Fernando Alonso ingratiated himself further with the tifosi by winning first time out for Ferrari at the Italian Grand Prix, but the Spaniard was made to work for his spoils by the McLaren of reigning world champion Jenson Button.
Alonso had already ensured a capacity crowd at the former royal park at Monza by planting his F10 on pole, ahead of Button, but could do little about the Briton as the lights went out, with the higher downforce levels of the MP4-25 - and a tardy start by the Ferrari - allowing Button to scythe ahead on the run to the Variante del Rettifilio. Alonso did what he could to deter his rival, jinking right in an effort to block his progress, but Button braved it out and had the inside line.
The Spaniard's start also allowed team-mate Felipe Massa to take a look at second place, the pair going side-by-side through the chicane after the Brazilian benefited from tows from both front row men. That compromised Alonso's line into the left-hander and, after clipping the kerb, the nose of the Spaniard's car made solid contact with the rear of Button's. Although both men survived the brush, their mounts showed the scars of battle, with the McLaren losing part of its rear wing endplate and a strake from its diffuser, and the Ferrari having the tip of its nose removed.
Alonso, however, had to slot into second as Button eased away into the Variante della Roggia, while Massa, slowed after running wheel-to-wheel with his team-mate, now had his hands full with the second McLaren of Lewis Hamilton. The points leader coming into the race, Hamilton had been frustrated when his decision to run low downforce and without the McLaren's F-duct had resulted in only fifth on the grid, but had made a blinding start to jump past Mark Webber, and fancied his chances against Massa into the second chicane.
Unfortunately, the Briton wasn't quite far enough alongside to convince Massa to yield, but also failed to back out of the move. His right front wheel grazed the side of the Ferrari, but could not avoid heftier contact with its left rear, breaking the McLaren's track rod in the process. Apparently unaware of the damage, the 2008 world champion continued as far as the Lesmos but, after ploughing into the gravel when it proved unable to turn, his car was going no further.
With the second McLaren out, the top three were able to break away, with the expected threat from Red Bull failing to materialise at the start. With Webber slipping back to ninth after being too cautious into the first turn and then taking to the gravel at Roggia, and team-mate Sebastian Vettel also losing a place to sit in seventh, it was left to Nico Rosberg to take up the pursuit, but the German quickly fell several second behind and continued to lose ground. Robert Kubica and Nico Hulkenberg also got ahead of Vettel on the opening lap, with Michael Schumacher - up from twelfth after successfully navigating the midfield mix-up at the Rettifilio - slotting in between the two RB6s.
Although there was very little damage at the opening corner, Force India's Adrian Sutil saw his hope of points disappear later in the lap, an incident prompting the German to pit and get his mandatory tyre stop out of the way shortly afterwards. The tactic appeared to be paying off as Sutil carved his way through the backmarkers, but a second stop ultimately put paid to anything better than 16th.
There were only 22 runners at the end of the lap, as Kamui Kobayashi's gearbox problems prevented him from leaving the pits, and Bruno Senna added to the retirements a dozen laps later after pulling off, but there was very little action up front once the race settled down. Button spent a lot of his time with one eye on the mirrors, attempting to determine how much of a gap he had over Alonso as the differently set-up McLaren proved good through the turns but slower on the straights.
Behind them, only Webber's turn one pass on a stubborn Michael Schumacher on lap six shuffled the early order, but the Australian was on the move again 13 laps later, when he sailed past Red Bull team-mate Vettel. The German's pace took a sudden drop, and left Vettel reporting a suspected engine problem, but a few tweaks advised from the pit-wall soon had the German back up to speed, albeit at the cost of valuable ground.