Wow! What a Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix that was! This was supposed to be a track that favored the Mercedes power and speed and if you look at their pace all weekend long, particularly in the hands of Valtteri Bottas, It would seem they had the edge over Red Bull.
Regardless of that edge, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes struggled during the Sprint race leaving him to start the race in 4th with Max Verstappen on pole position but there was another team in the mix all weekend long at the Papaya orange McLaren’s were in amongst the leaders to take advantage of any bobble from Red Bull or Mercedes.
Daniel Ricciardo got the jump on Verstappen at the start and never looked back while his teammate benefitted from a dual DNF for both Hamilton and Verstappen to take second giving McLaren a one, two finish at Monza.
A huge win for McLaren and while the results may have varied if Verstappen or Hamilton remained in the race, they did have pace all weekend long and were in the hunt on merit. Ricciardo kept Verstappen at bay for the fist stint as Lando Norris kept Hamilton at bay in third and the result goes a long way in their real battle against Ferrari for the constructor’s championship. A massive result for a team who were looking for cash at the beginning of the year to keep things afloat. This team have turned things around and that includes Ricciardo’s pace in general.
A win for Valtteri Bottas who looked to be the quicker Mercedes all weekend long. Having to start from the back of the grid due to an engine change, you’d expect him to recover but making it to the podium, with Lewis out of the race, is what Sergio Perez failed to do and the Mexican started midfield. The team needed the points and Valtteri delivered.
A win for Ferrari who managed 4th and 6th at their home race. The did lose point to McLaren in the constructor’s championship but given their pace in Fp3 and Carlos Sainz’s crash, it wasn’t clear how well either car would do. Despite that, and both drivers not feeling well over the weekend, they did manage to engage damage limitation against an inspired McLaren.
A decent result for Lance Stroll in 7th and for both Alpine’s in the points but George Russell managed to get 9th for Williams and that’s a decent result given their troubles last week.
A win for the HALO that protected Lewis from getting hit by Max’s rear tire in one of those rare moments when a car lands on top of another car. The roll hoop took the brunt of the collision but the HALo certainly added to that safety by keeping the rolling wheel off Lewis’s head or at least kept the majority of the weight and velocity off of his helmet.
A fail for Red Bull who lost Max Verstappen in his clash with Lewis Hamilton as well as Sergio Perez’s poor qualifying position hobbling him for a podium. Sergio struggled this weekend and gained a penalty for gaining and advantage during his pass of Lando Norris and that wasn’t the firs time he’d ran wide to gain a spot this weekend. One might argue that the team didn’t feel this would be their track and that Mercedes would take the win but they had been given every chance to win and threw it away with a slow pit stop and the crash.
A fail for Lewis who needed the points but got tangled with Max in Turn one and two. Had the stop been. Little quicker, perhaps he would have avoided that but to the team’s credit, the Hard-Medium strategy seemed to be working. As much as Max could lift to fight another day, Lewis might have as well as he had the quicker car.
A fail for Alpha Tauri who had a DNS for Yuki Tsunoda and parked Pierre Gasly after a lap with two cars struggling with brake and suspension issues at their home race.
I am not sure I agree with the stewards decision to give a 3-place grid penalty for to Max Verrstappen for the incident with Hamilton. The stewards said:
“The stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb.
“But further, the stewards observed that Car 33 was not at all alongside Car 44 until significantly into the entry into Turn 1.
“In the opinion of the stewards, this manoeuvre was attempted too late for the driver of Car 33 to have “the right to racing room”.
“While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the stewards determined that his position was reasonable and therefore find that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the incident.”
I’m not sure I saw the same race they did because Lewis left room on entry to the corner and Max was well alongside of Lewis as they turned into turn 2. I agree with Martin Brundle and Paul di Resta who noted there was a gap on the inside for Max to try and make the corner but the door closed quickly and enough room wasn’t given. Either could have lifted to avoid collision and as Max was well alongside, it doesn’t seem clear to me that the onus is only on Max to lift or not.
Max could have lifted or bailed out over the curbs but Lewis could have lifted and ran wider to gain more momentum for a pass on the next straight. They both went for the same apex at the same time, neither lifted or bailed out and they clashed. At best, I would have called that a racing incident.
Also, what the heck was Damon Hill suggesting with by insinuating Max may have done this deliberately? The Sky Sports team insinuating that Max hit Lewis deliberately was about as ridiculous as suggestions that Lewis hit Max deliberately at Silverstone. They then seemed intent on making a case for Lewis regarding turn 4 on the first lap which is a different corner, different speeds and different setup altogether.
Lewis went in that corner, squeezed Max and that happened just as Max went in to the corner at Silverstone, squeezed Lewis and that happened. Heading Max a 3-place grid penalty is impacting the championship and doing so for what seemed a racing incident is harsh and will not set well with Verstappen fans who will argue they are trying to give Lewis another title. F1 will get some blowback for this decision.
Closing doors, pinching off apexes and making it hard for your competitor to pass is what happens during racing incidents. I agree that Max may have thought about the long game a bit into turn 2 and would have been better served to bail out and live to fight down the straight or in the next few laps but that’s armchair driving at best. I know I couldn’t make that split decision in nanoseconds when you see a gap and assume your rival will leave some room. As Senna always said, if you see a gap and no longer go for it, you’re no longer a racing driver.
Pirelli Key Moments:
- McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo won a dramatic Italian Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Lando Norris, in a race that was characterised by a collision between title contenders Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) on lap 26, which brought out a lengthy safety car.
- Both McLarens used the same P Zero Yellow medium C3 to P Zero White hard C2 strategy, stopping only once. This was the most popular strategy used during the race.
- The highest-placed driver to use an alternative strategy was Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who started from the back following an engine change (despite claiming pole in Friday’s qualifying) and ran an opening stint on the hard tyre before switching to the faster medium at the end of the race. As the only driver in the top 10 to be running the medium tyre in the closing stages of the race, he was able to make the speed advantage count, eventually finishing third. Hamilton was on a similar strategy, prior to his retirement.
- The sprint qualifying format in Italy meant that all drivers had a free choice of tyres at the race start. All the drivers chose the medium C3, apart from Mercedes, Alfa Romeo’s Robert Kubica, and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who decided to start on the hard C2.
- The weather was warm throughout the 53-lap Italian Grand Prix, with ambient temperatures of around 30 degrees centigrade and track temperatures in excess of 40 degrees, practically right up to the end of the race.
Italian GP Results:
|Pos||Name||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|5||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull-Honda||53||0||+-21m0-33s||1m25.156s||1||10|
|6||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||53||0||+-21m0-33s||1m25.559s||1||8|
|7||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||53||0||+-21m0-33s||1m25.853s||1||6|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||53||0||+-21m0-33s||1m25.938s||2||0|
|13||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||53||0||+-21m0-33s||1m25.718s||2||0|
|14||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||53||0||+-21m0-33s||1m25.849s||1||0|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||25||1||DNF||1m25.173s||1||2|