Sebastian Vettel wins Italian GP ahead of Fernando Alonso

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Italian GP highlights: Sebastian Vettel wins convincingly at Monza

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel beat title rival Fernando Alonso with a dominant performance in the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel's sixth win of the year extended his lead over his Ferrari rival to 53 points, with 175 available in the remaining seven races.

Red Bull's Mark Webber beat Ferrari's Felipe Massa to the final podium place.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton fought up to ninth after dropping almost to the back when a puncture forced him to make an extra stop compared to his rivals.

Alonso "extremely happy" with second

The Englishman enlivened the final few laps by passing Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and both McLarens to haul himself up into the points.

But Hamilton is now 81 points behind Vettel in the championship, which has effectively devolved down to a straight fight between the German and Alonso.

"It was a fantastic race but you can hear the difference when you don't win here in a red suit," said Vettel on the podium, in response to booing from the Ferrari fans. "But it means you have done well and beaten the red men but it was a great team effort today.

"The race was terrific for both of us [Vettel and Webber]. We had problems with the gearboxes at the end, but I was OK because I had a good cushion."

Vettel now appears in total control of the season, just as he was of this race.

Starting from pole position, the world champion damaged his right-front tyre with a flat spot when fending off a challenge from Massa into the first corner but still managed to eke out an advantage in the opening laps.

Alonso, who started fifth, moved up at the start to fourth past Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg, who had qualified an excellent third, and then brilliantly passed Webber for third around the outside of the second chicane on lap three.

The Spaniard then passed Massa into the first chicane on lap eight but initially could do nothing about Vettel, who extended his lead by about half a second over each of the next few laps.

Vettel was 6.6 seconds in front by lap 18, when Alonso started to come back at him, reducing the gap to 5.3secs over the next four laps.

Red Bull brought Vettel in on lap 23 but Ferrari decided to keep Alonso out for another four laps, hoping the fresher tyres might pay dividends later in the race.

But the decision cost Alonso in two significant ways.

Firstly, it meant he was 10 seconds behind Vettel when he emerged from his stop on lap 27, a margin Vettel enlarged by a couple of 10ths of a second a lap each time around before easing off in the closing laps to win by 5.4 seconds.

Additionally, it meant Alonso was left having to fend off Webber, who had been six seconds behind his rival - and also behind Massa - when he stopped on lap 23 but jumped the Brazilian at his stop and was less than a second behind Alonso when the lead Ferrari emerged from its stop.

Alonso said: "We had to take some risks - and we did. We are second in the championship and we have to try some things. It's OK.

"Second place is good, to have this podium ceremony which is the most spectacular podium of the year. Hopefully we'll come back next year and have first place."

Hampered by a front wing damaged when Alonso passed him earlier in the race and the need to protect a damaged gearbox which meant he had to short-shift between second and third gear, Webber was unable to pass his rival.

Italian GP: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel says F1 title not won yet

Massa, fighting to save his job at Ferrari, kept in touch with the two cars in front but finished three seconds behind Webber.

Hulkenberg drove an excellent race to fifth, giving Sauber by far their best result of the year and fending off Nico Rosberg's Mercedes for the last 10 laps.

Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo, whose move to Red Bull next year to replace the departing Webber was confirmed earlier in the week, was seventh, ahead of Lotus's Romain Grosjean.

The McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez looked on course to take the final points in ninth and 10th places on the weekend the team celebrated their 50th anniversary.

But both were demoted by the charging Hamilton in the closing laps and Perez was beaten to 11th by Raikkonen, who was just 0.3secs behind Button's 10th place as they crossed the line.

Raikkonen was hampered by a problem with his Kers power-boost system and Hamilton passed him around the outside of Curva Grande on lap 49 after forcing the Finn into a slight error on the way into the first chicane before going on to dispatch both McLarens.