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Ferrari Wins in Italy, Just Not in its Own Car

Ferrari Wins in Italy, Just Not in its Own Car

Consolation for Ferrari in absence from the Italian Grand Prix winner’s podium at its home event at the weekend (14 September 2008) can be taken from the fact that a Ferrari engine powered the winner - Sebastian Vettel for Scuderia Toro Rosso, who led from pole and never relinquished the lead apart from during the run of pit stops.

Felipe Massa started sixth and finished sixth at Monza, while Kimi Raikkonen ended his day just outside the points in ninth place. The explanation of this less than satisfactory result is that, in certain track conditions and temperatures, the Ferrari F2008 was simply not quick enough.

"It was a tough race: I had hoped to do better but I'm also aware it could have been worse,” said Massa at the finish. “In fact, I've managed to make up a point on my nearest rival so this is absolutely not a negative result. In normal conditions, in other words in the dry, I think I could have made it to the podium. In the first part, I was struggling because there was not much grip. In the incident when I overtook Rosberg, I lost a few seconds when the team told me I had to give back the position: that was probably the decisive moment because after the first pit stop, I found myself in traffic. On top of that, when it was time to switch from the extreme rain tyres to the standard ones, those who had opted to do just one stop definitely had the advantage. In the second part, I knew Hamilton was closing on me fast, but I could not see him in my mirrors because they were too dirty. Luckily, Rob helped me, talking me through the situation in real time. Then he dropped back a bit. I tried to attack Heidfeld but then I thought it wasn't worth taking too many risks and I chose to just bring the car home."

Felipe's main rival for the championship, Lewis Hamilton, crossed the line in his McLaren-Mercedes one place behind the Brazilian Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver, so one other positive for the Prancing Horse team, is that the Massa now only trails the Englishman by a single point in the championship battle.

For Raikkonen, it was all about tyres and temperature.

“In the conditions at the start, as we have seen before in the past, we could not keep our tyres up to temperature and we totally lacked grip,” he explained. “I could do nothing but try to stay on the track hoping the conditions would change. When they did, unfortunately it was too late to aim for a points finish. The car worked well but without grip, you're not going anywhere. The situation in the Drivers' championship is now even more difficult, but I will continue to give it my best shot as usual."

While Massa narrowed the gap in the driver’s title chase, with Heikki Kovalainen finishing second in the other McLaren, the Scuderia's lead in the Constructors' classification, with four races remaining, has gone down to five points.

The promise of dry weather proved false and as the cars lined up on the grid, with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in an unfamiliar sixth and fourteenth on the grid, the rain continued to fall. Nakajima and Button started from the pit lane and the race was started behind the Safety Car, with the use of extreme weather tyres declared compulsory. Fourth placed Bourdais's Toro Rosso did not get off the grid and joined last, already one lap down.

As the Safety Car pulled in after one lap, pole man Vettel lead from Kovalainen, Webber, Rosberg and Felipe. Kimi was thirteenth. On lap 4, Alonso passed Glock to go seventh behind Trulli and Kimi moved up one more place to twelfth, sitting right behind Fisichella. As the only man with clear visibility, Vettel was lapping quicker than anyone, leading Kovalainen by 5.8s. Felipe, still fifth, was 13.4 behind the leader.

Kimi was fighting to get past Fisichella, but this had allowed Hamilton to close right up to the Ferrari man, so that the battle for eleventh was providing all the excitement in the early stages. Lap 9 saw the Finn finally win that particular battle to go eleventh. In fifth spot, Felipe was 0.6 behind Rosberg.

On lap 11 of 53, Hamilton managed to get past Kimi so the order was now Vettel, Kovalainen, Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Trulli, Alonso, Kubica, Glock, Heidfeld, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Coulthard, Barrichello, Piquet, Nakajima, Button, Sutil and Bourdais. Felipe was closing on Rosberg and was now just 0.3 behind. The Ferrari and the Williams had a fantastic duel for several corners, with Felipe getting the advantage to move up to fourth. However, in case he had been deemed to cut the chicane in passing Rosberg, Felipe dropped back and passed him again. Fisichella tapped the back of Coulthard, the front nose of the Force India went under the car and he went straight on into the barriers to retire.

Hamilton was moving up the order, passing Glock and chasing eighth placed Kubica, passing the BMW driver on lap 17. Leading Kovalainen by 11 seconds, race leader Vettel pitted on lap 18 for 8.4 seconds, fitting more extreme rain tyres, coming out of the pits just behind Felipe, who was now third. Kimi was still in twelfth, seemingly unable to move further up the order. Kovalainen pitted from the lead on lap 22, followed by second placed Webber and Felipe, so that Vettel was now back in the lead. Behind him and yet to stop were Rosberg, Hamilton Trulli and Glock. Kimi was having a wheel to wheel dice with Heidfeld for tenth place, while Felipe was 1.4 behind his team-mate in twelfth after his stop. Kimi pitted on lap 26 for a 5.9 stop and Hamilton came in from second on lap 27. With the half distance completed, the race would now pan out between those running a two stop strategy and the later refuellers who were now going all the way to the flag.

On lap 31, Kimi passed Trulli to make it into the top ten and two laps later, Felipe made his second stop, fitting intermediate tyres as the track condition had improved. On lap 34, Kovalainen also fitted intermediates as he made his final stop, followed by Kimi, one lap later. Race leader Vettel made his final stop on lap 36 as did second placed Hamilton. Felipe was now sixth, right behind the slower Alonso and Heidfeld, but finding a way past was proving difficult. The Brazilian did get ahead of Heidfeld but then let him past as he had cut the chicane. Once again Felipe had to contend with having Hamilton right up his gearbox.

The track was drying out in the final stages and Kimi set a fastest race lap on lap 47, now running ninth. Webber and Hamilton, racing for seventh collided on lap 48, but both men managed to continue. Out in front, Vettel led Kovalainen by 14 seconds, with Kubica trailing in third by a further 8.4. Felipe, still sixth had dropped off the back of Heidfeld and had Hamilton 1.2 behind him. From then on positions remained unchanged to the flag.

"We're definitely not satisfied with this result, but considering the circumstances in which the race was run, it could have actually been much worse,” explained Ferrari team boss, Stefano Domenicali. “Once again today, we had confirmation that, in certain track conditions and temperature range, our car is not quick enough. Then, it only needs a slight change for the performance to return to being very competitive. Clearly we must take countermeasures as quickly as possible because similar conditions could occur in the remaining four races. Having said that, we must not forget that we have taken a small step forward in the Drivers' classification although our lead in the Constructors' has reduced substantially. There are four races to go and everything is still possible. Finally I would like to congratulate Scuderia Toro Rosso, which uses our engines and Sebastian Vettel on their first Formula 1 win: they did a perfect job all weekend and they deserve this moment of great joy."

ENDS

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