||+ 1 lap|
|17||GLOCK||Marussia-Cosworth||+ 1 lap|
|18||DE LA ROSA||HRT-Cosworth||+ 1 lap|
|19||KARTHIKEYAN||HRT-Cosworth||+ 1 lap|
|20||WEBBER||RBR-Renault||+ 2 laps, spin|
|21||HULKENBERG||Force India-Mercedes||+ 3 laps, brakes|
|22||VETTEL||RBR-Renault|| + 6 laps, alternator|
|23||BUTTON||McLaren-Mercedes||+ 21 laps, fuel system|
|24||VERGNE||STR-Ferrari||+ 45 laps, spin|
Note: Maldonado dropped five grid spots for a jump start and five for causing a collision at the previous round. Di Resta dropped five for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Driver’s Championship Standings
|13||DI RESTA||Force India-Mercedes||32 Points|
|14||HULKENBERG||Force India-Mercedes||31 Points|
Constructor’s Championship Standings
|7||FORCE INDIA-MERCEDES||63 Points|