Alonso wins Italian GP for Ferrari; Webber leads title race
Fernando Alonso had a perfect pit stop to win Ferrari's Italian home Grand Prix from world champion Jenson Button on Sunday, dpa reported.
McLaren's Button beat the pole-sitter Alonso at the start but the Spaniard rebounded thanks to his super-fast pit crew in the 39th lap to get his third season victory and 24th overall amid thousands of celebrating tifosi.
Button came second and Felipe Massa was third in the second Ferrari, just four days after the Italian team escaped sanctions from the ruling body FIA over a team-order issue.
"It is a very special feeling," said Alonso of the win on Ferrari turf, comparing it with the 2006 win in his native Spain.
"After the start it was difficult but the team did a fantastic job. It is thanks to them that I am sitting here because I made the overtake in the garage."
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton damaged his right front wheel in the first lap which forced him to retire and hand the championship lead back to Red Bull's Mark Webber, who finished sixth.
The Australian Webber has 187 points, Hamilton 182, Alonso 166, Button 165 and German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel 162 in what promises a dramatic season finale over the final five of 19 races.
Alonso failed to capitalize on his first pole of the season as Button won the start from second place on the grid.
But there was also despair for McLaren a few seconds later when Hamilton was too aggressive against third-placed Massa into the Della Roggia chicane. The cars touched and Hamilton damaged his right front wheel which sent him out in the following turn.
"I put my car up the inside and tried to get third - it was obviously a little bit too much. I'm very disappointed in myself. The championship is not over, but it's mistakes like I made today that lose world championships," said Hamilton.
The Red Bulls had nothing to laugh either as Webber had another disaster start to drop from fourth to ninth in the first lap, and Vettel went down from fifth to seventh.
Webber later passed Vettel for seventh place as the German complained about engine problems in the 21st lap before salvaging a remarkable fourth place with a final lap pit stop.
Up front, Button held off early attempts from Alonso before settling into a rhythm which did not allow the Spaniard another attack as McLaren seemed determined to spoil the Ferrari party.
However, the pit stops eventually made the difference as Alonso's stand-time in the 38th of 53 laps was 0.8 seconds shorter than Button's the previous lap.
"The team did fantastic pit stops. We had to find the right choice at the right time," said Alonso.
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh and Button were not as happy as their pit strategy did not quite work out by coming in ahead of Alonso.
"We didn't have the luxury of following them in. It just worked for them. It is disappointing to be second," said Whitmarsh.
Button agreed: "It is a little disappointing to come second. I had very little grip (coming out of the pits)."
Alonso then cruised to Ferrari's first Monza win since Michael Schumacher in 2006, completing the race over 306.720 kilometres in 1 hour 16 minutes 24.572 seconds to revive his dream of a third world title.
"Any good result gives you confidence and motivation to work hard. We have to remain calm and find consistency in the last five races. The remaining five races are the most important races," he said.
The Monza race marked the end of the European part of the season. The next race is the Singapore GP race on September 26.