Sebastian Vettel became the youngest driver to win a Formula One race Sunday when the 21-year-old German captured the Italian Grand Prix on a wet Monza course that made for difficult driving.

Vettel was on the pole and edged Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren by 12.5 seconds to give Torro Rosso its first victory.

"For sure the best day of my life," Vettel said. "These pictures, these emotions I will never forget."

Fernando Alonso, a two-time world champion, had been the youngest winner at 22 when he won he took the 2003 Hungarian GP.

Lewis Hamilton worked his way up from 15th on the grid to finish seventh, maintaining his lead in the overall standings. Felipe Massa of Ferrari was sixth and trails the McLaren driver by one point with four races left.

Vettel, also the youngest driver to start from pole, pumped his fists on the podium before the champagne sprayed in all directions.

"Who would have thought about that at the beginning of the season?" he said, referring to Toro Rosso's chances. "We can be proud of ourselves, celebrating a victory. What a weekend."

BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica was third, followed by Alonso of Renault and Nick Heidfeld of BMW-Sauber.

This was the wettest race at Monza in 27 years. The safety car was brought out for the start with the steady drizzle failing to let up and all cars using extreme wet tires to navigate the track.

Vettel benefited at the start thanks to a clear track and none of the spray and poor visibility facing the rest of the field.

"Being first, having no visibility problems at all I think was the key," said Vettel, who will replace David Coulthard at sister team Red Bull next season. "I could make a gap to Heikki straight away."

Kovalainen said a brake problem and his tires compromised his chance at challenging Vettel early on.

"It was not possible to win today," the Finnish driver said. "I was just trying to push and go faster. I think it was the maximum we could do today."

Vettel's teammate Sebastien Bourdais was a lap behind to start after his car stalled from fourth on the grid.

Hamilton eventually got past defending F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and had continued to overtake his rivals, moving up to eighth by the 17th lap.

Massa, who had started sixth, won a duel with Nico Rosberg to move up into fourth before dropping back again.

Hamilton pitted later than many rivals and was trailing only Vettel by the time he stopped to refuel. Raikkonen, who trails Hamilton by 21 points, was stuck behind the traffic in 10th by his first stop as the drizzle began to let up.

If not for an extra pit stop to get off the extreme wet tires, Hamilton felt he could have finished much higher.

"I showed I'm quickest in the wet and showed that I have great pace," the 23-year-old Briton said. "I think the win was possible today considering the position we were in. If we had chosen to be on the intermediate tire on the first stop ... we would have been further up,"

The persistent rain made it difficult to judge conditions and favored those drivers who had taken on more fuel in qualifying.

"It got more tricky in the middle of the race when there was no standing water anymore," Vettel said. "People went left and right looking for water to cool down the tires. It was very slippery."

Kubica, who had started 11th, shaved four points off of Hamilton's lead to sit 14 back in third.

"The start of the race was very difficult," he said. "I overtook Nick without seeing him."

Hamilton pushed Mark Webber out down the straightaway in the closing stages with the cars touching wheels to force the Red Bull driver off the track. Webber finished eighth for the final point.

Only Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella retired despite the slippery conditions.

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