Tom Clarkson's 2008 Italian Grand Prix race report

Published: 15 September 2008

'There’s something about Sebastian [Vettel],' said Gerhard Berger prior to the start of the year. 'Everything about Formula 1 seems to come so easily to him; it’s as if he was born to be here.' On the evidence of yesterday, you’d have to agree with Berger.

The brilliance of Vettel’s victory at Monza was its simplicity. While everyone else ballsed-up their strategies and underperformed, Sebastian and Toro Rosso got all the basics right. Their pitstop strategy was spot-on, they made no mistakes and Seb was metronomic in his consistency, despite the STR3 being far from the quickest car on the racetrack (he set only the 14th fastest race lap).

It was the performance you’d expect of a seasoned professional, not a 21-year-old in a rebadged Minardi.

Heikki Kovalainen: didn't deliver

The guy who will be kicking himself today is Heikki Kovalainen. He started on the front row in the best car for the conditions, yet he never looked like challenging Vettel. Three laps after the race had gone green following the Safety Car start, Vettel was 5.2 seconds up the road. Sure, second place was a good points haul for McLaren (or whatever it was that Heikki said afterwards), but he missed an opportunity. His performance reminded me of David Coulthard in his latter years at the team, and that’s not a compliment.


Heikki’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton, in the sister MP4-23, was the only guy to worry Vettel. He climbed from 15th to second by lap 35 and had he changed to intermediate tyres at his first pitstop on lap 22, thus negating the need for another pitstop, he might even have beaten Vettel. As it was he stayed on wets, had to stop again and finished seventh.

Monza: a race decided on rubber

It seems inexcusable that none of the front-runners changed onto inters prior to the last third of the race. Rubens Barrichello changed onto them as early as lap 16 and immediately went two seconds a lap quicker, yet because he was circulating in 16th position no-one gave him a second glance. The Hondas mightn’t be the fastest cars this year, but they have legendary tactician Ross Brawn making their strategy calls on the pitwall, so they’re surely worth watching?


For now, though, let’s celebrate the arrival of another F1 superstar in the making. At 21 years and 73 days, Vettel is the youngest winner in F1 history; no doubt he’s already thinking about his autobiography.

Monza: Italian Grand Prix results

1 Sebastian Vettel
2 Heikki Kovalainen
3 Robert Kubica
4 Fernando Alonso
5 Nick Heidfeld
6 Felipe Massa
7 Lewis Hamilton
8 Mark Webber

World Championship standings

1 Lewis Hamilton 78pts
2 Felipe Massa 77pts
3 Robert Kubica 64pts
4 Kimi Raikkonen 57pts
5 Nick Heidfeld 53pts
6 Heikki Kovalainen 51pts

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By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller