Taming Monza at the 2012 Italian Grand Prix [spoilers]
After three sessions of qualifying were completed on Saturday, Lewis Hamilton sat on pole, with his team-mate Jenson Button in second for an all-McLaren front row. Felipe Massa showed he still has some fight in him by placing third and Paul di Resta impressively landed his Force India in fourth, followed by Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Kamui Kobayashi and Fernando Alonso, having suffered technical issues in the final qualifying session.
It was a brilliant start for Ferrari, as Massa squeezed past Button and defended his position for second into the first corner, while Alonso charged up from tenth to sixth. It would take the current points leader seven laps to get past Schumacher, though.
Meanwhile up at the front Hamilton continued to open up a widening lead over Massa in a repeat of the battle that ultimately decided the 2008 world championship. By lap 19, however, Button got past the Ferrari, emboldened by his recent win at Spa. The success would prove short-lived as Button retired with mechanical problems just before the famous Parabolica turn on lap 34.
Following the first (and what would be for many the only) pit stop, Alonso found himself behind Vettel and dogged him for several laps before finally overtaking on lap 29. The battle included an incident where Vettel pushed Alonso wide off the track, an infraction for which Vettel was handed a drive-through penalty.
The more impressive performance, however, was from Sergio Perez. After temporarily leading the race as the frontrunners took to the pits, the Sauber driver set a fastest lap and was past Raikkonen in fifth place by lap 37.
Come lap 39 of 53, Perez had caught up to Alonso, who was himself looking for a way past his wingman Massa. Alonso found it on lap 40 and Perez did as well on lap 44, ruining Massa's early promise by busting him down to fourth. He would soon pass Alonso too, taking third place.
Engine problems forced Vettel to retire trackside on lap 48. In a disastrous day for the defending champions at Red Bull, Mark Webber spun out in the closing laps. He recovered, but his tires didn't, forcing him out of the race as well on the penultimate lap.
Across the line it was a deserving Hamilton, followed by a shockingly impressive Perez in second with Alonso and Massa solidly in third and fourth for Ferrari. Raikkonen, Schumacher, Rosberg, di Resta, Kobayashi and Senna took the remaining points.
The results leave Alonso still in the lead with 179 points, Hamilton now second with 142 but only just ahead of Raikkone with 141 and Vettel with 140. Red Bull, however, still holds the lead in the constructors' standings with 272 points to McLaren's 243 and Ferrari's 226. Next it's off to Singapore on September 23, so watch this space.
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