The 2013 Italian Grand Prix at Monza was a walkover for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, with three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel taking a commanding victory.
Having qualified on pole on Saturday, cutting another tenth of a second from his time while his competitors had all retreated to the pits, placed behind him, it proved that Vettel and Red Bull are still 100% focused on this year’s title – and are now in a more powerful position.
Saturday marked qualifying, and even though the team had finished morning warm-up first and second, there was still a sense of ultimate commitment and stick to the plan. Vettel and Webber might be fast, but the team has a game plan and religiously sticks to it every weekend.
Before qualifying, we toured the pit garage as the mechanics were preparing both cars. Just minutes before they were due out on track, both racers were still stripped down to their component parts, with bits of bodywork and suspension components hanging from the rear of the car. No matter – as we said, it’s all in the game plan – with both Webber and Vettel’s cars barking down the pit lane on their speed limiters.
Following a successful qualifying sessions all the way to the end of Q3 – where Vettel smashed his own provisional pole time by another tenth of a second as a show of superiority – we were back in the garage, this time looking at some of the clever F1 tech involved in the cars.
For the Monza round, Red Bull’s partnership with Infiniti bared some fruit, with the F1 team using a new magnesium alloy material from the road car company for the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Amazingly, this saved ‘just’ three grams, but in the world of Formula One where weight is the enemy, that’s a lot.
We were told the steering wheels packed full of electronics and constructed from exotic materials, such as carbonfibre and now, magnesium alloy, too, cost 30,000 euros each.
At current exchange rates, that works out to around the same as a Mazda CX5 2.2 Sport. Amazing numbers.
We left the track dazzled with the team’s performance and astounded at the attention to detail, dedication and cost involved in the sport – still, we were looking forward to an interesting race the next day.
There’s a buzz about a race track when you walk in on race day, and Monza 2013 was no different. The sense of expectation was palpable and the passion from the Ferrari fans pouring in by the coach load gave an electrifying atmosphere.
The ‘Tifosi’ as they’re known were after an Alonso/Ferrari win, but it was not to be. Vettel led off the line and hitting his marks for an immaculate pit stop from his Red Bull mechanics was back out – although tailing on the road, once the rest of the field pitted for tyres, the Red Bull driver was back in the lead.
Which is where he stayed for the rest of the race, crossing the line over seven seconds ahead of Alonso’s Ferrari, even after being told to slow his pace due to gearbox issues with his Red Bull RB9 as we could hear over the pit-to-car team radio.
The German driver bounded onto the podium, only to be met by boos from the assembled Italian fans as he was presented with his trophy.
But dealing with it in his usual affable manner, highlighting if you don’t win in red at Monza, it’s difficult, following his comments of the more boos we get, the better we did on the cool down lap, Vettel left Monza safe in the knowledge he now leads the world championship by 53 points.
With 25 points awarded for a win, it’s going to take a herculean effort – and some bad luck for Red Bull – for Alonso to catch Vettel in his Ferrari with just seven races remaining. Never say never, though.
We’re already looking forward to the night race in Singapore this weekend…