In some ways Monza could not have been kinder to Ferrari, with Michael
Schumacher taking his dramatic and emotional win and 10 more points than
arch-rival Fernando Alonso. The success gave Ferrari the lead in the
constructors' championship, on the day when Schumacher finally announced his
Things could have been better, however, for Felipe Massa had a troubled day
trapped initially behind Robert Kubica's BMW Sauber and later Rubens
Barrichello's Honda, and then flat-spotted his right front Bridgestone in the
immediate oily aftermath of Alonso's engine failure. He was thus unable to
contribute to the team's points tally on this occasion.
McLaren had high hopes for Monza, but ultimately the MP4-21 wasn't quite
quick enough. The difference in its performance and that of the Ferrari was
possibly down to tyres, though Kimi Raikkonen on his Michelins did set the
fastest lap with 1m 22.559s compared to Schumacher's 1m 22.575s. Second was
nevertheless a good result, and Raikkonen was pleased with developments in the
car's starting system which got him off the grid strongly. Pedro de la Rosa
should also have been a strong points contender despite getting trapped in
early-lap traffic, but his engine lost oil pressure after only 20 laps.
BMW Sauber put in a fantastic performance, on both the team and driver
front. They made a much better tyre choice than in Istanbul, and that enabled
them to be competitive in final qualifying and into the race. Kubica made a
blinding start to pass Nick Heidfeld in the first corner, and was always in
strong contention, earning his spurs in only his third Grand Prix by fending off
Massa's persistent attacks. Heidfeld was unlucky with his pit-lane speeding
penalty, without which he would also have been a podium contender. Nevertheless,
seven extra points put the team back ahead of Toyota in the standings.
Renault will want to forget Monza, after the dramas of qualifying and the
ensuing penalty for Alonso. The world champion drove a feisty race and had the
pace to have challenged for victory in better circumstances, but was adamant
that his race was decided off the track on Saturday afternoon. In the end, an
unusual Renault engine failure made all of that academic. Giancarlo Fisichella
drove a one-stop race to salvage fourth place and five points, and that had to
be regarded as damage limitation on a tough day.
Honda showed that their return to form in Germany was not an illusion by
finishing Jenson Button (two stops) and Rubens Barrichello (one) in fifth and
sixth places for another seven points. This was a good recovery after the engine
dramas that stymied test driver Anthony Davidson on Friday, and testament to the
team thinking on its feet as they altered the way in which they ran the motors
after the two blow-ups. Nevertheless, the balance of the RA106s wasn't as good
as expected and neither quite had the straight-line speed.
Toyota's day was good and bad. Good for Jarno Trulli, bad for Ralf
Schumacher. Trulli said that seventh place was the maximum he could have
achieved from the TF106B on the day, while Schumacher complained of poor
straight-line speed and struggled round with the Red Bulls and Toro Rossos.
Williams got a good run to 10th place from Mark Webber, even though the
Australian lost pace eventually as the handling of his FW28 loosened up, but
Nico Rosberg retired from a fighting 11th place after a driveshaft was damaged
going over one of the second chicane kerbs
Red Bull and Toro Rosso both had race-long inter-team battles. Christian
Klien and David Coulthard again exploited the size of the RB2's fuel tank to run
one-stop strategies. Coulthard went 32 laps, Klien the longest of all at 35.
Ultimately that got them clear of the Toro Rossos. Liuzzi lost ground on the
opening lap and had to chase team mate Scott Speed all the way home, his STR01
hitting the rev limiter down the straight. He also picked up understeer after
contact when Coulthard moved over on him during a passing attempt.
At Super Aguri, single-stopping Takuma Sato beat the Midlands, after an
hydraulic problem on the way to the grid forced him to start in the T-car from
the pit lane. He gradually hauled in the Midlands before his floor began to
delaminate, adding two seconds to his lap times. Sakon Yamamoto retired with
Midland's first race since the Spyker takeover proved to be disappointing.
Christijan Albers was going quite well initially despite a lack of straight-line
speed until he sustained a punctured right rear tyre and then two laps later a
transmission problem dropped him to the back. Tiago Monteiro ran with him, but
then encountered a random braking problem which eventually prompted retirement
after 44 laps.
With Ferrari edging ahead of Renault for the first time this season in the
constructors' championship, and Michael Schumacher closing to within two points
of Alonso in the drivers', the scene is set for three fantastic final races to
decide the ultimate championship outcomes.