• Sep 13, 2009

2009 Italian Grand Prix – Click above for high-res image gallery

In the midst of a Formula One season that's been anything but ordinary, how would you envision an ideal race to unfold? Ferrari and McLaren back on top? The two teams are responsible for most of the championships over the course of the past couple of decades, after all. The title-leading Brawn GP team taking another dominant victory? They've won over half the races so far this season. A new underdog to pull a surprise performance out of its hat? Nothing would surprise us at this point. Maybe some exciting wheel-to-wheel action and surprise spin-outs to shake up the order at the last minute?

How about all of the above? Because that and more is this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza had in store for race fans in one of the most exciting, surprising and pivotal races so far this season. Follow the jump to read how it unfolded.

Those who tuned in on Saturday for the results of the qualifying sessions were met with a surprising starting grid for race Sunday. Defending champion Lewis Hamilton took a commanding pole position. Fresh from back-to-back-to-back podium finishes in the last three races, Kimi Raikkonen lined up third on the grid. But the big surprise came from Force India, the underdog team which took an impressive second place finish with Giancarlo Fisichella before trading him off to Ferrari to fill in for a recovering Felipe Massa, and whose second driver Adrian Sutil took a shocking second place on the grid next to Hamilton.

McLaren's #2 Heikki Kovalainen qualified in an impressive fourth position, with the leading Brawn GP duo of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button next to and behind him in the fifth and sixth spots respectively. With all eyes now fixed on Force India, the returning Vitantonio Liuzzi, now promoted to the race Fisichella's vacated race seat, qualified a solid seventh, next to two-time champion Fernando Alonso's Renault.

With the stage set, the lights flashed green and the cars raced off down the long straight towards the first corner. Hamilton held his position while Raikkonen demonstrated his aptitude with the KERS boost to overtake Sutil for second. Over the course of the race distance, Kimi would try his darnedest to shake the Force India, but Sutil held on to his tail for the entire race distance in a shockingly strong performance...the second in so many races for the little team that could.

By the fifth lap into the race, Hamilton had opened a three-second gap ahead of Raikkonen and Sutil. Kovalainen disappointed the commentators who tipped him to be a force to be reckoned with at Monza by dropping down the order while the Brawn duo worked their way up the field.

What really made the difference, though, was the supreme strategy set out by Ross Brawn. While the three leaders ran on two-stop strategies, Barrichello and Button had only one stop to make apiece. The strategy meant they had to qualify and start the race with heavier fuel loads, but while Hamilton, Raikkonen and Sutil were in the pits – ultimately re-emerging in the same order – Barrichello and Button were out firing off one hot lap after another. The duo pulled off remarkable drives, but after orchestrating championships at Benetton, Ferrari and now for his own team, Ross Brawn has emerged as the most dominant force in Formula One racing.

As the race rounded the half-way mark, struggling drivers began dropping like flies. Black-flagged with a dangling front-left wing element, BMW's Robert Kubica was forced to pit, only to retire to the garage a few laps later. Following Red Bull's Mark Webber, who was knocked off the track in the opening laps, Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari retired on lap 20. His team-mate Sebastian Buemi would be forced to retire as well, rounding off a disappointing day for the two Red Bull teams, which scored only a single point thanks to Sebastian Vettel's eighth-place finish. Those four were hardly the most surprising early retirements, however. In his first race back on the grid, Tonio Liuzzi drove an impressive first half of the race, only to retire from fourth place with engine problems. But even that would pale in comparison to the dramatic final lap.

Re-emerging from the second round of pit stops, Lewis Hamilton proved unable to catch up to Button, who in turn closely trailed his wingman Barrichello in the lead. Raikkonen and Sutil went into the pit lane together, and following minor foul-ups that saw both drivers knocking down members of their own pit crews, both came out at the same time as well, Raikkonen leading an unrelenting Sutil back out onto the track. But on the very last lap, the world champion McLaren driver lost control of his tail end, sending the car spinning into the tire wall and ending his race within less than a lap of the finish line.

Barrichello took the checkered flag under a yellow one, Button right behind him in second, and Raikkonen surprisingly promoted to his fourth consecutive podium in as many races. Sutil took an impressive fourth ahead of Alonso, who advanced his eight-place starting position to a fifth-place finish. Kovalainen ultimately crossed the line in sixth place, ahead of BMW's remaining driver Nick Heidfled and Red Bull's remaining Sebastian Vettel.

As for Ferrari's new acquisition Giancarlo Fisichella, he finished a decent ninth place – better than Luca Badoer but still outside the points. However the back of the field still held its own measure of excitement as the Toyotas battled against each other along with Kazuki Nakajima in the closing laps. Knocking wheels with Nakajima on lap 48, Jarno Trulli bounced off, only to knock wheels again with his wingman Timo Glock, who subsequently tossed him into the gravel in a dramatic display of aggressive driving between the three Toyota-powered cars.

Further reinforcing the notion that a driver's team-mate is his chief rival, the race results put the Brawn duo farther ahead of their rivals, but bring Barrichello – who has now won two grands prix this season – closer to his team-mate Button in the drivers' championship. Tune in again in two weeks for our post-race coverage of the night-time Singapore Grand Prix.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      lol, only 3 posts (4 including this one)

      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought it was a good race. Glad to see Reubens win again. The guys really had their hands full with those cars due to the lack of a Monza test as in years prior.

      Too bad Hamilton crashed but at least he was still charging hard even on the last lap. Very strange because drivers had been going over that curb all weekend long. Could have been that he hit the boost button at the wrong time as someone mentioned above.

      Just an awful weekend for Red Bull. Webber gets taken out on the first lap and Vettel is a non factor all race long. It's going to take a huge effort on their part to stay in the fight especially with Vettel just about out of engines for this year.

      I thought Fisi did about as well as he could for stepping into a new car. Only crashed in Saturday practice and kept it clean for the race and nearly scored a point. Not too bad and he's still living his dream out.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am positively surprised at Force India's performance. I dont think anyone expected them even get a single point this year. Let alone be on the starting grid.

      That gives great hopes for all the new teams with low budget.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's a no brainer really, they got the most powerful engine on the grid and their car lack downforce. Spa and Monza are a relatively low downforce circuits which suits their car really well. Next race in singapore we will see them resume their backmarker status. I bet you if canada is still on the calender they'll shine at that event to.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As a Brazilian and a Barrichello fan, I was hoping Hamilton would overtake Button in the final lap. He sure was driving as if he meant it. Too bad he got a little carried away and lost his rear end. Now Rubens has only 4 races to reverse a 14 point advantage, which will not be easy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Absolutely great race. I wish Fisi would have done a bit better but you can't ask much for a season that has no testing -_- ... I am really disappointed that Hamilton couldn't have sealed the deal and as others mention it was an admirable drive. coming down to the last 2-3 laps he was ahead of Jensen's pace by -.2 approx per lap...he was driving that car into the ground. but with no Hamilton to defend the championship, I'm rooting for Barichello to stick it to Button these last races; esp the last race of the season will be interesting...I hope Rubens will have the experience to out drive button on the new circuit.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm so sad about what Hamilton did. I couldn't believe it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sounds to me like KERS was part of the problem. If you listen, the revs on the engine jump very dramatically just as he starts to straighten out. I think he just spun the rear tires using that extra 80HP.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I can't fault him for it too much. He pushed right to the end, and I admire that. Shame he pushed a little too hard, but it's that fighting spirit that I like about him.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, he wasn't dogging it. He was racing to the end, trying to get second place. It's not like he can win the championship this year.
        • 5 Years Ago
        For once he didn't blame the car. Good on him for giving it all and admitting it was driver's error. Maybe mid pack for a season is exactly what he needs to grow up as an F1 driver. The like of Schumacher and Senna never once publicly complaint about their cars. They drive balls out with what is given to them. Hamilton needs to do more of this.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, crazy race!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I was there, the crowd and rushing the track was great! I sat in 6A if anyone was wondering, and I would recommend it. Cheap seats, and view of the start finish AND turn 1.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am sorry to learn that Lewis Hamilton did not finish the race. Congrats to all the winners.
    • Load More Comments