F1 – Italian GP – Race
Ciao, MiniFans! The sun welcomed the drivers onto the grid, which had needed many hours to be finally confirmed by the organization due to the sheer number of penalties that had been applied to drivers, mostly due to engine changes. Red and yellow covered the grandstands in Monza, ready for what could be the first Ferrari win at home since 2019, and hopeful thanks to Leclerc’s pole position and Verstappen’s 5-place grid penalty.
The start was mostly clean, save for a small touch between Bottas and Magnussen at the back and Russell cutting the first chicane and needing to give the place back to Leclerc, who started pulling away. A bit further back, Norris was the moving obstacle to avoid after a terrible start while his teammate Ricciardo was defending his grid position and only got overtaken by the top dogs. However, Verstappen was once again proving why he’s commanding the championship with an iron fist, having easily climbed up to third and barely needed a couple of laps more to get rid of Russell.
Meanwhile, the rest of the penalised drivers were doing very different things. Sainz was quickly making up places and reaching the points positions very early in the race, while Hamilton was still stuck at the back, apparently incapable of climbing higher than eighteenth until it was Latifi that was in front of him, but Tsunoda had become a wall in front of the seven-time world champion. Pérez seemed to have some troubles with his front right side, as smoke was coming out of it, and he was granted the first stop for hards and for the team to check the problem.
Vettel, showing his experience, managed to stop his car in a place where the marshals would be able to retrieve it after he reported a loss of power, but he couldn’t avoid the virtual safety car that came out. It allowed Leclerc to pit under it for fresh mediums, but was the only one, and he barely got out in front of Ricciardo, who was also very closely followed by Sainz. Soon enough, the two teammates were together in the timing tower, while Hamilton had seemingly solved his overtaking problems.
Halfway through, Verstappen finally pitted for fresh medium, while Sainz wanted to stay on the track for a bit longer in order to go straight to softs, as he had started on mediums, in his bid for the third step of the podium and a possible fight against Russell, who had chosen the hards. After nursing his tyres for a couple laps, but still closing in, Verstappen decided it was time to start his attack and the distance to Leclerc started decreasing very quickly. The good news for Ferrari was the good stop for Sainz, who did lose a few track positions, but only of them would not stop again, and he quickly got rid of him. The bad one was the second stop for Leclerc, which surprised Red Bull, but he was also given softs to enter attack mode until the very end of the race.
The last stint of the race consisted of eyes focused in both the midfield battle, including De Vries’ quest to score points in his first ever F1 race, and the Ferrari drivers, as both were hunting down the cars in front. Stroll and Alonso had joined Vettel in the DNF zone, due to problems with the car. Leclerc’s chance to win seemed infimal, but Sainz was in a better position to join his teammate on the podium, as he was slowly but surely getting closer to Russell.
Ricciardo’s McLaren giving up on him and it ending up half on the track half outside of it meant a safety car needed to come out, and the four drivers in the top spots pitted for soft tyres, as they all had enough of a gap between them not to lose positions. With just a few laps left and a very slow marshal reaction, the race was not restarted, despite the track being fully clear, and Verstappen scored one more victory as Ferrari sank further, not being able to fight until the finish line.
It all had seemed to be in favour of Ferrari after a long stretch of the championship filled with mistakes, bad luck, and despair. Monza had welcomed them home clad in red from head to toe as they arrived in yellow, and both the free practices and the qualifying session seemed to lift their spirits up, as Leclerc clenched pole position uncontested and Verstappen had a grid penalty. But Ferrari couldn’t take advantage of it all and darkness doomed over the Italian team, who got stabbed one last time as they crossed the finish line under the safety car, unable to do one last bid on victory and a double podium at home.