“I think I’d like to try qualifying 23rd or 24th in Singapore,” joked Jaime Alguersuari as he talked to the journalists, still dripping in sweat after a great drive in today’s Italian Grand Prix, going from eighteenth on the grid to seventh at the flag.
This was the Spaniard’s best-ever Formula 1 result and the idea of starting at the back comes from the fact he seems to deliver his best races from his worst qualifying results. But be careful what you wish for Jaime. It was a fantastic result for the team, as Sébastien Buemi managed to bring his less than one hundred percent healthy car past the chequered flag in tenth spot. The seven points we picked up today mean we close the gap to Sauber, now six points ahead of us in the Constructors’ classification, as the Swiss team is now a single point behind Force India.
Our two drivers were dealt very different hands by the first corner accident after the start: while Jaime managed to pick his way through to go up to eleventh, Sébastien could not avoid clipping a car with the left rear, even if he moved up one spot to 15th. From then on he felt his car was never quite right, but he battled on through to the end. In the closing stages, when lying ninth, our Swiss driver was unable to hold off Senna in the Lotus, as the Brazilian had the advantage of being on the Soft and therefore faster tyre, while Séb was on the Medium.
Jaime made the first of his two stops on lap 20, four laps later than Sébastien and at this point they were running ninth and 10th respectively. Maldonado and Di Resta were dealt with and they were up to eighth and ninth, then seventh and eighth when Perez went out, but they still needed to make one more tyre change which dropped them to their eventual finishing places. It was a great end for us at our home race, with so many people from the factory having come to cheer us on. Apart from watching the result of all their hard work they will also be able to say they witnessed a truly memorable motor race, as every single one of the 53 laps was a thriller.
When the lights went out, to the delight of the partisan crowd, it was Fernando Alonso who made the best start to lead from the second row, after three cars, his Ferrari, pole man Vettel’s Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren all headed for the first chicane three abreast across the track. The Safety Car spent three laps on track after Liuzzi went across the chicane causing a multiple pile up. After that, it did not take long for Vettel to get the lead off Alonso and pull away into the lead, demonstrating the superiority of the Red Bull. It was an old Monza maestro who brought the race to life, as Michael Schumacher was lying third behind the Ferrari and holding up Hamilton, with the two men running nose to tail, side by side and anyway you like. In fact, Jenson Button managed to get past both of them at one point and the thrill a minute duels resumed after the pit stops. In fact, Button was strong enough to charge down Alonso for second, but at least the Ferrari man finished on the podium in third place as this ensured that thousands of fans, head to toe in red, swarmed down the track to stand under the podium and cheer their hero, in what is one of the great sights in F1.
Separating Jaime from the podium trio were fourth-placed Hamilton, followed by Schumacher and Massa, while Di Resta and Senna were eighth and ninth just ahead of Sébastien. That’s Europe finished with for this year and now, from Magic Monza we head to the manic streets of Singapore. In the post race press conference, an emotional Vettel said that standing on the podium today reminded him of his first time there, when he won in the Toro Rosso in 2008. Three years on “little Seb” is only one podium finish away from clinching his second consecutive world title.