2013 Italian GP: Sebastian Vettel leaves title rivals in his wake to win at Monza
Alonso second for Ferrari but Hamilton and Raikkonen hit troubles
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 09/09/13 12:30pm
Sebastian Vettel's increasingly imperious march to a fourth successive world title has continued after the Red Bull driver won the Italian GP at a canter to cap the most dominant of race weekends.
Despite gearbox concerns affecting both Red Bull cars ahead of the race, and then in its closing stages, Vettel was never unduly troubled at the front after coming through what was a competitive sprint to the first corner with his lead intact despite locking up and flat-spotting his right-front tyre.
But after that brief moment of alarm, Vettel was rarely seen on the world TV feed such was his advantage at the front on what turned out to be the most dispiriting of afternoons for his title rivals.
Although Fernando Alonso did finish second for home favourites Ferrari from fifth on the grid - a gamble on a longer opening stint not paying dividends - in the grand scheme of things it was scant consolation given the Spaniard had admitted on Thursday he needed to beat his perennial rival at both Monza and Singapore to give himself a real shot at the title.
His failure to even complete the first leg of that target means his deficit to Vettel widens to 53 points - a gap which equates to two race victories and is the largest of the season so far.
Things are now looking even bleaker for Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen after the pair's respective shock Q2 exits from Saturday were compounded by early troubles in the race.
From 12th on the grid Hamilton had hoped to run a longer first stint on the hard tyres but that plan was scuppered when his W04 developed a slow puncture, and while he was able to show very strong pace thereafter, he was out of sequence with the front-runners and a late charge only yielded ninth place.
With Raikkonen failing to score for the second successive race in 11th, the Finn having had to pit for repairs at the end of lap one after hitting the back of Sergio Perez's McLaren, it means the Finn slips 88 points adrift of Vettel with Hamilton's challenge in only marginally better shape - the Mercedes man 81 points behind.
The only uncomfortable aspect of the weekend for Vettel therefore was the latest - and probably most sustained - round of booing he received on the podium.
Whether a further example of the lingering legacy from the Malaysian GP, or simply because it was the sight of Ferrari's chief rival winning on the Scuderia's home turf, Vettel's appearance on the top step of the podium for the 32nd time in his career was roundly booed by the Tifosi below - something that has become as much of a staple of 2013 as the German's unrelenting success.
However, Red Bull's day, and their own defence of the Constructors' Championship, was further boosted by Mark Webber marking his final European GP with his first ever Monza podium finish.
The Australian spent much of the race in entertaining battle Alonso, initially losing position to his rival when the Spaniard executed a brilliant inch-perfect move around the outside of the Red Bull at the second chicane on lap three.
In the second and final stint Webber closed back in on the Ferrari but after being told to short shift between gears two and three, he settled for third - and indeed only just made the flag before pulling up on the grass.
On a potentially defining day in the long Ferrari career of Felipe Massa, the Brazilian did his chances of hanging onto his seat some undoubted good with a strong drive to fourth place.
A stellar getaway from the Brazilian at the lights saw him run second to Vettel until lap eight, but thereafter he played the team game, clearing the way for Alonso to pass him before losing out to Webber in the pitstop sequence.
If Nico Hulkenberg is seriously in the running, along with Raikkonen, to usurp Massa from his long-time position then the German picked by far the best weekend to secure his best result for Sauber.
Although initially swamped by the front runners from his stunning third on the grid, Hulkenberg held his own thereafter and beat the muted Mercedes of Nico Rosberg to fifth place.
The Red Bull-bound Daniel Ricciardo capped a strong weekend to equal his career-best finish in seventh ahead of the sole points-scoring Lotus of Romain Grosjean, with Hamilton passing former team-mate Jenson Button late on in the fight for ninth.