F1: Italian Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, September 14th, 2008

 
 

Hello, is there anyone out there?

The Italian Grand Prix is a great circuit, one of the classic European grands prix and a calendar highlight for Ferrari fans.

However, following the stewards’ decision overturning the result of last week’s race, large numbers of people have expressed their disappointment about a great contest settled off the track by saying they never felt like watching a Formula One race again.

But if they switch off today, they are liable to miss a treat. That rarest of things – a genuine wet qualifying in Italy – has shaken up the grid something wicked.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel is on pole on merit after making the best of the wet conditions – to the joy of former Minardi fans who have had the pleasure of seeing the new iteration of their team flourish on its home track.

Next to him is Heikki Kovalainen, who just fell short of pole, equipped with a car that is a proven wet-weather performer. Questions about its driver, however, still remain.

Completing the party mood for Red Bull and Toro Rosso are Mark Webber and Sebastien Bourdais on the second row, while Williams’ Nico Rosberg must need additional oxygen on the third.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa is a dangerous presence in sixth while his championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen benefited from a particularly poor throw of the weather dice to start in 14th and 15th.

They will doubtless be fighting their way through the field from the very first lap – with who knows what consequences? Our suggestion is to pack a Thermos – hopefully you won’t want to spend a minute away from the telly.

Keep hitting refresh to get the latest, don’t forget you can comment on this post, and you can also email us with your thoughts on the race.

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Post-race: Lovely interview with the Toro Rosso team manager Massimo Rivola who used to be with Minardi. If only Mateschitz had felt able to work with Paul Stoddart instead of buying him out…

Vettel in the press conference can’t stop grinning. He talks of a fantastic race and a very good strategy. He says his lap back to the pits and the podium went by in a blur. “This is for sure the best day of my life, I will remember these emotions for ever. It is much better than you might think it is.”

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Standings:

Drivers’ championship

  1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 78
  2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 77
  3. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 64
  4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 57
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 53
  6. Heikki Kovalainen: 51
  7. Fernando Alonso: 28
  8. Jarno Trulli: 26
  9. Sebastian Vettel: 23
  10. Mark Webber: 20

Constructors’ championship

  1. Ferrari: 134
  2. McLaren: 129
  3. BMW Sauber: 117
  4. Toyota: 41
  5. Renault: 41
  6. Toro Rosso: 27
  7. Red Bull: 26
  8. Williams: 17
  9. Honda: 14
  10. Force India: 0

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Podium: What a powerful bit of deja vu. The German and Italian national anthems played in succession. It’s our profound hope that we never get as sick of seeing young Vettel on the podium as we did Micky S.

Great to see a podium full of young drivers. But, harsh as it seems to say it, why didn’t Kovalainen put up more of a fight? Is he really going to hold onto that McLaren drive?

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Final result:

  1. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 10 points
  2. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 8 points
  3. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 6 points
  4. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 5 points
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 4 points
  6. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 3 points
  7. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 2 points
  8. Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1 point

Vettel: “I don’t know what to say, I have no words.”

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Lap 53: Hamilton on the back of Massa but it’s probably too late to do anything. Commentators are saying, with tears in their eyes, that Vettel’s win will make up for last week’s debacle.

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Lap 52: Massa has gone straight through the scene of that accident, bits of carbon fibre all over his tyres. That’s dicing with fate. Vettel is being warned about it. Hamilton, Webber on a slightly different line and they miss it.

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Lap 51: Vettel is revealed to be a fan of the League of Gentlemen and able to recite the entire corpus of Monty Python. Nakajima and DC touch, the Williams spins and DC has to go into the pits. Carbon fibre all over the track and the Williams pit crew also out.

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Lap 50: Glock has taken a place off DC. Vettel is 14 seconds clear.

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Lap 48: Raikkonen has got past Piquet and the Renault driver misses the chicane and is off. Meanwhile Glock and Coulthard are wheel to wheel. Webber is having a go at Hamilton but the McLaren driver has held his place. In fact, it is probable he is catching Massa. Whoa! Webber tries to pass, touches Hamilton, is forced across a chicane and drops back behind the McLaren.

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Lap 47: Webber, behind Hamilton, has just done the fastest lap of the race and is 1.9 seconds behind Webber. Raikkonen, 17 seconds down the road, is also motoring.

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Lap 46: Vettel is fastest on the track – the jaw-dropping thing is how much better he is than Kovalainen in the McLaren. Massa has 1.9 seconds on Hamilton. Speculation that his engine, on its second race following Spa, is a bit tired. Button pits.

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Lap 45: nine laps left. Webber is catching Hamilton, who has fallen back from Webber – a bit of an untidy lap there? Piquet in ninth finds himself unexpectedly on the grass.

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Lap 44: DC goes off but recovers. Barrichello pits from ninth and puts on – wait for it – extreme wets. What’s going on there.

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Lap 43: Raikkonen has taken Nakajima for 13th. Glock gets past him too – a problem there? Rain is being reported on the Toro Rosso team radio – “very light”. Brundle says: “Don’t pay any attention, son, they’ve been wrong all day.”

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Lap 42: Vettel leads over Kovalainen by 11.3 seconds. Kubica is third, Alonso fourth, Heidfeld fifth, Massa sixth, Hamilton seventh, Webber eighth. Barrichello is ninth and DC tenth. Kimi Raikkonen is 14th – where he started.

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Lap 40: Heidfeld and Massa are battling, Heidfeld successfully defends – another one of these chicane problems. Hamilton is catching Massa by two seconds a lap – he’s not much more than a second back.

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Lap 38: Button and Piquet seem to think they are driving dodgems. Webber puts a move back on Hamilton but doesn’t make it stick.

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Lap 37: Piquet has gone 37 laps without a pitstop. Vettel leaves the pitlane as Hamilton comes into the entrance for inters. He comes out behind Webber – and Massa. Hamilton takes Webber so now it’s between him and Massa to see who can come out of this with the most points, with 17 laps to go.

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Lap 36: Massa breezes past Webber. Webber spins and recovers, not even losing a place. Raikkonen pits for inters. What is Hamilton going to do? Raikkonen comes out 13th and Vettel comes in for inters.

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Lap 35: Kovalainen has come in for inters 16 seconds off the lead. It is pointed out that his performance relative to his team-mate’s, given their respective starting positions, is really not all that clever. Hamilton goes past the pit entrance. Webber pits for inters and comes out ahead of Massa in tenth place.

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Lap 34: Massa has pitted and gone onto inters. Glock and Rosberg in. Massa is wobbling about badly on some places on the track, but elsewhere on the track they work very well.

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Lap 32: Inters now appear to be doing the business and coming up to speed – great news for Coulthard and Alonso, who are on the right tyres. If it continues to not rain the one-stoppers, including Hamilton and Kubica, could be in big trouble.

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Lap 31: Alonso pits. Kubica is the only one of the leaders who hasn’t pitted. Commentators are backing either Vettel or Hamilton to win.

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Lap 30: At the front are Vettel, Kovalainen, Alonso (no pit), Kubica (no pit), Webber, Massa and Hamilton. DC can’t hold the track on his inters and is straight off. Bourdais is pitting at the pace of his leading team-mate – but the poor sod is still dead last. Massa is 22 secs behind Vettel which is probably close enough to get himself past at the pit stops. It all depends on what Ferrari’s fuel strategy is – unless he’s one-stopping he’s not in contention. Since he stopped on lap 22 it’s probably more likely than not that he’s two-stopping – but a very close call.

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Lap 29: Rosberg pits from third. Still no rain and the tyre situation looking fairly desperate. Fuel hose gets stuck but without much impact on the stop time. DC pits. He goes to inters and it looks like he’s the canary in the mine for his long-way-up-the-road team-mate.

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Lap 28: Hamilton pits just as he was coming up to Vettel’s gearbox. He is fuelled to the end of the race. He comes out behind DC.

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Lap 27: Race midpoint. Hamilton is 1.1 seconds behind Vettel but of course he hasn’t pitted. Speculation that he started this race with the fuel tank spilling over.

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Lap 26: McLaren have full wets ready for Hamilton. Raikkonen comes in and goes back out on full wets.

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Lap 25: Lewis Hamilton is up to second place, ahead of Rosberg, not counting pitstops. He’s taking approximately a driver a lap at the moment, in the same place every time. Could he possibly be one-stopping, thanks to the fact he started outside the top 10 and therefore having more control over his fuel load? Glock is pitting and Toro Rosso tells its drivers on the radio that it expects Hamilton (currently two seconds quicker than Vettel) to pit in three laps’ time. Massa has got into big trouble in post-pitstop traffic and is losing time.

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Lap 23: Vettel, who has pitted, is now comfortably back in front. All three drivers out and no places change among them. Hamilton takes Trulli in the middle of pit-exiting traffic. Massa comes out behind Raikkonen, Kovalainen behind Glock. Raikkonen is side-by-side with Nick Heidfeld and keeps his place. Webber appears to be stuck behind Kubica. The unpitted Hamilton is currently third.

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Lap 22: Hamilton breezes past Trulli on the straight, runs wide and lets Trulli past despite the fact that in any other race it would have been a perfectly normal move. Ridiculous – and we say that with the Massa-Rosberg battle in mind, as much as this Hamilton-Trulli one. Because the last thing in the world that F1 needs is more restrictions on overtaking. Kovalainen, Webber and Massa all pitting.

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Lap 21: British drivers’ roundup: Hamilton seventh and chasing Trulli, DC 13th and Jenson Button 16th. Alonso looks to be on very worn tyres after Glock cruises past him for eighth.

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Lap 20: Massa was told by the stewards to give Rosberg his place back, we learn. Since Massa had two wheels on the track, and since everyone else is taking that line as well, this seems a little puzzling.

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Lap 19: the unpitted Heikki Kovalainen leads the race. The commentators are comparing Hamilton’s last few laps to the ‘Raikkonen renaissance’ we have seen in the last few races. Looks like it’s his engineers that have put their hands down the side of the sofa and found the remot control this time.

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Lap 18: Massa is in fourth and 26 seconds behind Vettel, also going three tenths of a second faster. Vettel pits and puts on full wets. Massa has gone through while he’s in the pit lane and rejoins in fourth behind Massa. Hamilton takes Alonso at the start-finish straight.

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Lap 17: Vettel’s lead is 10.8 seconds. Hamilton gives the bottom of the car a bang crashing over the kerbs as he takes Kubica and gets himself up into the points. Raikkonen still in 12th. Renault team radio tells Alonso that heavy rain is on the way and it’s aligning nicely with the first pit-stop window.

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Lap 16: Hamilton is motoring, having now taken Glock. He gives the Toyota driver a nudge in the process but both stay on the track. The McLaren driver is now ninth and lining up BMW’s Robert Kubica.

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Lap 15: First accident: DC takes Fisi, who responds by shunting him. Fisi’s nose explodes in a cloud of carbon fibre and he goes straight on at a corner and into the barrier.

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Lap 14: Massa is working on Rosberg but is not in front yet, possibly because he’s been instructed by the team to give the place back – ridiculous caution if so. The racing line is going very deep over the kerbs indeed. Hamilton shown overtaking Heidfeld.

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Lap 12: Massa is tracking down Rosberg – don’t fancy the Williams driver’s chances much. Rosberg is telling his garage that his wet tyres are going off.

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Lap 11: Vettel’s garage is heard on the radio begging Vettel to tell them about the balance of the car, and what he needs at the pit stop. Kubica is quietly making his way though the field and is up to eighth. Hamilton past Raikkonen and is up to 11th, and he’s pulling away. So whatever was wrong with his car isn’t now. Fastest man on track is Sebastien Bourdais.

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Lap 10: Hamilton tries again on the start-finish straight. Fisi did not go gently, defending the line robustly, but the pass is made. Vettel’s lead is 6.8 seconds.

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Lap 9: Raikkonen has got past Fisi but Hamilton’s not close enough to even think about it. Kimi’s 11th, Fisi 12th, Lewis 13th and DC14th. Massa is keeping out of trouble in fifth. Hamilton has a crack at Fisi but the Italian defends his line.

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Lap 8: Discussions about a potential brake problem on Hamilton’s McLaren. He makes a move on Raikkonen in the Curva di Lesmo but doesn’t have the space to make it stick. DC is confirmed as down to 14th.

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Lap 7: Raikkonen and Hamilton are chasing down Fisichella, which can’t be a fun experience for the Force India driver. Glock spins while still in pursuit of Alonso and loses a place in the process. Vettel is all over the place after losing it into a corner, but recovers. Hamilton making no impression on Raikkonen – Brundle says: “I can’t explain this.”

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Lap 5: Hamilton cuts a chicane while pursuing Raikkonen – and tucks in behind him again, fortunately. At the front Vettel is pulling away. DC has taken Fisi for a place – he’s gone back a bit, in that case. Apart from that? We’re not really much the wiser…

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Lap 4: Alonso gets his place back off Glock but the Toyota driver doesn’t back off. We fear this won’t end well. He cuts a chicane but slots back in behind Alonso again. Vettel has a 1.4-sec lead over Kovalainen. Could be fuel, could not. James Allen utters the immortal line “Vettel’s on fire.” When he said that about Button once, the results were not pretty.

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Lap 3: Vettel has the additional pressure of chosing his moment to go. Kovalainen’s looking very twitchy – and we hope he remembers he can’t pass until the start/finish line. Vettel floors it and they’re off. The cars are going round almost at walking pace. Spray so bad even the commentators can’t tell which car is which, but not a lot of changes at the front, apart from Glock taking Alonso.

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Lap 2: The Toro Rosso garage is still frantically struggling to get the Bourdais car going but that unfortunate driver is already a lap down. They release him and he starts the awful, demoralising job of trundling round at the back. Safety car is due to come in this lap. If Bourdais can get to the back of the pack and unlap himself, he’ll be going at full speed…

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Lap 1: Brundle says the drivers will be having a mare with cars that have no downforce, no brake or tyre temperature. “All you can do is keep pumping the brake pedal.” The safety car will continue to take them round until there’s a dry enough racing line.

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Parade lap: It’s going to be a safety car start. Oh dear – reports of a Honda in the pit lane. It’s Our Jense – and he’s joined by Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima. They’ve traded a grid start for set-up changes, wise as they were at the back anyway. Seb Bourdais is stuck on the grid – casualty number one doesn’t even get off the line. There goes his race – and possibly his drive too.

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Grid walk: Someone has emailed into the BBC liveblog to point out that Hamilton’s misadventures yesterday means that he’s got more wet tyres than other people.

Howls of outrage here. James Allen calls Toro Rosso “the other Italian team”. Since this was the traditional Minardi fans’ term for Ferrari we are now expecting him to become the subject of an immediate vendetta.

Lou Goodman rounds up DC who says he’s going for full wets and thinks Charlie Whiting should authorise a safety car start due to standing water on the grid. Over to Brundle who has had a chat with the safety car driver, and who has learned the situation is “critical”.

He questions whether the safety car start in GP2 yesterday was any better and points out that wet-weather tyres are not in unlimited supply for a single one of the teams.

Gerhard Berger’s top tip to his drivers: “Stay on the road.”

Well done again to Lou Goodman who’s got a driver to talk where Brundle failed, and hers is the one we never get sick of looking at – Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella. We’re delighted to learn he has survived to smoulder for another year.

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Pre-race: Ooh – it’s raining. Richard Branson spotted in the paddock. Could these two facts be connected? We think not.

David Coulthard, in a sort of valedictory package on ITV1, is offering some scary reminiscences about Ron Dennis and the experience of being a less-favoured driver at McLaren. After he was dropped for Juan-Pablo Montoya your Brits on Pole management stopped supporting the team for a year or more – and discontinued its collection of Scalextric cars and scale models with the drivers’ names down the side. What greater form of protest exists, we ask you?

We can’t shake the feeling that the telly may have put this package together just in case Coulthard wasn’t in the car in Singapore – a rumour that has thankfully been scotched by Red Bull.

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