Sebastian Vettel drove to a controlled Italian Grand Prix win ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was pressured all the way to the chequered flag by third-placed Mark Webber. The Infiniti Red Bull Racing duo even managed to shrug off late race gearbox niggles to take the team’s 40th victory with a double podium finish.
Starting from pole position Seb held his lead into the first chicane despite a determined charge from Mark, who started alongside his team-mate on the front row.
"I just managed to make turn one," said Sebastian. "I locked the front right and it just didn't seem to come back. I had a big flat spot, which I felt straight away and I wasn't sure if the tyre would survive, but fortunately I managed to make it round and have a strong first stint. I pushed straight away to get a bit of a gap, in case we had to stop early and change to a two-stop strategy."
Seb's defence of his lead meant that Mark was forced to back off and that allowed Ferrari's Felipe Massa to take second place with a move around the outside on the way into the first corner.
Behind, Alonso had moved up from fifth on the grid to fourth and Mark was soon under pressure from the Spaniard. Mark fought hard to resist but Alonso eventually a found a way past with a brave move on the run to the second chicane.
On lap eight Alonso breezed past his team-mate and that cemented the order until the field began to filter into the pit lane for their first, and for many, only pit stops.
Seb and Mark both switched from medium to hard tyres on lap 23, the team impressively managing get both cars out again within seconds of each other, and the stops allowed Alonso to briefly lead. The Ferrari driver couldn't find the pace necessary to mount a challenge, however, and when he made his only stop on lap 27, Sebastian swept back into the lead with a 10-second cushion in hand.
Mark's stop worked out well. Until then he had been stuck behind Massa but when released his better pace meant that when the Brazilian pitted Mark was able to claim third spot, muscling past Massa as the Ferrari driver rejoined from the pit lane.
Mark then chased down Alonso and in the last third of the race narrowed the gap to just half a second.
On the pit wall, however, the team was concerned about the gearboxes of the duo's RB9s and soon the order came to short shift as a safety measure. The pace dropped marginally but both were still able to power to the finish line.
"It's fantastic to win this event again," said Sebastian of his third career victory at Monza. "We had a gearbox issue and I had to short shift, which meant we dropped some time in the straights – but I tried to make it up in the corners."
Mark, meanwhile, was delighted with third, his best result at a circuit that has been unkind to him in the past.
"It's a great place and it's very special to finish on the podium," he said. "It's not the circuit where I've had the best results in the past, so it's a bit of a personal best for me in qualifying and the race. I felt better on the soft tyres today; I had a good battle with Fernando, fair play to him on that, and then afterwards I settled in to getting my head down and getting on with the race. "We got Felipe on the stop, which was great. I was happy with my in-lap, the pit stop was great and then my out-lap was strong, so we cleared him reasonably comfortably," he added. "We had to nurse the gearbox a bit at the end, but overall it was a good result."
Team Principal Christian Horner later hailed the teamwork that led to the double podium at a circuit that has been something of an Achilles heel for the team in the past.
"A fantastic way to achieve our 40th victory and Sebastian's 32nd," he said. "To win and finish third in Monza, which is one of the most historic events, is testimony to our strong team work today. It's been a fantastic effort behind the scenes in preparation for this event. We had some issues that we had to manage during the race and the pit stops in particular were great and enabled Mark to get ahead of Felipe Massa. It's very impressive how the whole team have all contributed to this fantastic result."
Seb's win leaves him with 222 points, 53 clear of Alonso in the Drivers' Championship battle. The team now has 352 Constructors' Championship points, with Ferrari second on 248 and Mercedes in third with 245.
The championship now moves on to Singapore, a race Seb believes will be a stern test.
"The season is going well and we're pushing hard, but we take each race as it comes," he said. "We're looking forward to Singapore next, which I want to finish; I think it's the toughest race we have all year."