Italian GP 2011: as it happened

12.45pm Good afternoon and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the Italian Grand Prix 2011.

It is hot at the Monza track this afternoon and the big question is how the gear ratios of the front three or four cars will affect their straightline speed at this, the quickest of all the current venues.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, in second and third behind Seb Vettel in the Red Bull, will be hoping that their longer seventh gear can help them attack the dominant German.

12.50pm Mark Webber was fourth fastest in yesterday’s qualifying shootout, but he has a longer seventh gear than his team mate, and so could be in contention here. The use of the DRS will be key, too, today.

12.55pm And the grid is being cleared now at this historic track, which has more spirit and atmosphere than all the post-2000 racetracks put together.

12.56pm Jenson Button seemed ‘perky’ on the grid, according to the BBC’s Martin Brundle. Aside from the fact that Macca seem to have an improved package this weekend, he may well be fancying a good old-fashioned slipstreamer today. 1970, anyone?

12.57pm Nico Rosberg and Bruno Senna, starting ninth and tenth respectively, are the only of the top ten on the medium compound. Perez and Kobayashi join them in that choice further down the field.

12.58pm And they are off on the parade lap. Those soft tyres are going to cook quickly in this heat – air temp 29C. The fans are out in force – a wonderful show of support for Ferrari in particular.

1pm And they’re off! A long run down to the first corner and it seems that Alonso has had a good one but Button has had a shocker! Into the chicane it’s Alonso from Vettel and Hamilton, then Schumacher! But there’s been a crash. Liuzzi has lost it and slammed into a Renault and Nico Rosberg!

Lap 1 After that carnage the Safety Car is out. Alonso leads to the cheers of the tifosi! Vettel is second followed by Hamilton and Schumacher.

Lap 2 What a start that was from the Spaniard and brave, oh so brave, as the gap funnelled between him on the right, Hamilton in the middle, and Vettel on the left hand side. Great driving from all of them, really, could have been very nasty. As could Liuzzi’s accident. He lost it before the braking zone and came sideways into the chicane. The unfortunate Renault was Petrov.

Lap 3 Safety Car in this lap.

Lap 4 Alonso bolts, and Vettel is with him, but Hamilton is sleeping…and Schumacher is past into the chicane. Vettel threatening into the Lesmos, but Alonso rebuffs him! Massa is fifth with Webber sixth. Button is seventh with Maldonado (!) eighth.

Lap 5 Alonso defensive along the straight…and Webber and Massa have come together! Massa pointing the wrong way but meanwhile Vettel is on the grass as he goes round the outside of Alonso….wow that was close! Vettel past!

Lap 6 Webber is in the wall after that contact with Massa and out! Yellow flags…and now Schumacher and Hamilton are sooo close to the back of Alonso for second! Breathless action in the early stages of this race.

Lap 7 The Mercedes is quicker than the McLaren in a straight line, meaning Hamilton cannot find a way past Schumacher. It has calmed down a bit. It transpired that Webber went off at the Parabolica as the wing was trapped under the car.

Lap 8 Hamilton is looking ragged as he chases Schumacher. David Coulthard says that he reckons the Merc has a 12kph advantage over the McLaren. Hamilton can do nothing, despite being in the slipstream of the German. “Our end of straight speed looks ok – Schumacher’s just very high,” McLaren helpfully tell Lewis.

Lap 9 The Englishman is closer this lap but he cannot get on terms down the main straight! Frustrating, this, for Hamilton.

Lap 10 They are at it like cat and dog. Does Hamilton have an issue with his KERS?

Lap 11 We have lost Adrian Sutil.

Lap 12 Hamilton closer than ever down the back straight last time round, but no way past. Meanwhile, Vettel and Alonso have swanned off into the distance.

Lap 13 Hamilton past down to Turn One! But Schumacher will get him back straight away! And he does. Button closes up now. Hamilton could not close out the move there.

Lap 14 Button has zoomed right up to the back of that battle. Massa gets told he can catch them all, as they are a second a lap slower than he is.

Lap 15 The order is Vettel, Alonso, Schumacher, Hamilton, Button, Massa, Maldonado.

Lap 16 Hamilton goes in the grass round the Curva Grande! Lewis loses out to Button as they continue! An unceremonious chop from the German on the Englishman. And now Button is past Schumacher into the chicane! A flurry of activity. Schumacher pits. Dirty driving from him?

Lap 17 That was an incredible battle and yet again Hamilton loses out in man to man combat.

Lap 18 Button pits.

Perez is eighth, followed by Alguersuari, Kobayashi, Senna and Kovalainen. Di Resta is 13th.

Lap 19 Coulthard opines that Schumacher’s chop was on the “limit of sporting etiquette”. Hamilton pits and emerges…behind Schumacher! Hamilton will be fuming. Button has jumped the German.

Lap 20 Second-placed Alonso pits. Schumacher is under pressure again from Hamilton…they are wheel to wheel again! Nothing doing. Race leader Vettel pits. Seamless as usual from the Red Bull outfit.

Lap 21 “One move!” protests Hamilton. He is referring to another mini-chop from his German nemesis into the second chicane last time round.

Lap 22 Hamilton side by side with Schumacher down the straight! But the Merc’s straightline advantage tells again. Hamilton banging, teeth-gratingly, against the rev limiter on a regular basis now.

Lap 23 Out front, Vettel sets a fastest lap. It really is quite dull, how good he is.

Lap 24 Ross Brawn comes over the radio to tell Schumacher to drive fairly. We’ve lost a Sauber and I think it’s Kobayashi. Looked mechanical.

Lap 25 It has been so frenetic today and this Schumacher-Hamilton battle is riveting. But Lewis is losing around a second per lap in so doing.

Lap 26 Button is only a second behind Alonso, which looks to be the next significant fight.

Lap 27 Brawn again on the radio, asking his man to leave room for Hamilton. Button is on Alonso now.

Lap 28 Finally, Hamilton is through at Ascari! Looked as though Schumacher accepted the inevitable eventually. All eyes are now on what Button can do to Alonso. They are 13 seconds behind race leader Vettel.

Lap 29 Button looks at Alonso into the second chicane. A cigarette paper between the two at the moment for second place.

Lap 30 The order is Vettel, Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Schumacher, Massa, Perez, di Resta, Alguersuari, Buemi, Maldonado, Senna, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Glock, Trulli.

Lap 31 But now Senna has taken Maldonado. And Alguersuari is threatening di Resta…yes, he’s past too.

Lap 32 It has gone a bit yawn now. By 2011 standards, that is. Vettel progresses onwards – he could stop for a ristretto if he wanted to.

Lap 33 Button seems to have accepted, to the further detriment of the spectacle, that he cannot pass the Ferrari of Alonso. Sigh.

Lap 34 Said Button pits at the same time as the Williams of Barrichello, which got in his way a bit, it has to be said. Alonso will be happy with this snippet of information.

Lap 35 Alonso now pits as Ferrari tell Ted Kravitz that they are worried about the podium. Actually, I can see why. As they emerge, Button is glued to the gearbox of the Spaniard. We have lost Perez into the bargain. Not a good weekend for the Sauber team. We are now hearing it was a gearbox issue, much the same as is expected to have accounted for his team mate’s afternoon.

Lap 36 Both combatants are on the harder tyre…and Button is past into the Curva Grande! It seems to have been the tyre that made the difference there. Will Hamilton catch Alonso before the end? It may be possible.

Lap 37 Schumacher is yet to pit for the harder tyre.

Lap 38 But now he does. Hamilton is long gone though. Vettel leads Button by more than 15 seconds and barring an unfortunate incident will win this race.

Lap 39 Alonso has not given up on second by any means. The harder tyres are perhaps suiting him better now. Button has conspicuously failed to drop his pursuer.

Lap 40 The order is Vettel, Button, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Schumacher, Alguersuari, Buemi, Senna, di Resta, Maldonado, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Trulli.

Lap 41 Button sets a quick lap. It’s more peacocking than anything of note.

Lap 42 Senna pits and comes out into 10th. It has been an attritional afternoon – only 16 runners remain. Massa pits and comes out into sixth. He could yet threaten Schumacher for fifth.

Lap 43 This looks like it will peter out to the end of the race. Not a lot going on. It is fervently to be wished that somebody else comes up with a quick car next year because Vettel’s dominance has ceased to be amusing. It is, however, still laudable.

Lap 44 Hamilton can smell Ferrari blood. He is six seconds behind Alonso. Nine laps to go.

Lap 45 Senna on Buemi now for ninth…And the Brazilian is mighty close to the Swiss through the first Lesmo. No cigar as yet but he does look a bit quicker…can he make it, cleanly? Hamilton is catching Alonso.

Lap 46 Senna gets a bit loose through Ascari. He won’t do it like that. The team tell him that he can have di Resta too.

Lap 47 Hamilton probably won’t have enough time to get Alonso – he’s not that much quicker.

Lap 48 And Senna is past Buemi at the first chicane. Quite easy, in the end.

Lap 49 Hamilton sets a fastest lap as a sign to Alonso. He may be on the Spaniard in the last lap if he’s lucky.

Lap 50 The Englishman can see the Spaniard in the distance now. There’s a bit of traffic too, which will have held Alonso up slightly.

Lap 51 Hamilton gets past Buemi, who he was lapping, with lots of unnecessary locking up. That won’t help his pursuit of the Ferrari.

Lap 52 The gap between the two is just over a second. They bomb over the line for the final lap.

Lap 53 Hamilton is so close!

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE ITALIAN GRAND PRIX

No luck for Hamilton. Button is second, Alonso third, Hamilton fourth, Schumacher fifth, Massa sixth, Alguersuari an excellent seventh, di Resta eighth, Senna ninth and Buemi tenth.

Vettel did very well to fight for this one in the early stages and thereafter it was a foregone conclusion. Button did well to take second and his move on Schumacher was the key factor there. Alonso outperformed the car as usual today, and will be none too dissatisfied with third place.

Hamilton will be frustrated with fourth, one that was almost definitely due to his inability to get past Schumacher in the early stages. He may take consolation from the fact that in a race full of potential hazards, he did actually finish the race. Schumacher, despite some questionable movement, was a competent fifth.

That’s all from me, thanks for following.