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Vettel win leaves challengers dazed

VETTEL-MONZAMONZA, Italy, September 8 – Sebastian Vettel extended his lead in the drivers’ world championship to more than 50 points and was then booed by the crowd after claiming a polished victory for Red Bull in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old German, series leader and defending triple world champion, survived a torrid start and gearbox problems as he dominated an intriguing 53-laps race.

Vettel came home 5.4 seconds clear of Fernando Alonso, as the Ferrari driver thrilled the tifosi with a battling chase in pursuit ahead of third-placed Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull and Brazilian Felipe Massa, fourth in the second Ferrari.

On a warm, if overcast, afternoon, Vettel proved both his sublime talent and fighting spirit — both Red Bull men were told to nurse their cars home — to reel off his sixth win of the season.

It was also the 32nd of his career, equaling Alonso’s total on the list of winners. It was Vettel’s third win at Monza — and greeted by loud booing from the tifosi who flooded across the circuit during a dramatic podium ceremony.

“It was a fantastic race, but you can hear the difference when you don’t win here in a red suit,” said Vettel, who claimed his maiden victory for the Italian-owned Toro Rosso team in the rain-hit 2008 race.

“But this means you have done well and beaten the red men! It was a great team effort today. The race was terrific for both of us as we had problems with the gearboxes at the end, but I was ok because I had a good cushion. It is a fantastic win.”

His brilliance, however, was matched on the day by that of Briton Lewis Hamilton, who started 12th, lost the use of his team radio and suffered a slow puncture, but he fought back twice to finish ninth.

“A nightmare weekend,” he said before conceding that he felt it was virtually impossible for him now to fight for the title.

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“Fantastic Seb! You’ve won the Italian Grand Prix again,” said Red Bull team chief Christian Horner. “A brilliant drive…”

Vettel replied with his characteristic scream and added: “Very good boys, very good race. Sorry for the lock up into the first corner, made the first stint a bit tricky.”

German Nico Hulkenberg, who had qualified a stunning third in his Ferrari-powered Sauber, came home an excellent fifth to endorse his claims as a possible successor to Massa next season.

“I can’t say I am not interested in this — it’s a ‘no brainer’ and we just have to wait and see what decision is taken,” he said.

Compatriot Nico Rosberg finished sixth in the leading Mercedes ahead of Red Bull-bound Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso and Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus.

Hamilton did his utmost to pass Grosjean on the final lap but in the end had to settle for ninth ahead of Briton Jenson Button of McLaren, who this weekend celebrated their 50th anniversary as an F1 team.

In the title race, with seven ‘flyaway’ races outside Europe remaining, Vettel leads with 222 points ahead of Alonso on 169 and Hamilton on 141.

Horner added: “The races we are meant to be weak at, we keep winning. It has been a fantastic weekend — to win at an historic track like Monza is amazing.”

Hamilton, who had reeled off four straight poles to mount a title challenge before coming to Italy, admitted: “It is a nightmare weekend for me. It’s a real shame, but these kinds of things happen. It has been a good year, we’re just going to keep pushing.”

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Alonso, who took photos of the crowd from the podium, said: “Second place is good and 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. Every time I am here this podium and this experience is more and more special.”

Webber, who collected his first trophy from an Italian race, said: “It was a good battle with Alonso, but a great team result.”

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