F1 – Italian GP – Race
Ciao, MiniFans! We’ve arrived at the first of the three races in Italian soil this year and we’ve seen ourselves landing in Monza, the circuit we’re the most familiar with. The Temple of Speed, however, is not being very kind to its own kin, even if it would end their suffering rather quickly, with its high average speed and low race time.
All eyes were on Verstappen on the start, who desperately needed to overtake not one, but two cars in a track that does offer a couple of clear overtaking points, but not without risk, as well as the two cars that had slotted themselves in between him and the front row owned by Mercedes, as usual. The faith deposited in the Dutch driver didn’t come back in form of a stellar start, which was reserved for both the McLaren boys, who managed to get themselves in second and third. Meanwhile, Bottas’ start was completely atrocious, getting overtaken left and right until he got a grip of the situation and stabilised himself in sixth place, closely followed by Verstappen.
Ferrari wasn’t looking forward to a good, nice and quiet race for them, but a brake failure for Vettel forced them to retire the car with which they had chosen to place a bet with hard tyres. Hamilton was already setting his pace as Albon got a time penalty for not leaving a car’s width for Grosjean and Sainz managed to slowly but surely increase the gap to his teammate, who led a train unable to overtake one another. The configuration Mercedes had chosen for the weekend was working wonderfully for the championship leader, whose lead never once decreased, but not so much for Bottas, who was struggling in the group.
The safety car was deployed due to Magnussen’s car being stopped next to the pit lane entry, an action that prompted Hamilton and Giovinazzi to pit despite the pit lane entry being closed. Both were under investigation and the pit lane opened again to a frenzy of cars and teams trying to change tyres and a safety car that left in that same lap. Stroll didn’t stop and it would later infuriate those who had done so, as he would be allowed to change tyres when the race stopped a couple of laps later, when the only Ferrari left in the race crashed into the tyre barrier outside of Parabolica due to losing the rear. This incident caused a red flag, as the barrier needed to be repaired. Meanwhile, Giovinazzi was dished a stop and go penalty, but the stewards were taking their time deciding on Hamilton. He was finally awarded the same 10-second stop and go penalty and he made a decision during the pause: He picked up his scooter, checked out the red light he had been told was switched on to make known the pit lane was closed and headed off to Race Direction. His visit didn’t change his fate and he came back to his car as a standing start was announced.
At twenty past four, the remaining seventeen cars went out of the pits in a single line to settle on the grid following the order prior to the red flag. Hamilton took off like a rocket and Stroll went wide, coming back into the track like a madman and eventually losing the position to Sainz. Hamilton complied with his penalty immediately, but Giovinazzi waited until the last possible moment. Gasly was an unexpected leader as Verstappen, the best driver in the Red Bull family, was forced to retire. Sainz ate away at the small gap that Raikkonen had managed to create to him thanks to Sainz’s battle with Stroll and his own teammate taking the three laps to do his stop and go penalty. The Spaniard, with the victory clearly in his aim, was the second fastest car on track, only behind Hamilton. With less that twenty laps to go, he started the chase towards Gasly and victory, as Stroll tried to do the same, but unsuccessfully.
The last fifteen laps can be summed up in a man hunt performed by Sainz, maybe in a premonitory way of what can be expected from him when he dresses in red. All this while Hamilton and Bottas were left unable to overtake Albon and Norris without mistakes from them. Any of the top four wold be looking at a maiden victory and that made it all much more exciting. The fight for victory would be only between Gasly and Sainz, as the rest could not even get close to the pair. Luck would eventually turn in Gasly‘s favour, as the McLaren driver would only get close enough in the last lap.
Monza usually isn’t a synonym with the incredible overtakes that other tracks are known for, as it is a rather difficult task to accomplish. A rather quiet race was expected, with the bets being placed on a Hamilton win, so much so that the banner announcing his 90th victory was shown the previous day by mistake. It seemed as if it would turn out like that, but the ever-loved safety car kicked the madness off. A penalty was handed to Hamilton and the madness that ensued reassured fans that F1 can always be exciting, even when unexpectedly. Safety cars and pit lane closures, that is, F1 rules at its core that no one really knows because they almost never come out to play, shook things up in order to kick the top dogs out of the first positions and allowed the midfielders to fight it out on track for the win. Gasly grabbed his first victory, Sainz scored his second podium (but this time, being able to celebrate it on the steps) and Stroll completed a podium void of any Mercedes or Red Bull.