Vettel beats gearbox worries to win at Monza
Both drivers were allowed by the FIA to change their fifth, sixth and seventh gears before the race after a reliability problem was flagged up, and in the race both were told to shift early in order to save their equipment. Despite that Vettel stayed safely ahead of Fernando Alonso.
“In the end we finished the race so it was not a disaster,” he said. “I think the heartbeat was a bit higher in the car and also at the pitwall, because we didn’t know what’s going on. Fortunately we didn’t have any big issues. Just the last 10, fifteen laps, tried to pace myself a little bit more and control the gaps. Obviously it was good to have these ten seconds on hand, so I didn’t have to push that much and also I didn’t have to squeeze it all out of the tyres, even though I stopped a couple of laps earlier than Fernando.
“So that was positive. But yeah, we didn’t know how bad the problem is. We’ll probably know better once we strip the car next week and have a look inside the gearbox. We’ll probably know for both cars, I think, how close it was.”
Vettel admitted that the gearbox had given cause for concern all weekend.
“We already saw something on Friday, obviously something similar but Friday to Saturday we changed the gearbox and then I think in the race it was a surprise. We were obviously aware of the Friday problem but we didn’t see anything before that. There’s not much you can do; obviously once you start the car there’s nothing you can change so in the end, I think we were lucky or in a comfortable position to have a little bit of a gap especially towards the end.
“I don’t know what they saw on the pit wall in terms of data, if the problem got worse and worse and worse or stabilised, but obviously I tried to save the car, save the engine and gearbox as much as I can. In the end, I still have to go full power on the straights; basically try to short shift and save the car a little bit.”
Vettel said that the pace of the car at Monza had come as a surprise even to RBR technical guru Adrian Newey: “I think he was as surprised as we were. Just on the way up to the podium, he said ‘I thought that it was going to be damage limitation this weekend.’ I said to him ‘well, if damage limitation is like that, I want to have a lot of damage for the rest of the season.’ It was very unexpected. Already the pace on Friday surprised us.
“From a balance point of view, I was very happy with the car, similar to two years ago. So obviously we’ve been very competitive in Canada, very competitive in Spa on medium downforce tracks. This one was a little bit unknown. We haven’t been the fastest down the straights again, but fast enough, somewhere in the mid-field which is enough to use the strengths that we have through the corners, despite running as little wing as we can afford.”
Meanwhile Vettel had an interesting response to the boos he received on the podium.
“I said on the radio on the in lap that the more booing we get, the better we have done today. It’s normal. I don’t blame the people to be honest, I think their love of Ferrari is in their genes. It’s something very special. Obviously Fernando is in a great position on the podium, whereas if you’re dressed in any other colour it’s not the same, but still, it’s a fantastic race, a fantastic podium here.”
First lap contact ruins Raikkonen’s race
Kimi Raikkonen’s Italian GP was ruined by first corner contact with Sergio Perez, which forced him to pit immediately for a new front wing.
Raikkonen was one of the few drivers to start on the harder tyre, and the Lotus team planned a long opening stint. He switched to medium tyres at the end of the first lap, but despite repeatedly setting fastest laps, it proved impossible to make significant progress. After making his scheduled stop for another set of mediums he finished out of the points in 11th.
After two non-scores in a row his title hopes have taken a severe knock.
“When I lost the front wing I had to come in and change to a new one meaning an extra pit stop which we hadn’t planned,” he said. “It’s not just the time in the pits, but you have to work your way through the field afterwards.
“The car felt good, surprisingly good given where we were on Saturday so we were able to make some overtaking moves. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do after the start to the race we had.”
Regarding the next race he said: “We go to Singapore and see how the car feels there. It’s a different type of track and different downforce levels so hopefully it works better for us in qualifying as that’s where we need to do well to set us up for the race.”
Ferrari still in the title hunt, says Domenicali
Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali says that second was the best that the team could have hoped for on a weekend when Red Bull and Vettel were so dominant.
He also conceded that the Italian outfit has to rely on problems for Vettel to have any chance of winning the title.
“I think for sure today we clearly saw a Red Bull that was stronger,” said Domenicali. “We tried to do the maximum. We achieved I think a fantastic race with the position we had with Fernando, and it was a shame because I wanted also to have Felipe on the podium, but when you’re fighting with a stronger car you play with strategies, but it’s not always easy.
“It is clear that with the fact that also here Red Bull has shown a great pace in these conditions that the fight for the championship is very difficult, but it doesn’t change our approach. We need to stay there and as I said we need to take the opportunities if these opportunities will come. The experience of last year is still burning for us. In a sporting way if something happens with them, we need to be there like the wolf, to attack them, and to stay tuned and connected.
“With regard to the decision of how and when we are going to swap all the resource to the new car, I think we are very close to a final decision. We are already shifting progressively the resources as was planned by us before the summer break.”
Domenicali said that the decision to keep Alonso out for four extra laps after Vettel stopped – during which the gap grew from around 5s to 10s – was mainly to give the Spaniard fresher tyres for the latter part of the race, in the hope that it might be an advantage.
“At that stage the tyres were basically still in a good condition, and we wanted to minimise the use of the hard tyres. The second side was really to see if their tyres were having a drop on the last lap maybe we were able to close the gap at the end. The point is that when you have realistically speaking a car that is a big quicker you try to invent something, but today was not enough.”