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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Perfect Pérez does it again // Analysing the good and bad performances of the Italian Grand Prix

Published

Another scintillating Grand Prix is in the books and this one really did sort the men from the boys in the title challenge. Despite just third and fourth place finishes for their beloved Ferraris, it couldn’t have been a better day for Fernando Alonso as key championship rivals fell by the wayside, allowing him to open up his championship lead, and perhaps more crucially tick another race off the list until the end of the season. But even the Spaniard, who all but played God in Italy, couldn’t steal the limelight from one man: Sergio Pérez.

The Mexican produced his most impressive display to date (in Malaysia he was aided by weather and in Canada it was all about being easy on his tyres). Monza was the first race when his true pace showed through to give an unexpected result for the Swiss team.

Leaving the best for dust

It was first noticed while he was leading, through pit strategy, that he was a man to watch. After a mediocre qualifying for the Sauber team, a far cry from the joy of seven days ago, he was stuck in the pack at the start. But he stayed out later than anyone else and inherited the lead once the top teams had pitted. Even then his lap times were matching them on new rubber, with everyone on the hard tyres. Sauber’s choice to start on the hard tyres meant that when he pitted he could fit the option tyre just after half distance and it was at this point that he came alive.

Pérez making mincemeat of Monza
Pérez making mincemeat of MonzaCredit: Sauber Motorsport AG
Anyone seen Sergio?
Anyone seen Sergio?Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG
Introducing himself to the Tifosi
Introducing himself to the TifosiCredit: Sauber Motorsport AG
A podium celebration to savour
A podium celebration to savourCredit: Sauber Motorsport AG

He flew past Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso, both World Champions in the past, as well as an impressive Felipe Massa in the other Ferrari, and then benefitted from the misfortune of Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. Surely the best part of his performance was what he did when he was in clean air. He set the fastest lap of the race excluding the Mercedes, who stopped for fresh tyres late in the race, nine tenths of a second faster than Hamilton and over a second faster than the Ferraris. A clear sign of how well he performed as a driver was his 40 second gap to his teammate, giving an obvious barometer of how well Checo drove. Like with Hülkenberg’s drive last week, this will be the performance that really put Sergio Pérez on the map for a top drive in the future.

I was fully expectant on Hamilton being the driver of the day; I had a headline written and everything. It was possibly one of Hamilton’s least spectacular drives but he did exactly what he needed to do to win and finish his collection of victories at the classic venues. He controlled his pace, first flying at the start, profiting from Felipe Massa getting ahead of teammate Button at the start. Once he had opened up a seven second buffer, he monitored the gap to second place, put the car in cruise control and only really came out of it when Pérez came flying at him in the final eight laps, causing a rather amusing radio message from a very nervous McLaren garage, telling Lewis to speed up.

Fate and fortune at home

Ferrari looked a different outfit in Monza. It really wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve been doing simulator work for Monza specifically since March. Whatever they did, it worked, because they looked good for pole, even if they needed to use towing to help them along. That plan went to pieces when Alonso’s anti-roll bar broke just in time for Q3. He was therefore unable to post a competitive time in qualifying and could only manage tenth.

His big day was tainted by his successor elect breezing past not one but both of the Ferraris

Somehow his horrific luck throughout the weekend changed as soon as the lights went out, and he had a reliable run to the flag. Alonso made his race by a charge up to sixth in the early laps that put him in the hunt for a good result. Then came the fortune as Button, an already penalised Vettel and Webber pulled off the road. Thus, after a so-so drive from the Spaniard, it became a great result as he clawed back points he had lost to Button, Vettel, Webber and Räikkönen at Spa. Like Lewis, he did all that he needed to do.

I know I give credit to Massa whenever his season looked better but I have to mention his performance in Italy because, and I’ll whisper this quietly, I think he was the faster Ferrari in the race. I would have loved to see where he would have ended up if he weren’t told to pull to the side for his Highness Fernando to take the podium. I think he had a real shot at beating him but his fate was sealed when Fernando Alonso passed Sebastian Vettel for fourth, leaving no one between the two Ferraris. I hope Ferrari do take this result into account if they are still considering re-signing Felipe, but he was unlucky that his big day was tainted by his successor elect breezing past not one but both of the Ferraris with consummate ease at Monza.

A fight to the finish

Other notable drives include Mercedes; I have to admit I thought that they were off their rocker to stop for a second time, but they made it work and came away with sixth and seventh, which is a good result considering how their season is panning out. On the other end of the scale, I was quite disappointed with stand-in Jérôme D’Ambrosio who was somewhere in the gap between Toro Rosso and Caterham all weekend. I understand that he hasn’t got much experience in the car but I thought that he was capable of challenging in the midfield but he was 25 seconds behind the Toro Rossos at the end of the race.

Well, it is officially the run-in, now that we have said 'ciao' to Europe for the year. The development race becomes all that more interesting now that new parts have to make their way to long haul races. I think we are set up for a titanic battle between Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton who all love to race under the lights in Singapore.

I had backed Kimi Räikkönen to make a real fight for the championship but his inability to cash-in in Belgium and Italy has dealt his chances a huge blow. As for Mark Webber, he needs to find some form, and luck, fast, and Jenson Button appears to be too far behind now. Whoever takes the fight to Alonso, they need to start pretty damn soon!