Rain Supreme: Big surprises at soaked Italian Grand Prix (SPOILER ALERT)

Click above for high-res gallery of the 2008 Italian Grand Prix

Racing fans are used to tuning in on the Saturday of a grand prix weekend to find the words "Scuderia" and "Ferrari" at the top of the qualifying list. But interrupted by the words "Toro Rosso"? Never. But that was only the first of many surprises at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel shockingly secured his first pole position thanks to some exceedingly brilliant driving joined with good strategy on the part of his Ferrari-powered Scuderia Toro Rosso team, which wisely stuck with the extreme wet tires on the rain-soaked Monza circuit while others experimented with intermediate treads. The young German's unprecedented qualifying performance put him in the record books as the youngest driver ever to secure a pole position, supplanting Fernando Alonso's previous record. But with so many other drivers with more experience and backed by teams with immensely bigger budgets, surely Vettel's lead would quickly be stolen by an established front-runner. Wouldn't it? Follow the jump to find out.

With a track so soaked it began to resemble canals more than tarmac, the race earned the nickname "Venice Grand Prix". But while the rest of the field suffered from poor visibility as the extreme wet tire compounds kicked up as much as 80 liters of water into the air per second, it was smooth sailing – literally and figuratively – for Sebastian Vettel. The young German driver managed to open up a 14-second lead over the nearest competitor and held on to his lead all the way to the checkered flag, giving both driver and team their first grand prix victory. And not just on any track, either: Monza has a well-earned reputation as a favorite among the drivers and the fastest circuit on the calendar. The miraculous performance further propelled Vettel into the history books as the youngest driver ever to win a Formula One grand prix, and formally established Toro Rosso's position ahead of its erstwhile superiors at Red Bull Racing.

Unfortunately things did not go as well for Vettel's team-mate Sebastien Bourdais. The four-time Champ Car champion pulled off an admirable fourth place in qualifying, but suffered from mechanical difficulties on the grid, forcing him to start from the pit lane. Bourdais never managed to recover from the setback and ultimately finished the race in 18th place, just ahead of Force India's Adrian Sutil. Remarkably, despite the treacherous conditions, only Sutil's team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella retired early from the race after holding off Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton earlier in the afternoon before skidding off the track and into the tire wall.

So what of the title front-runners? In short, after another round of the world championship, the top of the standings remain the same. Lewis Hamilton leads with 78 points, however Felipe Massa has further closed the gap with 77. Robert Kubica, meanwhile, opened up his lead for third place with 64 points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's 57, with Nick Heidfeld close behind at 53 and Heikki Kovalainen at 51.

Hamilton ran an admirable race after a dismal qualifying session that didn't see him progress into the third session in which the top positions are secured. Having qualified way back in 15th place, Hamilton charged through the field all the way up to second place at one point, before having to pit and ultimately finishing seventh behind Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian driver, now propelled into a defacto Number One status at Ferrari, led a strong race as well, but BMW Sauber's worthwhile one-stop strategy kept both their drivers out in front, Robert Kubica celebrating his first podium last year at Monza with a follow-up at this year's race, coming in third. His team-mate Nick Heidfeld also ran a one-stop strategy, helping him secure fifth place. The two BMW pilots sandwiched Fernando Alonso, who made good on his pledge to battle the championship leaders to the bitter end with an admirable fourth place finish.

Hamilton's Finnish teammate Heikki Kovalainen ran a solid race to take the second step on the podium. However his countryman, Ferrari's defending champion Kimi Raikkonen, only managed a disappointing ninth place, just outside the points. Kimi's qualifying yielded the similar results to Hamilton's, with poor tire choice relegating him to 14th place on the grid without progressing to the third qualifying session.

It was a disappointing day for Ferrari, but not for Italian racing fans who suddenly discovered that their country has another team worth their attention. Before the race, Toro Rosso revealed that they'd renewed their engine deal with Ferrari. Good call. But if they continue to upset their patrons – both at Scuderia Ferrari and at Red Bull Racing – they run the chance of disrupting the natural order of things. And oh, how we'll enjoy watching that unfold.

2008 Italian Grand Prix

1. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari
2. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
3. Kubica BMW Sauber
4. Alonso Renault
5. Heidfeld BMW Sauber
6. Massa Ferrari
7. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault
9. Raikkonen Ferrari
10. Piquet Renault
11. Glock Toyota
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota
13. Trulli Toyota
14. Rosberg Williams-Toyota
15. Button Honda
16. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault
17. Barrichello Honda
18. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari
19. Sutil Force India-Ferrari

Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:28.047

Not classified/retirements:
Fisichella Force India-Ferrari

World Championship standings
(after 14 rounds)

1. Hamilton 78
2. Massa 77
3. Kubica 64
4. Raikkonen 57
5. Heidfeld 53
6. Kovalainen 51
7. Alonso 28
8. Trulli 26
9. Vettel 23
10. Webber 20
11. Glock 15
12. Piquet 13
13. Barrichello 11
14. Rosberg 9
15. Nakajima 8
16. Coulthard 6
17. Bourdais 4
18. Button 3

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

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