It might not have been a nail-biting thriller from the victory point-of-view, but Sunday's 2011 Italian Grand Prix certainly delivered plenty of other thrills n' spills up and down the field – with the agonisingly close duel between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton one of the best scraps of the season.
With many having questioned whether he still deserves his place on the F1 grid, Schumacher's riposte – in a race he has won a record five times – was magnificent, although some of his defensive moves against Hamilton were admittedly a little dubious. And then there was Fernando Alonso's lightning start to the delight of the partisan tifosi
, Jenson Button's canny and aggressive performance to snatch the runner-up spoils for the second year in succession at Monza and Sebastian Vettel's peerless eighth victory of the campaign.
What we want to know is who impressed you
the most around the celebrated Autodromo. Below are a few suggestions, but if you don't agree – or even if you do – make sure to have your say in our comments forum by clicking on the link at the bottom of the article.
Here are who we reckon to be the most deserving candidates for 'Driver of the Day' in the 2011 Italian Grand Prix:
A class act in F1 2011, Vettel took another giant step towards successfully defending his hard-fought drivers' crown – and this time, he briefly had to fight for it, too. After finding himself out-manoeuvred at the start, the Red Bull Racing star went some way to silencing those critics who claim he cannot race wheel-to-wheel or battle his way past his rivals by gutsily holding his nerve and boldly overtaking Alonso with two wheels on the grass. And from there on in, he simply cleared off.
It will not have been lost on Hamilton that what he failed to do in more than ten frustrating laps spent tucked right up under Schumacher's rear wing, his McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Button was able to do almost immediately – and around the outside, too. The British star's move on Alonso for second later in the race was textbook. Vettel may be out-of-reach of anybody
right now, but over the last few races, 'JB' has very much been best-of-the-rest.
Given that his starts were so abject back at the beginning the campaign, Alonso has turned things around in style, and just as in front of his adoring home fans in Barcelona back in May, the Ferrari star rose admirably to the occasion at Monza, enthusiastically cheered on by the hordes of tifosi
thronging the circuit's grandstands. His car might have lacked the outright pace of the Red Bull and McLaren, but the Spaniard certainly extracted every last drop of performance out of it.
On occasion this season – as last – there have been glimpses of the old 'Schumi', the aggressive, feisty warrior, the man who would go into wheel-to-wheel combat and 98 per cent of the time emerge on top, and the other two per cent in the barriers. Monza was one such race. The German legend's defence against Hamilton early on – if at times straying a little over-the-edge in terms of etiquette – was sublime. In Italy, the real Michael Schumacher was back in the building – and it was good to see.
Something of a specialist at scything his way through the field from lowly grid positions in F1 2011, Monza marked the fourth time this year that Alguersuari has dropped out in the Q1 phase of qualifying and wound up in the points on race day – and seventh place was his best result yet. Inarguably aided by the first corner, Vitantonio Liuzzi-inspired chaos, that should nonetheless not detract from what was a fine drive indeed. Sébastien Buemi would do well to be worried.
Paul di Resta:
As he continues to impress during his rookie campaign of top flight competition, di Resta tallied his second-best result so far at Monza, running comfortably ahead of more experienced Force India F1 team-mate Adrian Sutil and keeping a calm head in the closing stages as Bruno Senna bore down on him behind. With every week that passes, the Scot's future in the sport appears increasingly bright.
Second start for Lotus Renault GP, first points finish – for Senna, Monza was an undisputed success story. The potential had already been there at Spa, of course, with that scintillating qualifying effort, but this time, it was the Brazilian's race pace and composure that truly caught the eye. Unfortunate to find himself caught up in the first corner mêlée
, the 27-year-old kept his head and fought his way back through to ninth at the chequered flag. Just one lap more, and he may have been eighth. He is already making a strong case for himself.