AFP - Fernando Alonso kept alive his challenge for the drivers' world championship with a near-flawless drive to an emotional and exciting victory in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, his maiden race on home soil for Ferrari.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, who had said he need a victory to maintain his bid for a third world title in his first season with the Italian 'scarlet scuderia', delivered a stirring performance to the delight of a notably sparse crowd in the grandstands of the old Autodromo Nazionale.
Alonso lost a place after starting from his 19th pole position, but fought back and aided by a dazzling Ferrari pit-stop was able to hold on to win ahead of second-placed defending champion Jenson Button of McLaren and Felipe Massa, in the second Ferrari.
It was his third win this season and the 24th victory of his career and, unlike his triumph in Germany in July, was this time produced without the aid of any team orders at Ferrari.
He now has 166 points and is back within reach of the championship leaders who, once again, shuffled their positions with sixth-placed Mark Webber taking over on top from Lewis Hamilton who crashed out in his McLaren on the opening lap.
Webber is on 187 points, five clear of luckless Hamilton with five races to go.
Amazingly, German Sebastian Vettel finished fourth after surviving early engine problems and diving in for an extraordinary 3.3 seconds pit-stop on the final lap.
Fellow-German Nico Rosberg finished fifth in the second Mercedes, ahead of Webber, German Nico Hulkenberg of Williams and Pole Robert Kubica of Renault who was eighth.
Seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, 41, gave his fans something to cheer after finishing ninth in the second Mercedes and his former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello was 10th for Williams.