BOTH Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber left Italy on Sunday night with their F1 world championship campaigns in ruin after both failed to finish at Monza.
Lewis Hamilton’s dominant victory saw him leap from fifth to second in the driver’s championship standings, but DNFs for Vettel, Webber, and McLaren’s Jenson Button have given Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso some breathing room at the top of the standings after last weekend’s Belgian nightmare for the Spaniard.
It was an action packed race for both drivers, though little of it was of a positive nature. Webber’s disappointing qualifying form continued as he failed to make the final qualifying session, and had to start 11th, while team-mate Vettel could only manage fifth as both cars struggled for straight-line pace - essential around the Monza circuit.
Webber made a decent start though, and was in the battle for the points. Vettel too was making his way up the field, passing Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa for third.
Controversy reared it’s ugly head when Alonso came up to pass the German on lap 26. In almost a carbon copy of last year’s race, with the roles reversed, Alonso had to take to the grass around the flat-out Curva Grande.
But unlike last year, Vettel was handed a drive-through penalty for forcing Alonso off the track, dropping him back down the field to seventh.
Things went from bad to worse for Vettel as he was told to stop the car immediately following an alternator failure with six laps to go.
Webber benefitted from Vettel’s retirement and was running sixth, but a spin flat-spotted his tyres badly and he too was forced into retirement shortly before the end.
“I found out I had a problem roughly 300 metres before I stopped the car,” said Vettel after the race. “It was an alternator problem, similar to the one we had on Saturday morning.
“The drive-through incident was decided and happened, so there’s not so much to say about that. We lost some points today; but we did the best we could – you could see that our pace was not as strong as the leaders.
“It had been a good race for us given the lack of pace. There are not so many long straights at the next couple of circuits, so we can challenge there.”
An equally disappointed Webber added: “I had no rear tyres left and I was pushing reasonably hard. Nico Rosberg was coming on his fresh tyres, so I had to keep pushing and staying on it.
“The rear tyres were completely finished, so I dropped it out of the Ascari chicane. The tyres were so heavily flat-spotted, I was worried about damaging the car. I couldn’t see the track, so we decided to retire.”
Vettel is 39 points behind Alonso, and Webber 47 back.