As Formula One gears up for the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, join us as we rewind back to the 2008 Italian GP weekend at Monza, which saw Sebastian Vettel at his early best in torrential conditions.
This race also marked what was the first and only win for Toro Rosso following their rebrand to Alpha Tauri this season as Vettel produced a dominant wet masterclass in contrast to the lethargic four-time world champion of now.
Rain affected every practice session with Force India’s Adrian Sutil topping FP1 ahead of Honda’s Reubens Barrichello in a session which saw both McLaren and Sauber cars fail to set a time, alongside Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima and Red Bull’s Mark Webber before the session was abandoned four minutes early due to track conditions after nobody had ventured out in the preceding ten minutes prior to the stoppage.
FP2 meanwhile saw conditions improve with dry running possible, which Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took full advantage of with a session topping time of 1m 23.861 ahead of Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica as everyone managed to post a representative lap time.
Rain however returned for FP3 with some improving on their FP1 time in similar conditions unlike others as Toyota’s Timo Glock topped the session ahead of Vettel by 0.665 seconds with a 1m 35.464, although everyone did head out in this session with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton struggling as he finished 10.861s off the pace after running only eight laps.
Rain continued to stick around for Qualifying which saw Sutil become the first Q1 casualty after finishing as the slowest driver with a 1m 37.417 behind Jenson Button, Nakajima, Nelson Piquet Junior and Barrichello.
Lewis Hamilton suffered his first-ever Q2 exit after McLaren messed up his strategy by sending him out on standard wet tyres, only for rain to intensify before he could switch to extreme wets, leaving the Brit 15th on the grid just behind fellow title rival, Raikkonen who also finished behind David Coulthard, Giancarlo Fisichella and Kubica.
Vettel meanwhile dominated Q2 and Q3 to eventually take pole with a 1m 37.555 which was 0.076s quicker than McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen who lined up alongside Vettel on the front row, as the German became the youngest-ever pole sitter in F1 history.
The rest of the top ten was made up of; Webber, Sebastien Bourdais, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso, Glock and Heidfeld.
Race day saw drivers greeted with torrential rain which meant that the race began under the safety car with Button and Nakajima starting from the pit lane after Honda and Williams opted to make respective changes to both cars, although Bourdais would soon drop to last position after stalling on the grid which left him a lap down when he re-joined the race.
The safety car pulled into the pits at the end of the second lap with Vettel quickly retaining his lead and had built a gap of over six seconds to Kovalainen by lap eight, whilst Hamilton was on a charge as he worked his way up to 12th and set about hunting Raikkonen down, only to get his braking wrong into Variante della Roggia and ran wide to leave him behind Raikkonen.
Fisichella meanwhile made contact with Coulthard which broke his front wing and led to his retirement at Parabolica on lap 12 after spinning into the gravel trap.
A lap earlier, Hamilton had finally cleared Raikkonen with a late move into Curve di Lesmo and as conditions improved, everyone switched from full wet tyres to the intermediate compound by lap 36, with Vettel yet to relinquish the lead whilst Weber spun on the exit of Variante Ascari which allowed several drivers including Massa and Hamilton through.
Vettel eventually took the checkered flag to clinch his maiden victory at what was Toro Rosso’s home Grand Prix ahead of Kovalainen who finished 12.512s behind in second as Kubica rounded out the podium placings, whilst Alonso, Heidfeld, Massa, Hamilton and Webber completed the points paying positions.
Massa consequently reduced Hamilton’s lead in the championship from two points to just one point as the title fight between the pair went all the way to Interlagos with Hamilton eventually winning that season’s title at the absolute death.