MONZA, Italy (AP) — Sebastian Vettel's rivals have all but conceded the Formula One title after the German recorded his sixth victory of the season with a resilient performance to win the Italian Grand Prix.
While Vettel's victory at the Belgian GP two weeks ago was clinical, Sunday he was forced to overcome a difficult start from the pole position and gearbox trouble to beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
"The heartbeat was a bit higher in the car and also the pit wall, because we didn't know what was going on," Vettel said about the gearbox problem. "I tried to pace myself a little bit more and control the gaps."
Before the race, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali gave Alonso two races — the next is Singapore in two weeks' time — to close the gap before the team switches its focus to developing next year's car.
Alonso is 53 points behind Vettel with seven races to go and the Spaniard already sounds like he's given up. Lewis Hamilton is 81 points back in third with only 175 available.
"We didn't close the gap in the championship, which is obviously the goal," Alonso said. "We don't have enough races and we don't have the speed now to win consecutive races."
Nevertheless, Alonso drove well from fifth on the grid.
"It's a fantastic feeling here in Monza. The fourth year I have driven for Ferrari, the fourth time on the podium," he said. "Every year it's something amazing, something unique."
Vettel locked his tires on the first turn as the Ferrari of Felipe Massa pressured him from behind, but after that the German consolidated his advantage to beat Alonso by 5.4 seconds and Webber by 6.3.
"This is the best podium of the season, I'm very proud," Vettel said. "We had problems with the gearboxes at the end, but I was OK because I had a good cushion."
Monza is the home race for Ferrari fans and there were loud jeers when Vettel was on the podium.
"You can hear the difference when you don't win here in a red suit but it means you have done well and beaten the red men (of Ferrari)," Vettel said. "The more booing we get the better we've done today. I don't blame the people to be honest, it's in their genes. They love Ferrari."
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