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Italian Grand Prix - Preview

Monza, venue for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, is often described as the most traditional of all the circuits Formula One visits.
Opened in 1922 and set in a Royal Park, the track has hosted all bar one race during the modern Championship era.
However, one perhaps unwelcome tradition Monza has also acquired is that of controversy.

The last two Italian Grands Prix have both brought controversy aplenty, the 2006 race seeing Championship protagonist Fernando Alonso penalised five places on the grid after being adjudged to have held up Ferrari driver Felipe Massa during qualifying.
Last year found the paddock in ferment ahead of the decision which saw McLaren fined $100 million and thrown out of the Constructors' Championship for their part in the 'spying' saga involving confidential Ferrari information.

Turn the clock back to 1976 and the Italian Grand Prix also played a part in perhaps the most tumultuous season the sport has ever seen.
Having come close to death following a crash in the German Grand Prix, Ferrari's Niki Lauda drove at Monza just 43 days later, amazingly finishing in fourth place.
But Championship rival James Hunt was an early retirement, the Englishman having spun off the track attempting to move through the field from the back of the grid - McLaren having been penalised for fuel irregularities.

Warm welcome?

Hunt was jeered by Ferrari's 'tifosi' fans as he headed back to the pits and, fast forwarding 32 years, you sense the same welcoming committee will be out to greet McLaren's current golden boy, Lewis Hamilton, this weekend.
The contentious decision bound to cast a shadow is, of course, that to demote Hamilton from first place to third following his battle with Kimi Raikkonen during the latter stages of last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.
The defending World Champion lost the Spa duel but it was all in vain for Hamilton after Massa was subsequently awarded the win.

With McLaren's appeal against the decision still to be heard, Monza therefore sees Hamilton holding just a two-point lead over Massa with five races remaining.
Meanwhile, Raikkonen has dropped 17 points behind his team-mate and also slipped to fourth place in the Drivers' Championship behind BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.
Despite his increasingly desperate position, Raikkonen is nevertheless determined to score his first victory since April in Ferrari's home race.
"We will try our best to win for the team and the fans at the real home of the Prancing Horse," the Finn said. "I've nothing to lose, so I will go flat out."
Although the size of Hamilton's Championship lead currently depends as much on the skills of McLaren's lawyers as those of their star driver and engineers, the man himself reckons there's more to come on the track.
"It is just going to be a very tough fight," Hamilton said of the battle ahead. "But I will do everything I can to make sure I go to the next race just as strong, if not stronger.

"I know I can get stronger, as we the team are going to, and we are going to keep on improving."
None of this year's contenders has yet to win the race, with Hamilton and Raikkonen respectively managing second-place finishes in 2007 and 2006.
But Monza appears something of a bogey track thus far for Massa, whose best results in five outings are a pair of ninth places.


Sunday's race will likely be the quickest of the year, with Monza's long straights producing top speeds upwards of 210 mph.
However, with Monza and Spa constituting the toughest races in terms of engine use, teams will be careful to manage their V8s - particularly those coming to the end of a two-race cycle.

Cars will also be set-up to generate the lowest amount of aerodynamic downforce produced during the season, with drivers therefore needing to be careful of nervous handling through the corners and over the chicanes.
One footnote to ponder regarding the latter: the Autodromo Nazionale Monza has two chicanes, one of them, the Rettifilo, being the first corner cars approach at the start of the race.

Given the fact that several drivers are usually forced to straightline the Rettifilo, Hamilton-style, each year, then last Sunday's decision could leave Monza stewards working overtime.

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Lewis ready to bounce back

Briton determined to avenge Spa heartache

Lewis Hamilton is refusing to let the disappointment of Sunday's controversial Belgium Grand Prix have any effect on his preparations for the upcoming showdown in Monza.
After having victory cruelly snatched away from him at Spa-Francorchamps, the McLaren racer heads to Italy looking to reassert his dominance at the top of the Drivers' Championship.
With debate still raging after a potentially Championship-deciding decision in Belgium, many would expect Hamilton to be feeling the pressure heading into Sunday's race.

However, despite the outrage felt by his supporters, the 23-year-old insists his mood did not change much after he heard of his punishment.
"When you get out of the car the first thing you look forward to is getting back and seeing your team and celebrating with them," said Hamilton.


"There is always an amazing atmosphere, with everyone waiting for you and wearing the orangey-red (winner's) tops.
"You are back there with all your family, and it feels great, and we did have that feeling. But on Sunday I was kind of sidetracked a little because I had to go and do other things (visit the stewards).

"When I got back I sat in my room, and I knew what the situation might be and I was totally prepared mentally for it.
"I just chilled like I always do in my room. I was probably the most composed person in the paddock. When I left the circuit I felt pretty good to be honest, although there was a bit of disbelief.
"It's always a driver's dream to win in Spa, and when you win in such amazing conditions and in such an exhilarating way, I was so excited and my heart was racing for those last few laps.


"I felt really satisfied with the job I did. What happened is motor racing and it is to be expected sometimes."
Hamilton has since been overwhelmed with messages of support from not just his own army of fans, but many from overseas who follow other teams, and that has come as a considerable surprise.
"I think it's incredible just how much support I've had, and so a big thank you to everyone, added Hamilton.

"At the end of the day I'm a racer. I do the best job I can on the track, and I race my heart out.
"There's no-one that puts more heart into it than me, and I really felt in the last race that's what I did.
"I am just going to make sure I keep on doing that and showing people what I can do, and I don't think anyone can take that away from me."

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Raikonnen - Rules are rules

Ferrari racer has no sympathy for Hamilton

Kimi Raikkonen has made it clear Championship rival Lewis Hamilton was well aware of the rules before he executed his corner-cutting manoeuvre at the Belgium Grand Prix.
The Finn has attempted to steer clear of the debate that has raged since Hamilton was stripped of top spot at Spa-Francorchamps, even though he was at the heart of the incident.

The controversial decision by the stewards, which has been appealed by McLaren, means Hamilton goes into Sunday's Italian race at historic Monza holding a slender two-point lead over Felipe Massa.
Although refusing to back the stewards, Ferrari star Raikkonen said: "There are rules, people know about them.

"I'm not the guy who makes the decisions. Action is taken if you do something wrong, and that was the decision this time.
"Sometimes it's hard to say whether something is right or wrong, and I don't want to get involved in that.


"Definitely people have different views of the whole thing, some like it, some don't, but that's life."
Much has been made of the fact Hamilton swiftly passed Raikkonen at the La Source hairpin moments after correctly handing him back the lead in the wake of gaining his advantage.

Raikkonen's early braking was clearly a contributory factor to which Hamilton pointedly remarked: "That's the way he drives.
"If you don't have the balls to brake late, that's your problem."
When asked about Hamilton's comment, Raikkonen replied: "Everybody has their own opinions, but it's not about the thing that happened in the first corner.
"It's more about whether you cut the last chicane and you get an advantage or not.


"If there had been a concrete wall he (Hamilton) would not have been there in the first place. Maybe that's what he thinks. But I don't mind what other people think.
"It's down to whether he gained an advantage or not, and it's down to the people who make the decisions."
It was a mistake of Raikkonen's own making, however, that saw him slide off and into a wall on the penultimate lap.

Heading to Monza with five races remaining, Raikkonen's chances of retaining his title are slim, with many feeling Ferrari should now back Massa's cause.
But a defiant Raikkonen countered: "As long as I have a chance and I am in the points I will keep trying. If I don't have any chance then it is a different story.
"But I don't see it is up to me. We will both race as hard as we can and see what happens at the end of the season."

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Raikkonen sets the pace

Kimi Raikkonen celebrated his newly signed Ferrari extension with a top spot on the timesheets in Friday's second practice at Monza.

The Ferrari driver, who is desperate for victory this weekend in Italy, clocked a 1:23.861sec lap to beat the BMWs of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld.
Following the morning session's heavy showers Heikki Kovalainen led the drivers out for the installation laps on a damp track but with no rain falling.
The McLaren driver stayed out to post not only the first time of the session but also his first time of the day having opted against completing any laps in the morning.

He was soon overhauled by Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel while Mark Webber, Nelson Piquet Jr, Seb Bourdais and Kazuki Nakajima slotted in behind him. Bourdais improved to first place while Webber went second as the drivers quickly began to put together some decent times.

Kovalainen and the two Toro Rosso drivers swapped fastest lap for fastest lap before being overhauled by the arrival of Kimi Raikkonen. The reigning Champ, who was just confirmed as a Ferrari driver for the 2010 season, immediately went quickest with a 1:33 and continued to lap, lowering the benchmark on his way. Team-mate Felipe Massa went third behind Vettel while Rosberg, Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello completed the top eight at the half an hour mark.

Bourdais was the first to put on the dry tyres, putting in two fastest sector times on his way to a 1:32.8, which put him just half a second behind Raikkonen. The following lap, which more heat in the rubber, he went P1, outpacing the reigning Champ by 0.14s.
Timo Glock was the next to go quickest, followed by Vettel, Jenson Button and Vettel again. Halfway through the session the lead time was a 1:27.607 belonging to Vettel while Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard and both Force Indias had yet to set times.

Hamilton, though, came out shortly after and went second quickest before taking the top spot on his next lap, almost a full second up on Vettel's bet time. The McLaren driver took a further seven tenths off his next lap, setting fastest times in all three sectors. He was joined at the top of the timesheets by Massa, Robert Kubica, Adrian Sutil and Kovalainen.
Raikkonen joined the battle for the lead, taking it off Hamilton while Alonso went P7 despite straightlining the Roggia chicane. Massa moved up to second place, a tenth off Raikkonen, as Kubica improved to fourth place, slotting in behind Hamilton.

With the track almost completely dry the times continued to tumble with Massa the next to come to the fore followed by Kubica. The Polish driver put in an impressive 1:24.287 to extend his lead over Hamilton, who found himself almost a full second off the pace.
Nelson Piquet Jr brought out the yellow flags as he spun his Renault, stopping it at the kerb at the first chicane. Moments later Sutil spins at Lesmo II but is able to continue.

Kubica was able to hold onto the top spot until the final four minutes when Raikkonen edged him with a 1:23.861.

01 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.861 31 laps
02 R. Kubica BMW 1:23.931 26 laps
03 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:23.947 29 laps
04 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:23.983 25 laps
05 N. Rosberg Williams 1:24.110 33 laps
06 F. Massa Ferrari 1:24.247 34 laps
07 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:24.365 29 laps
08 M. Webber Red Bull 1:24.521 35 laps
09 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:24.669 22 laps
10 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:24.773 35 laps
11 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:25.100 25 laps
12 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:25.192 39 laps
13 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:25.204 24 laps
14 R. Barrichello Honda 1:25.296 25 laps
15 J. Button Honda 1:25.309 34 laps
16 K. Nakajima Williams 1:25.330 28 laps
17 T. Glock Toyota 1:25.397 28 laps
18 F. Alonso Renault 1:25.481 22 laps
19 J. Trulli Toyota 1:25.753 29 laps
20 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:26.195 23 laps

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Vettel claims Italian pole

Hamilton endures miserable session in Monza rain

Vettel: Maiden pole

Sebastian Vettel claimed the first pole of his Formula One career after he was fastest in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton will start way back in 15th place on the grid after rain lashed the Monza circuit, turning the qualifying session into a lottery.
Toro Rosso driver Vettel was the major beneficiary as he came in 0.06s faster than the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen.
Felipe Massa could only manage sixth place in his Ferrari, but championship leader Hamilton was nine places further back - the worst qualifying performance of his career.

The Briton's McLaren will start one place behind Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari.
Hamilton effectively blew it at the start of the second session as he bided his time before emerging from the pits, and he paid the price.


A few minutes into the 15-minute period the rain scythed down, and only then did Hamilton take to the track, the last of the 15 to do so.
The other 14 at that stage had all managed to effectively put in a banker lap, and it was those times which carried them through as the track grew progressively slower as the rain became heavier.
Unfortunately for Hamilton and Raikkonen, fellow title challenger Massa just managed to scrape through into the top 10, and it proved crucial for the Brazilian.
Then shortly after Q2 drew to a close, the rain significantly eased, arguably adding to 23-year-old Hamilton's frustration.
Behind Vettel, giving his team their first pole, comes Heikki Kovalainen in his McLaren, followed by Red Bull's Mark Webber and the second Toro Rosso of Sebastien Bourdais.

Nico Rosberg will start fifth in his Williams, followed by Massa, the Toyota of Jarno Trulli, Renault's Fernando Alonso, Timo Glock in his Toyota and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld.
It was always going to be an enthralling qualifying session, and so it proved as the field was turned on its head.
The conditions could not have been more treacherous, the worst for a qualifying session for some time, putting the drivers on the ragged edge.


It meant a clear track was more essential than usual, not just due to traffic, but more pertinently to avoid the plumes of spray from any drivers in front.
But unlike in the dry when a driver posts a hot lap and returns to the pits for fresh rubber, on the extreme wet tyres they were able to run a series of laps in a bid to improve their times.
Rain had started to fall shortly before the start of final practice and ceased soon after the end, returning again 15 minutes prior to the pit lane re-opening for qualifying.

Appreciably, the first few laps were tentative as the drivers tested where they could go quick and where the puddles of water lay.
The opening 20 minutes of qualifying served up more action than is usually seen throughout the entire hour, with drivers completing 12 and 13 laps.
It was Q2, though, which threw up the most dramatic of periods seen this season, with another title challenger in BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica also eliminated as he will start 11th.

For the first time this year, a Force India finally made it into Q2, with Giancarlo Fisichella starting a superb 12th ahead of the Red Bull of David Coulthard, Raikkonen and then Hamilton.
The first qualifying period ended with another Force India driver, Adrian Sutil, at the bottom of the timesheets as he will start 20th.
Also relegated were Rubens Barrichello in his Honda, the Brazilian starting 16th, with Renault's Nelson Piquet 17th and the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima 18th.
Disappointingly Jenson Button will start 19th for Honda, describing the car as the worst he has ever driven in these conditions.

Qualifying times:
1. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1m 35.837
2. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren 1:35.843
3. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1:35.898
4. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1:36.008
5. Sebastien Bourdais (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:36.175
6. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:36.306
7. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 1:36.518
8. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 1:36.525
9. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 1:36.626
10. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:36.676
11. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 1:36.697
12. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Force India - Ferrari 1:36.698
13. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull - Renault 1:37.284
14. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1:37.522
15. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1:39.265
16. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 1:36.510
17. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault 1:36.630
18. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams - Toyota 1:36.653
19. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 1:37.006
20. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Ferrari 1:37.417

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Kubica hails BMW strategy
One-stopping Pole climbs eight places

Robert Kubica has praised the one-stop strategy BMW Sauber devised that resulted in his podium finish in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Like fellow Championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, Kubica struggled in the wet on Saturday and, after failing to make it through the second session, the Pole lined up only 11th on the grid.

However, being outside the top 10 meant that BMW could fuel Kubica more heavily in the first stint of the race, allowing him to become the second last driver to stop in the 53-lap race.

What also played into his hands was that anticipated rainfall failed to materialise mid-way through the race, with Kubica's stop coinciding with the point when the track was dry enough for intermediate tyres.

The 23-year-old thus joined McLaren's Lewis Hamilton as the biggest net gainer on Sunday, moving up eight positions to third at the chequered flag behind the Englishman's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and race winner Sebastian Vettel.

"It's been quite a good weekend after qualifying yesterday didn't go the way we wanted," Kubica said.

"We were the first car out of Q3, so we just tried to do the right choice on the strategy with that option and I just stayed out as long as possible on the first stint and then switched to intermediate tyres at the right time and made a lot of progress, but it was too late to be able to pass Heikki (Kovalainen).

He added: "It's not easy starting in the middle of the pack in these conditions."

Kubica's result also allowed him to close the gap to Championship leader Hamilton.

With four races remaining he remains in third place in the Drivers' Championship, but now lies 14 points behind Hamilton, who finished seventh at Monza.

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Super Seb 'speechless'
German youngster was "pushing like hell" for victory

An elated Sebastian Vettel has hailed his Toro Rosso team after securing both his and their maiden grand prix victory during Sunday's Italian GP.

At 21 years and 74 days old, Vettel has become the youngest ever winner of a grand prix, beating the previous mark set by Fernando Alonso (22 years and 26 days old) at the 2003 Hungarian GP.

And Toro Rosso have also become the first Italian team other than Ferrari to win a race since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio took victory in the 1957 German Grand Prix for Maserati.

It was a victory achieved in some style, with Vettel making the most of the wet conditions to lead from start to finish at Monza after taking pole position on Saturday.

The German later said he was "pushing like hell" during the race to give the Italian team a breakthrough win.

"I think it says it all. All the people might be used to hearing the Italian national anthem but for Scuderia Ferrari," Vettel said.

"It is a special day and for all the team they won't forget this day as long as I won't.

"I have seen every angle of the grid now. It is difficult when you start from the back. Now we can be proud of ourselves. Celebrating our victory is great, putting these words together sounds unbelievable.

"The mentality has changed, the atmosphere is fantastic. When I jumped into the car before the race they said: 'Now destroy them'.

"I was pushing like hell, they were looking forward, in that sense you could say we had the balls to do it today."
Limited resources

Toro Rosso were formerly known as Minardi before being bought by former F1 driver Gerhard Berger and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz prior to the 2006 season.

While in possession of more resources than they had during their previous guise as F1's perennial backmarker outfit, they still have only a fraction of the budget used by the likes of Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes.

However, what they do have are Ferrari engines, a factor in allowing them to edge ahead of the Renault-powered 'senior' Red Bull team as the current season has progressed.

And, perhaps gallingly for Red Bull, who are still without a win, they also supply Toro Rosso with their chassis, the STR3 - essentially the Adrian Newey-designed RB4.

"Compared to BMW or McLaren or Ferrari, we have not that amount of manpower at the factory, we have about 160 people working at Faenza and they can feel very special. I am one of them we are one team and I feel extremely happy," Vettel continued.

The German added that he was left "speechless", describing the win as coming on the "best day of his life".

"The whole race we had no problems, the car was working really fine. I had a fantastic race, a really good strategy but all that was gone when I crossed the chequered flag, and the lap back to the pits all the podium ceremony was unbelievable," Vettel said.

"For sure this is the best day of my life, these emotions I will never forget, it is so much better than you might think it is.

"I can just say a big, big thank you to the guys in the team, they did a fantastic job, who would have thought it at the start of the season, in these conditions we can do a bit more.

"It is fantastic, I am speechless.

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Massa makes engine change
Brazilian playing his 'joker'

Ferrari have said that Felipe Massa will use the one free engine change he is permitted under Formula One rules at Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

The rules state that all engines must last a minimum of two race weekends, with a 10-place grid penalty enforced for those failing to comply.

However, this season has seen each driver allowed one free engine change per season.

Massa, who currently stands just two points behind World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, needs to use his as his existing engine had already come through a difficult weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Spa-Francorchamps and Monza are the toughest circuits on the calendar in terms of engine usage.

Mark Webber also used his 'joker' engine change earlier this weekend when Red Bull opted to swap his power unit as a precautionary measure.

Webber and Massa respectively start third and sixth on the grid.

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Heikki - Nothing I could do
McLaren driver unable to challenge race winner

Heikki Kovalainen said that his second-place finish in the Italian Grand Prix was the best he could manage given the wet conditions prevailing during the race at Monza.

After qualifying second behind Sebastian Vettel in the wet on Saturday, many predicted the McLaren Mercedes driver would make short work of the Toro Rosso youngster during the race itself.

However, it was not be for Kovalainen who, with the rain returning once more on Sunday, was left behind by the young German driver - Vettel some 12.5 seconds ahead at the chequered flag.

As Vettel celebrated both his own and Toro Rosso's first-ever victory on the podium, Kovalainen appeared all-too-aware of the fact that an opportunity had been missed.

Nevertheless, the Finn still paid full tribute to the race winner, while also pinpointing the loss of grip he experienced on his wet tyres as the track dried as the reason why he could not mount a stronger challenge.

"There was nothing I could do," Kovalainen said. "I wanted to win. I am disappointed that I didn't win, but they did a fantastic job. So, clearly it was impossible to win.

"Seb and Toro Rosso have been strong all weekend. I had a little bit of a problem in the early part of the race.

"In the first stint with extreme tyres, I was struggling to find any time to go faster, but towards the end it got a little bit better but I think it was the maximum we could do.

"All our troubles were related to the ambient temperature and how to get things working.

"It was just a bit difficult today, it wasn't easy for anyone today. I am sure some people had some problems with them, I am sure that is where the performance was today."

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Hamilton staying upbeat
McLaren star falls foul of second failed tyre gamble

Lewis Hamilton is remaining upbeat despite seeing his World Championship lead cut to just a single point after the Italian Grand Prix.

After qualifying a lowly 15th on the grid during Saturday's wet qualifying session, the McLaren Mercedes driver finished seventh in the race as rain hit Monza once again.

But his nearest Championship rival, Ferrari's Felipe Massa, finished one place ahead to increase his season's tally to 77 points and close the gap.

Making a slow start after McLaren decided to fuel him for a long opening stint, Hamilton came alive after passing Massa's team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, on lap 11.

He carved his way through to sixth place by lap 23, a position which improved to third as cars ahead made pit stops.

Hamilton then passed Williams driver Nico Rosberg for second and was behind eventual winner Sebastian Vettel prior to what should have been his only pit stop on lap 27.

However, gambling on more rainfall, McLaren sent him back out on wet tyres which began overheating as the track instead dried.

Therefore a second - unscheduled - pit stop 10 laps later was needed, meaning that Hamilton fell out of contention.

Nevertheless, with Massa failing to improve on his sixth-placed grid slot and Raikkonen only finishing ninth, Hamilton said his Championship rivals were the bigger losers.

"I think we all missed a big opportunity today really. I think the Ferraris missed an opportunity," the Englishman said.

"With me being right at the back they both missed an opportunity of taking lots of points off me. I showed that I was quickest in the wet and had great pace. I think a win was possible today.

"I'm not surprised (to be still in the lead) because I drove my arse off and you know what I can do in the wet."

Hamilton also reckoned that, had McLaren made the decision to switch to intermediate tyres they made in qualifying - one which backfired on Saturday when more rain started to fall - then victory could have been his.

"There were no doubts in my mind that I could do a good job today and catch up and win. I thought it was possible," he continued.

"It's a shame I had to stop again because I didn't need any more fuel, it was just because of track conditions.

"So unfortunately after having to change tyres perhaps today I needed the gamble that I took yesterday."

Indeed, as the track dried further late in the race, Hamilton's intermediate tyres also overheated, meaning he fell into the clutches of Red Bull's Mark Webber.

The pair banged wheels at the Rettifilo chicane on the 50th lap but Hamilton stood his ground to take two valuable Championship points.

"I had to put up a fight to stop him coming by," Hamilton added. "There was only one dry line and I made sure I covered my inside spot, but I didn't want to stay there on the wet patch or I wouldn't have made the corner.

"He just clipped my front wheel and went on, but the lucky thing is that the car didn't break. Just imagine if the car had broke, it would have been disastrous."

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Vettel makes history

Hamilton's Championship lead cut to just one point

Vettel: Youngest winner

Sebastian Vettel has become the youngest ever winner of a grand prix after taking victory in the Italian GP at Monza.
The 21-year-old German driver, who claimed his first pole position in qualifying on Saturday, also took the first win for the Italian Toro Rosso team.
In a race held in wet conditions, Vettel was never challenged at the front of the field and took the chequered flag 12.5 seconds ahead of McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen.
BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica took the final podium position ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso, with the former's team-mate, Nick Heidfeld, finishing fifth.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa finished sixth ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, with Red Bull's Mark Webber claiming the final World Championship point.
Sunday's result means that Hamilton's lead in the Driver's Championship over Massa has been cut to just one point with four races - and McLaren's appeal over the result of the Belgian Grand Prix - still to come.
That both Vettel and Toro Rosso - the backmarker Minardi team prior to a Red Bull-backed buyout three years ago - were aided by the wet conditions seen throughout the weekend cannot be in doubt.

But it was a thoroughly deserved win nonetheless, both demonstrating the stronger form the Faenza-based team have shown in recent races and also confirming Vettel's status as a rising star.
The other main feature of the race was the progress of Hamilton who, after starting 15th on the grid, at one stage appeared likely to challenge for at least a podium finish before falling away during the closing laps.

Safety car

With the wet conditions meaning a rolling start behind the safety car, Vettel took advantage of clearer visibility to streak ahead - the rest of the field more circumspect in an effort to avoid any incidents.
Perhaps encumbered by the heavy fuel load he was carrying, Hamilton at first seemed the same driver who appeared to struggle during qualifying on Saturday.

He failed to make any real headway for the first 11 laps before passing Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari - which he had earlier passed Spa-style before ceding ground - into the first Lesmo bend.
Hamilton then suddenly came to life and began to carve his way through the field, overtaking Heidfeld, Timo Glock, Kubica, Alonso and Jarno Trulli by lap 23.

Cars pitting ahead meant that the one-stopping Hamilton suddenly found himself in third place and, with rival Massa falling from third place to 12th following the first of his two scheduled stops, the Englishman appeared primed to extend his Championship lead.
Indeed, Hamilton briefly looked to be Vettel's chief rival after closing to within one second of the Toro Rosso driver ahead of his only scheduled pit stop on lap 27.


With McLaren then gambling on more rainfall, another set of wet tyres were bolted on.
But their forecast proved incorrect and, with his rubber now overheating, an unscheduled stop for intermediates was needed on lap 37, dropping Hamilton down to 10th - two places behind Massa.
That the track was now favouring intermediate tyres dovetailed perfectly with Vettel's own second scheduled stop on the same lap.
With Kovalainen - who should really have presented more of a challenge to Vettel - comfortably running second, Kubica (who started 11th) assumed third place, becoming the first runner to make just one stop.
By now Vettel had the race in the bag and, as the race order settled into the final stint, Hamilton suddenly found himself under pressure from a newly-resurgent Webber.

The pair banged wheels at the Rettifilo chicane with three laps remaining - the Australian cutting the corner before ceding ground once more to Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Hamilton's foe from last weekend treaded water for most of the race.
Raikkonen eventually finished ninth after setting a series of fastest laps late in the race, but it was a case of too little, too late for the defending World Champion.

Vettel's team-mate, Sebastien Bourdais, endured wretched luck after qualifying fourth, an engine problem on the grid leaving him one lap down as the safety car peeled in to start the race - the Frenchman eventually finishing 18th.
With Ferrari now holding a five-point lead over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship, Vettel's win has propelled Toro Rosso to sixth place, one point ahead of 'senior' team Red Bull.

Italian Grand Prix, result:
1. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1h 26:47.494
2. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren +00:12.512
3. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 00:20.471
4. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 00:23.903
5. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 00:27.748
6. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 00:28.816
7. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 00:29.912
8. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 00:32.048
9. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 00:39.468
10. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault 00:54.445
11. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 00:58.888
12. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams - Toyota 01:02.015
13. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 01:05.954
14. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 01:08.635
15. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 01:13.370
16. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull - Renault 1 lap
17. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 1 lap
18. Sebastien Bourdais (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1 lap
19. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Ferrari 2 laps
r. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Force India - Ferrari 42 laps
(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)
Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen, 1:28.047, lap 53.

1 Lewis Hamilton 78 2 Felipe Massa 77 3 Robert Kubica 64 4 Kimi Raikkonen 57 5 Nick Heidfeld 53 6 Heikki Kovalainen 51 7 Fernando Alonso 28 8 Jarno Trulli 26 9 Sebastian Vettel 23 10 Mark Webber 20 11 Timo Glock 15 12 Nelson Piquet Jr 13 13 Rubens Barrichello 11 14 Nico Rosberg 9 15 Kazuki Nakajima 8 16 David Coulthard 6 17 Sebastien Bourdais 4 18 Jenson Button 3 19 Adrian Sutil 0 20 Anthony Davidson 0 21 Takuma Sato 0 22 Giancarlo Fisichella 0

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Lewis is a fighter
World Championship leader focused on title fight

Lewis Hamilton believes he is showing all his fighting instincts as his challenge for the world title goes down to the wire.

The 23-year-old drove superbly in the wet conditions of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza after starting in 15th on the grid after choosing the wrong tyres in qualifying.

Hamilton carved through the field but a mistaken weather forecast from the McLaren team meant an unscheduled pit stop for Hamilton and he could then only finish seventh.

At one stage Hamilton was in second place but despite then finishing in seventh, he was happy with his performance on the track.

Despite the conditions, Hamilton produced some scintillating overtaking moves during his charge, and he says it shows his fighting spirit.

"The result was the best we could have hoped for, but it could have been a lot worse," said Hamilton.

"We could have come away with no points and been second in the championship, so to see only a few people in front of me is not so bad, and I feel positive.

"I went forward, no-one overtook me, which is always a nice thing coming out of a race. But then I very rarely do get overtaken.

"But at Monza I showed maturity and that I am a fighting force as well."

Hamilton now holds just a one-point lead over Felipe Massa in the drivers championship with just four races left as again he looks like being involved in another thrilling title race.

McLaren and Hamilton could get a points boost should the appeal against Hamilton's demotion in Belgium go their way on Monday.

Stewards in Belgium demoted Hamilton via a 25-second time penalty for cutting a corner and going ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, although the team have appealed the decision.


The FIA International Court of Appeal will hear the case on Monday in Paris as Hamilton prepares for F1's first night race in Singapore, but he is adamant he will not be affected.

"I'm not really thinking about Paris," insisted Hamilton.

"As I've said before, I feel like I won that race, so I've not even bothered to think about it.

"What happened, happened, and I'll move on whatever the result, and then I'll focus on getting more points in the next few races.

"I'll continue to prove that. There's nothing that can put me off or bring me down.

"I certainly don't see it as a distraction, not at all. I'll leave (for Singapore) on that day, so it shouldn't be a problem at all."

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Hamilton appeal thrown out
Spa result stands after Hamilton appeal fails

Despite a spirited defence of his actions at the Paris tribunal, the British driver was adjudged to have cut a chicane during a duel with Finnish rival Kimi Raikkonen in the closing laps.

Race officials overturned his win and demoted Hamilton to third in the belief that he had thereby gained unfair advantage.

The five FIA International Court of Appeal judges in Paris upheld the original decision to hand down a drive-through penalty at the end of the race for a breach of Article 30.3 (a) of the 2008 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations and Appendix L, Chapter 4, Article 2 (g) of the International Sporting Code.

The hearing ruled that Article 152 of the International Sporting Code states drive-through penalties are "not susceptible to appeal" and therefore threw out Hamilton's claim.

"Having heard the explanations of the parties the Court has concluded that the appeal is inadmissible," the FIA judges said.

The confirmation of Hamilton's third place means rival Felipe Massa of Ferrari claims a win which slashes the Briton's lead in the drivers' championship to a single point.

In giving evidence in the French capital, Hamilton reiterated his version of events as recorded in a statement given days after the race, saying he had taken the chicane to avoid a collision with Raikkonen.

"I thought I had given back the advantage that I had taken by cutting the chicane. I thought I had done what I needed to," Hamilton insisted.

McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh and team engineer Phil Prew also appeared before the Paris hearing, but to no avail.

Had he won his appeal Hamilton would have been seven points clear with just four races left to go.

The Briton has 76 points, just one point ahead of Massa, with Poland's Robert Kubica, of BMW Sauber, on third with 58.

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Verdict disappoints Hamilton
British driver fully focused on title race

Lewis Hamilton insists he is "not depressed" after the FIA International Court of Appeal rejected McLaren's appeal against the retrospective penalty he received after the Belgian Grand Prix.

The ICA found that the Woking-based team had no right to challenge the ruling saying: "Article 152 of the International Sporting Code states that drive through penalties are 'not susceptible to appeal'," a statement from the FIA's Court of Appeal said on Tuesday.

Hamilton will now head into the Singapore Grand Prix with a one-point lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa. The Brit, though, is ready to put the incident behind him.

"People will probably expect me to be depressed about today's result, but that isn't me," a statement from McLaren read.

"All I want to do now is put this matter behind me and get on with what we drivers do best: racing each other. We're racers, we're naturally competitive, and we love to overtake.

"Overtaking is difficult, and it feels great when you manage to pull off a great passing manoeuvre. If it pleases the spectators and TV viewers, it's better still. So I'm disappointed, yes, but not depressed."

McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh says the team will now shift their focus to the remaining four races of the season.

"We are naturally disappointed with today's verdict, and to have received no ruling on the substance of our appeal," he said.

"No-one wants to win Grands Prix in court; but we felt that Lewis had won the Belgian Grand Prix, on track, in an exciting and impressive manner.

"Our legal team and witnesses calmly explained this, as well as our belief that the appeal should be admissible, to the FIA International Court of Appeal.

"It nonetheless decided that our appeal was inadmissible. We will now concentrate on the remaining four races of the 2008 Formula 1 season."

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Whitmarsh: Justice will be served
McLaren hopeful Spa penalty will be overturned

Martin Whitmarsh is hoping to see justice served when Lewis Hamilton takes on the FIA's International Court of Appeal in Paris on Monday.

Hamilton is seeking to overturn the retrospective 25-second penalty awarded by the stewards at the end of the Belgian Grand Prix which resulted in him being demoted from race winner to third.

If McLaren are successful, Hamilton would increase his lead in the Drivers' Championship over Felipe Massa from one point to seven, whilst the team would overhaul Ferrari in the Constructors' standings by a point.

The four judges will initially determine whether McLaren's appeal is admissible as under FIA rules a drive-through penalty "is not susceptible to an appeal".

Once that case is debated, the judges will then listen to McLaren's submissions in relation to the penalty awarded to Hamilton for 'cutting a corner and gaining an advantage'.

Ahead of the last four races, Hamilton could have a significant lead over Massa that could prove crucial come the end of the year.

Whitmarsh said: "We very much hope that will be the case, but clearly it's outside of our power. All we can do is present the facts.

"But I personally believe anyone who looks back at the race and is asked 'who deserved to win?', most people watching would say Lewis and not Felipe, who was half a minute behind.

"I'm probably slightly partisan on this, but I do actually believe that's what most people would imagine.

"We just have to present the data, and whatever the outcome is, that is the outcome.

"We are not counting on those points. We hold the lead at the moment in the Drivers' Championship by one slender point and we can expand upon that in the coming races."

The verdict is not expected until Tuesday.

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Ferrari boss fears Singapore 'let down'
Overtaking fears for Scuderia boss

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo is concerned that Formula One's two new street races are bad for the sport.

Last month the F1 circus paid its first visit to Valencia, where the drivers raced through the streets of the port city.

However, the race offered very little overtaking, turning into nothing more than a fast-paced procession.

And this weekend's Singapore GP could, according to di Montezemolo, yield much of the same as the drivers take to the streets of the Asian city.

"I have the impression it will be another one of those let downs where you cannot overtake, like Valencia," the Italian told Reuters when asked for his impression of the Singapore race.

He added: "Going forward with these circuits heralds a bad future for Formula One.

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Alonso to remain at Renault
Double world champ sets sights on Ferrari

Fernando Alonso will stay with Renault next season according to Spanish sports daily AS.

The Newspaper reported this weekend that the Spanish driver recently rejected a multi-year offer from BMW.

With at least two other teams - Renault and Honda - known to be chasing his signature Alonso was said to be unhappy with the duration of the contract.

According to AS the double world champion has one eye on a place with Ferrari and is keen to remain free to leave should a seat become available with the Italian outfit at the end of 2010.

BMW under Mario Theissen however, were unwilling to negotiate on the matter, insisting on a longer term contract.

Honda's lack of progress this season, which has seen them notch up just 14 points in as many races was also said to be a deciding factor in Alonso's unwillingness to move.

As a result the Spaniard has decided to stick with Renault for the 2009 season in the hope of a move to Ferrari as soon as a seat is vacated.

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Lewis relishing the challenge
Unique challenge for F1 stars

Lewis Hamilton will be leaving no stone unturned in his preparations for next weekend's historic Singapore Grand Prix.

The island state hosts Formula One's first night race and it is the timing of the event that is all the talk, with the two practice sessions on Friday starting at 7pm and 9.30pm local time.

The qualifying session on Saturday gets under way at 10pm, whilst the race begins at 8pm, all under the most sophisticated lightning system ever produced for a sports event.

There will be almost 110,000 metres of power cables, 240 steel pylons and around 1,500 light projectors, creating illumination four times brighter than anything used at sports stadia.

For the drivers, the unusual timings mean an entirely different approach to the weekend is required, and for current Championship leader Hamilton he has put his faith in team doctor Aki Hintsa.

"Singapore is going to be a unique challenge for every member of the team," said Hamilton.

"Our doctor has prepared a very precise schedule for the drivers to stick to because all the sessions are so late in the day.

"Essentially we must not acclimatise to the local time, which is totally different to how we normally operate.

"Our training programmes ensure that over a race weekend we are at peak performance during the afternoons and as a result we are going to be staying in European time so this doesn't get disrupted.

"Apparently not acclimatising is much harder than adapting, because your body naturally wants to change.

"For the drivers, our meal, waking and sleeping rhythms will all be in European time.

"For example we will get up early afternoon for breakfast, have supper at 1am and go to bed at around 3am.

"It will be very different preparation to any other race, but we'll try and do the best job we can."

Hamilton does not believe racing at night will pose any concerns, despite the fact the track is a street circuit housing 23 corners.

"The race will be quite a fun challenge, and I like a challenge!" insisted Hamilton.

"I've never raced at night before, but I don't think it is going to be a problem.

"It doesn't seem to be a problem in other sports, and there have been huge preparations for this, so I think it will be great.

"We are racing on another street circuit, which are a particular favourite of mine.

"From what I understand it is wide and fairly flowing in nature, which is not what you usually expect from a street circuit. But it sounds like it will be pretty spectacular.

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Massa enjoys Mugello rain
Ferrari hope to improve wet-weather performances

Felipe Massa was grateful for the rain that fell during his Mugello test on Friday as it gave the Brazilian the chance to run on a wet track.

To date this season Ferrari have struggled in the rain compared to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, which has cost the Scuderia vital points in the Championship campaign.

During the most recent wet race, last weekend's Italian GP, Massa started sixth on the grid and also finished the race in sixth place after battling to find the grip and pace needed to take advantage of Hamilton's disappointing qualifying performance.

In sharp contrast, though, Hamilton easily moved from 15th on the grid to finish seventh in the grand prix.

And with more wet races expected when the F1 circus heads to the Far East, Massa was grateful for the chance to test in the rain at Mugello.

"This session has been very useful," said the Ferrari driver, who is currently second in the Championship, one point behind Hamilton.

"I encountered the wet and, given that there's a chance we could experience these conditions in the coming races, that is no bad thing.

"We have done a good job and feel ready for the forthcoming Singapore Grand Prix.

"The end of the Championship will be very close and it will be vital not to make any mistakes anywhere.

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Alonso's Singapore worry
Spaniard worried about turn at Singapore track

Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso says he has some concerns over one of the turns at this weekend's night time Grand Prix in Singapore.

The first night race in Formula One history will take place at the Marina Bay street circuit and there are numerous concerns over the event.

With rain arriving at the circuit only adding to worries about the race, Alonso has also voiced his concern over Turn 10 on the track - a tight chicane.

The Spaniard believes cars may be damaged at the corner, and says that it is now too late to find a satisfactory solution.

"It is not the best solution they could find I think," Alonso said.

"We worry that if we miss the chicane you miss the line and have to go over the curves.

"It could damage the chassis or the damage the car at the bottom. If you damage one car it's not a problem as you can take the T-car but if you damage two you go home.

"It is a concern at the moment but I don't know what is a better solution and I don't know if they are able to do it quickly."

Alonso and the rest of the drivers have been keeping to European time to ensure that they are at their best during the night for the big race.

Renault driver Alonso has also been walking the street circuit in the city state to avoid any nasty surprises once qualifying begins.

"It is not difficult to keep to European times," added Alonso. "I have watched films until three and then slept before waking at one in the afternoon.


"At a new circuit the first lap you walk with the team is very important as you assess the corners and try to guess what speed will be needed at that corner, where will be the breaking point and which gear you will use.

"It takes a bit longer on a new circuit than a normal lap on one you know already but it was interesting because our simulations were a little different to how it was in reality."

Alonso expects overtaking to be almost impossible this weekend, likening the task to trying to get past a driver at Monaco.

"It will be exactly the same as Monaco," he said. "On this circuit I really see no way of overtaking.