Max Verstappen patiently stalked pole-sitter Carlos Sainz at Monza, then pounced on lap 15, overtaking Sainz and then running away to win in front of a sea of rabid Ferrari fans. Verstappen’s win set the record with his tenth win in a row – and 12th win of the season – as the Dutch master vaulted closer to clinching the world championship.
Sergio Perez made it a Red Bull one-two, finishing second, seven seconds behind Verstappen. Sainz joined the two on the podium, while Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc settled for fourth after trying desperately to take the position away from his teammate. Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton came home fifth and sixth, respectively, despite both serving five-second penalties for track infractions. Williams’ Alex Albon completed a strong weekend, turning a sixth-place qualifying effort into a seventh-place race finish, while McLaren’s Lando Norris took eight. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished ninth, while Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas scored his first points since Canada with a 10th.
Verstappen now leads Perez 364 to 219 in the drivers standings, with Alonso sitting in third, just six points up on Hamilton for third 170-164.
In the constructor standings, Red Bull’s 43 points extended their lead to a remarkable 583 to 273 advantage over Mercedes. Ferrari is third with 228, eleven points ahead of Aston Martin in fourth.
After an aborted start caused by Yuki Tsunoda’s engine failure on the formation lap, and the ensuing 23-minute delay, Sainz held serve, holding off Verstappen as the entire field made it through turn one cleanly. Sainz opened up a one-second lead by lap two, but Verstappen remained close and appeared to be patiently waiting for the right time to pounce for the lead. Leclerc hovered right on Verstappen’s tail as the three put significant distance to the rest of the field.
Verstappen’s first attempt for the lead came on lap six on the pit straight, but Sainz held firm, doing what few have done before, forcing Verstappen to back off.
Verstappen was encouraged by reports, from his crew and his own eyes, that Sainz was using up his rear tires considerably. But Sainz was defending masterfully, positioning his car deftly to keep enough distance, preventing Verstappen from fully utilizing the power of his DFS.
On lap 15, Verstappen’s pressure forced Sainz to lock up his brakes into turn one, and Verstappen ambushed him seconds later, winning a drag race for the lead. As expected, Verstappen began to pull away, leaving Ferrari to consider if they had any strategy to counteract Verstappen’s speed.
Perez finally overtook Russell on lap 16, and the Red Bull set sail on the two Ferrari’s ahead and a possible podium, which would be quite an accomplishment considering Perez crashed in Friday’s practice.
Verstappen pitted for hard tires on lap 21, followed by Leclerc for the same tires, handing the lead to Perez. Leclerc emerged just behind Sainz in seventh, while Verstappen was sixth, behind five cars that had yet to pit.
Verstappen resumed the lead by passing Hamilton on lap 25 and checked out again, with his 10th consecutive win seeming to be an inevitability.
Hamilton made his pit stop on lap 28 for medium tires, and began his chase on the cars in front on hard tires, particularly the McLarens of Norris and Piastri, and Alex Albon’s Williams.
Verstappen’s lead was six seconds by lap 31, while his teammate desperately tried to get by Leclerc, who was trying desperately to keep him at bay. Perez finally gained the position for third on lap 32, and targeted Sainz for second, over two seconds ahead.
With Verstappen running away for the eventual win, positions 6-10 were much more competitive.
Hamilton and his medium tires came to life, and he was badgering Piastri for eight. The two made hard contact in Turn 1 on lap 42, leaving Piastri with front wing damage, while Hamilton took the position. Stewards investigated the incident, and Hamilton was penalized five seconds for causing the collision, meaning both Mercedes had five-second penalties, as Russell faced an earlier penalty for leaving the track to gain an advantage.
Perez was nearing DRS range on Sainz and trailed by just over a second on lap 39, looking to play his role in a Red Bull 1-2 finish. Perez still had to watch his back, as Leclerc was less than a second behind. Perez complained of Sainz moving around under braking. But Perez finally made the pass stick on lap 46, leaving the two Ferraris to decide who would get the last spot on the podium. The two nearly made contact, battling for third on lap 47.
Sainz communicated on the radio, saying “Guys, let’s bring this home,” a clear plea to tell Leclerc to back off. Moments later, Leclerc had a huge lockup trying one last desperate pass attempt, and nearly lost control.
Verstappen took the checkered flag over seven seconds ahead of Perez. Sainz let out a deep sigh of relief as he crossed the line in third, while Leclerc took a disappointing fourth.
How about that late battle between the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc? That was easily the most intense racing of the day at Monza. With Verstappen and Perez well ahead in second and third, it was good to see a battle for meaningful position between the iconic cars of the iconic team, at their home track no less. And the fact that they nearly made contact and locked up their brakes only added to the excitement and intrigue.
Sainz did something few, if any, drivers have been able to do: hold off Verstappen for a significant amount of laps. Sainz delayed the inevitable longer than anyone thought possible, denying Verstappen the lead for a full 15 laps. That included a solid start from Sainz, who was off the line knowing that Verstappen wanted to get by as soon as possible.
How about that battle between the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc? Goodness, I thought somebody might die as a result, either one or both of the drivers – or someone in the Ferrari pit box, from a heart attack. Sainz was driving like a man who wanted to be on the podium at Ferrari’s home track at all costs. Leclerc, on the other hand, was driving both like a madman with nothing to lose and someone who really doesn’t want to be driving for Ferrari next year. It almost seemed like Leclerc was trying to cause an accident, thus creating such an uproar and controversy that Ferrari would have no choice but to void his contract, leaving Leclerc free to drive for whomever he wanted next year (cough! Red Bull).
It’s been said before, and it bears repeating: Max Verstappen often makes F1 races boring and sometimes unwatchable. If you tune in late and you hear or see virtually no mention of Verstappen, you can safely assume that he is in first place, by a lot, and coasting to the win. Verstappen’s screen time is inversely proportional to his performance. So, if you don’t see him, he’s dominating. If you do see him, he’s still dominating but is not as dominant in doing so.
Team orders at Ferrari. First, do they have them at Ferrari? Second, who is responsible for issuing them? Third, would the drivers even listen if they were issued? It seemed like team orders were necessary in the closing laps at Monza. Otherwise, a sure 3-4 finish could have easily become a double-DNF and a massive controversy at Ferrari; all played out in front of their blindly loyal fans. Sainz was begging for team orders to call off the attacks of Leclerc for third place; Leclerc, in turn, seemed to be daring someone to give him team orders.
Maybe I’m underestimating what a podium finish means to a Ferrari driver at Monza. Maybe I’m also underestimating how badly a Ferrari driver doesn’t want his teammate to finish on the podium at Monza.
What the heck—let’s give it to Carlos Sainz. He won the pole at Monza and finished third in the race. That’s really the best you can do as a non-Red Bull driver in this era of Red Bull domination. Currently, the life of a non-Red Bull driver is managing your inferiority complex while still maximizing performance. Sainz did both to perfection.
The Results (Pirelli Italian Grand Prix, Monza Circuit)
|1||1||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT||51||1:13:41.143||25|
|2||11||Sergio Perez||RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT||51||+6.064s||18|
|7||23||Alexander Albon||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||51||+45.106s||6|
|8||4||Lando Norris||MCLAREN MERCEDES||51||+45.449s||4|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||51||+46.294s||2|
|10||77||Valtteri Bottas||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||51||+64.056s||1|
|11||40||Liam Lawson||ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT||51||+70.638s||0|
|12||81||Oscar Piastri||MCLAREN MERCEDES||51||+73.074s||0|
|13||2||Logan Sargeant||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||51||+78.557s||0|
|14||24||Zhou Guanyu||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||51||+80.164s||0|
|15||10||Pierre Gasly||ALPINE RENAULT||51||+82.510s||0|
|16||18||Lance Stroll||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||51||+87.266s||0|
|17||27||Nico Hulkenberg||HAAS FERRARI||50||+1 lap||0|
|18||20||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||50||+1 lap||0|
|NC||31||Esteban Ocon||ALPINE RENAULT||39||DNF||0|
|NC||22||Yuki Tsunoda||ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT||0||DNS||0|
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