Sebastian Vettel was brilliant at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix driving Toro Rosso STR3 in which he claimed his first pole position and first victory in his career. It was also first and only victory for Toro Rosso, year before Red Bull claimed their first victory in 2009 Chinese GP when Vettel and Webber sealed 1-2 victory for the team from Milton Keynes.
Qualifying was held in wet conditions, but Toro Rosso had a great car which was very good on braking which is extremely important on the track like Monza.
Toro Rosso STR3 was faster than Red Bull in the second half of 2008 F1 season because Red Bull focused their development on next year’s car and Ferrari engine helped them go very fast on the straights.
Vettel qualified on pole position (1:37.555), 0.076 seconds ahead of Heikki Kovalainen in a McLaren, half a second ahead of Webber in the Red Bull and nine tenths ahead of team mate Sebastien Bourdais in the Toro Rosso. Raikkonen and Hamilton chose wrong tyres and they started only 14th and 15th.
The race started under the safety car due to a lot of water on the track, but was restarted on the third lap. Vettel quickly built an advantage over Kovalainen and looked pretty much unstoppable.
Toro Rosso decided to use a low downforce settings even though the conditions were very slippery so they were very quick on the straights.
Vettel led for 49 from 53 laps and won convincingly ahead of Kovalainen in the McLaren (+12,512 s) and Kubica in the BMW Sauber (+20,471 s).
Championship contenders Massa and Hamilton ended up only 6th and 7th respectively and Hamilton had only one point advantage after Monza, four races before the end of the season.
Vettel became the youngest F1 race winner – he was 21 years and 74 days old, beating Alonso’s record from 2003 Hungarian GP for 317 days. Vettel also became the youngest podium finisher and the youngest driver to win a pole position.
2008 Italian GP is still only victory for Toro Rosso and Vettel now has 53 victories, 57 pole positions and 38 fastest laps. Interestingly, in those 53 races when he won, he started from the front row 47 times and six times from third place.