Result: Vettel wins again, extending his Championship lead to 53 points over Alonso.
For many reasons, the Italian GP in 2013, the last European race of the season- is a special venue that holds rich Formula One history. It is known as one of the fastest tracks in the world, and has been hailed as home for F1’s most loved team- Ferrari (Tifosi). Often, it is at Monza that Ferraris manage to lift their game and season- embracing the straights with their superior speed, starting as favorites.
On Sunday, Ferrari put in another good performance here. But the definition of ‘good’ seems to have changed over a period of time for this team- with a podium finish respectable enough to have the crowd cheering for their heroes. Alonso, once hated and jeered at this track for ending Schumacher’s reign, finished second behind Baby Schumacher – Sebastian Vettel, who once again led from start to finish. Vettel was jeered for his Red Bull dominance, and ‘underdog’ Alonso was given much love- his name was chanted enough to make him forget about his tiff with his team at the Hungarian GP. The Tifosi faithful seem to understand that Alonso remains their best bet to challenge for wins in, what has so far been quite a mediocre car model in 2013. Massa has been on the home stretch for more than two seasons now, his best days far behind him, with Sauber-Ferrari star Nico Hulkenburg looking like the favorite to replace the Brazilian in 2014.
As usual, it was Alonso that sandwiched the Red Bulls for another second-placed finish. Vettel was never in trouble, and Webber must have been disappointed to let Alonso sneak past with his one-stop pit strategy. After a disastrous qualifying Saturday that ended with 5th placed Alonso calling his race engineers ‘Idiots’ and ‘Geniuses’, only a race victory would have healed burning hearts in the Red Camp. But for now, 53 points behind triple World Champion Vettel, Alonso is doing his very best to remain in sight. The German won his 6th race of 12 this season, and there are still 7 to go. He is showing no signs of slowing down, storming towards a record fourth consecutive World Championship at the age of 26. As Alonso wisely surmised, Ferrari needed more than luck to challenge Vettel- with a few ‘did not finish’ races needing to appear urgently on the Red Bull rooster. Vettel is effectively 2 race wins ahead, and Alonso would need atleast two Red Bull mechanical failures- as well as winning some races on his own- to get back into the Championship fight. He has steered 28 points clear of 3rd placed Hamilton, who struggled to 9th at Monza, and is looking good for his 3rd runner-up finish in 4 years behind the same winner. The 2013 season is well and truly over, unless a miracle takes place on the Asian circuit- with the Indian GP (Vettel’s favorite track, two in two here)- looking set to host an important contest. The 19 race calendar is set to become 21 next year- with Russia and Mexico likely to be the newest additions.
What’s scary is Vettel’s reaction to the booing Italians at Monza- ‘The more they boo me, the better I do’.