Verstappen charges to Monza victory for record-breaking 10th successive F1 win
Max Verstappen and Red Bull came out on top in a battle against the Ferraris to secure victory in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix and make more F1 history – the Dutchman moving ahead of Sebastian Vettel with 10 wins on the bounce and the team stretching their winning run to 15 races.
Verstappen slotted behind the pole-sitting Carlos Sainz at the start but hounded his rival as the opening stint wore on, eventually forcing the Ferrari driver into a mistake at the first chicane on Lap 15 and then sweeping past around the outside of the Curva Grande.
From there, the reigning double world champion never looked back, pulling out a comfortable advantage up front for his latest F1 record as Sainz, team mate Sergio Perez and the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc fought over the remaining podium positions.
After an action-packed finale and some fierce defending from Sainz, it was Perez who emerged with the runner-up spot behind Verstappen, giving Red Bull their sixth one-two finish of the season as they turned the tables on Ferrari at the famous marque’s home track.
FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAN PREMIO D’ITALIA 2023
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing
|2 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing
|3 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari
|4 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari
|5 George Russell RUS Mercedes
Sainz and Leclerc sent heart rates racing at the Scuderia as they went wheel-to-wheel over third all the way to the chequered flag – a huge lock-up from the Monegasque into the first chicane on the last lap settling the scrap in his team mate’s favour.
Behind the drama at the front, Mercedes logged a solid double points finish as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton came home fifth and sixth respectively, despite both drivers being hit with five-second time penalties.
Russell took his for leaving the track and gaining an advantage at the first chicane in a fight with Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, while Hamilton – who used a different tyre strategy to make up ground late on – took his for a clash with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri at the second chicane.
Alex Albon gave Williams some more points in seventh, defending from the other McLaren of Lando Norris in a race to the finish line, as the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso and Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas completed the top 10.
Liam Lawson finished on the brink of the points in his second appearance in place of Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri, with Piastri 12th after the incident involving Hamilton and a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Williams rookie Logan Sargeant was left to rue his own coming together with Bottas – and a five-second time penalty for causing that collision – en route to 13th, followed by the other Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu and Pierre Gasly’s Alpine.
It was a quiet afternoon for Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll after his back-of-the grid start, the Canadian taking 16th at the chequered flag from the Haas machines of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, who had another challenging race day.
Two drivers failed to make it to the finish, with Ocon retiring late on in the second of the Alpines and Yuki Tsunoda watching the action from the sidelines after a reported engine failure on the formation lap put his AlphaTauri out before the race had even started.
AS IT HAPPENED
A sensational climax to Saturday’s qualifying session saw Sainz emerge on top and delight the thousands of tifosi lining the famous Monza track – edging out championship leader Verstappen and team mate Leclerc for his first pole position of the season.
With the home fans expecting that pole to be turned into a win, all eyes were on the front of the grid and whether the two Ferraris could team up to deny Verstappen’s push for a record-breaking 10th successive win, while ending Red Bull’s unbeaten run in the process.
Shortly before lights out, it was revealed that the majority of the field would be starting on the medium compound tyres, while Hamilton, Bottas and Magnussen opted for hards – F1 supplier Pirelli forecasting a one-stop strategy as the quickest approach to the 53-lap race.
Some drama on the formation lap involved Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri coming to a smoking halt down the back straight after he reported an engine failure over the radio, prompting Race Control to delay the start and send the remaining 19 drivers around for another reconnaissance tour.
However, with Tsunoda’s car still parked on the grass next time around, the race start procedure was aborted and mechanics returned to the grid to prepare their respective cars for another attempt at getting the action under way, with the lap counter brought down to 51.
Some 20 minutes after the planned start, the five red lights switched on and went out with no further issues, pole-sitter Sainz making a clean getaway to keep his lead into the first chicane as Verstappen slotted into second and Leclerc fended off Russell to keep third.
Despite the aborted start procedure, higher fuel loads and harder tyres that were yet to reach their optimal working windows, there were no incidents to report as the opening lap unfolded, with all the drivers keeping it neat and tidy and avoiding major contact.
Further back, Albon tucked into the slipstream of Piastri at the start of Lap 2 and made a move stick into the second chicane, putting him sixth behind Perez, as Norris, Hamilton and Hulkenberg – who had jumped Alonso – rounded out the top 10.
As the laps ticked by, and DRS came into play, Verstappen ramped up the pace and used the overtaking aid down the straights to fill Sainz’s mirrors, telling his team over the radio that the Ferrari “is already sliding a bit, so it’s okay”.
Despite Sainz’s best efforts, Verstappen continued to close in and, on Lap 6, the Red Bull driver made his first attempt at taking P1 around the outside of the first chicane, almost leading to contact at the apex as the race leader held firm. “That was naughty,” said Verstappen on the radio in response.
With the lap chart approaching double figures, Verstappen prepared himself for another assault on Sainz, again using DRS to get agonisingly close through the first and second chicanes but falling a few metres short – subsequently making a sweary comment over the radio about the Ferrari’s straight-line speed.
Leclerc kept a watching brief in third, while Russell and Perez passed each other on several occasions in an entertaining scrap for fourth, the Mercedes man suggesting that the undercut will be “very powerful” given the level of tyre degradation being experienced.
Albon remained sixth, with the McLarens following line astern in seventh and eighth (Piastri leading Norris), Hamilton running ninth and Alonso working his way back into the points thanks to a move on Hulkenberg down the start/finish straight.
On Lap 15, the pressure Verstappen had been applying on Sainz finally paid off, with the Ferrari man locking up heavily into Turn 1 and eventually losing the lead into the second chicane after the pair ran side-by-side through the Curva Grande.
A lap later, Albon was the first of the leading group to pit, swapping his medium tyres for hards, while Perez cleared Russell once more after an earlier, failed attempt saw him take to the run-off at the first chicane and give the place back.
After losing out to Verstappen, and with that aforementioned lock-up not helping him, Sainz began to fall into the clutches of team mate Leclerc, who swiftly radioed the Ferrari pit wall that “Carlos is struggling a little bit with the rears”.
On Lap 20, Ferrari decided that it was time to call Sainz into the pits and limit the damage of his ageing mediums, while early-stopper Albon – true to Russell’s prediction – lit up the timing screens on his fresh hard tyres and made up plenty of ground.
A lap later, Verstappen and Leclerc responded by diving into the pits, leaving Perez, the McLarens and Hamilton as the runners yet to stop, with the Red Bull driver coming back out in clean air but the Ferrari man rejoining the track just behind team mate Sainz and piling the pressure on.
Perez spent a lap at the head of the field before pitting for his set of hards, filing back in just behind the squabbling Ferraris, with the McLarens following suit over the next couple of laps – Norris pitting first and getting the jump on Piastri via some contact at the first chicane.
Elsewhere, the stewards noted an incident involving Russell and Ocon, with the Briton – having just pitted – being handed a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage as he skipped the first chicane to secure the position.
With Hamilton the only front-runner yet to make a stop, the seven-time world champion put up little defence as the hard-shod Verstappen approached down the start/finish straight at the start of Lap 25 and used DRS to breeze past his 2021 title rival.
The three-car train of Sainz, Leclerc and Perez also cleared Hamilton shortly afterwards, as the Mercedes driver pitted for mediums on Lap 28 and rejoined at the tail-end of the points – telling his engineer over the radio that “there’s a long way to go on this damn tyre”.
While Verstappen pulled several seconds clear up front, the battle between the Ferraris and Red Bull’s Perez stepped up a gear as the Mexican hounded Leclerc and dramatically dipped two wheels onto the grass at the second chicane.
“You’re faster, you’re going to get him,” was the message from the Red Bull pit wall to Perez, who tucked into Leclerc’s slipstream next time around and completed the move into the first chicane, with his attention turning to Sainz ahead.
There were concerns in Sainz’s cockpit at this point, as the second-placed man reported that “it will be tight to make it to the end” on his current set of tyres, a comment highlighted on the timesheets as the fired up Perez drew ever closer.
Behind the top four, Russell was having a lonely race in fifth, as Albon did all he could to keep Norris at bay for sixth – the Williams man’s firm defensive driving on the inside of the first chicane leaving his McLaren rival less than impressed.
Just behind Albon, Norris and the other McLaren of Piastri, Hamilton doubled down on his earlier radio message by telling the Mercedes pit wall that “we’re screwed” as he questioned how he could be expected to reach the finish on his medium rubber.
Nonetheless, Hamilton was in the mood for a fight and attempted a move on Piastri into the second chicane on Lap 41, only for the pair to bang wheels and take to the run off. “He just turned across me,” the Australian rookie said over the radio as he pitted for a new front wing and dropped out of the points.
Hamilton, still running eighth, was hit with a five-second penalty by the stewards, opening the door for ninth-placed Alonso, while Bottas and Sargeant were now scrapping over the final point in 10th and 11th respectively – the latter also being sanctioned for causing a collision.
Back at the front, Perez was growing frustrated by Sainz’s defending as he struggled to make a move stick, taking to the run-off at the first chicane on several occasions and shouting over the radio: “He’s not leaving any room, man. Come on, we can’t race like this.”
Perez finally found a way past Sainz into Turn 1 on Lap 46 and left the Ferraris to battle it out for the final podium place, with Leclerc briefly getting ahead of his team mate at the first chicane before dropping back behind at the second – the pair nearly making contact.
Despite his medium-shod concerns, Hamilton jumped both Norris and Albon in quick succession to rise to sixth, prompting a qualifying-style push to the chequered flag to build up a five-second buffer given his looming penalty.
At the head of the pack, Verstappen had it all under control as he saw out the victory to move ahead of Vettel with 10 victories in a row, while putting further points between himself and second-placed team mate Perez in the drivers’ standings.
Leclerc had one last look at Sainz on the final lap, but a huge lock-up into the first chicane gave his team mate the breathing space he needed – Ferrari still giving the home fans something to cheer about with a podium and strong points haul.
Russell and Hamilton – the latter building up the cushion he needed – followed in distant P5 and P6 positions, with Albon edging out Norris at the flag to take seventh, Alonso bagging two points for Aston Martin in ninth and Bottas taking the final top 10 spot.
A late battle between Lawson and Piastri over 11th was settled when the latter picked up a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, while Sargeant – whose wait for a maiden F1 point rumbles on – took 13th.
Zhou, Gasly and Stroll were the final drivers to finish on the lead lap, with Hulkenberg and Magnussen among a handful of midfield runners to take on two new sets of tyres as Haas once again struggled to keep tyre degradation at bay.
Ocon brought his Alpine into the pits late on with an apparent technical problem, as Tsunoda spent the race watching the action from the paddock following his stoppage on the original formation lap.
F1 now moves into the final ‘flyaway’ sequence of the season, with Verstappen heading the drivers’ standings by 145 points and Red Bull sitting 310 clear of nearest rivals Mercedes in the constructors’.
“I never would have believed [10 wins in a row] was possible, but we had to work for it today and that was definitely a lot more fun,” said race-winner Verstappen. “We had good pace, we were good on the tyres, but [Ferrari] had a lot of top speed.
“It was so hard to get close and make the move into Turn 1. I had to force [Sainz] into a mistake and luckily it came at some point where he locked up, and I had better traction out of Turn 2, which was good, so we could do my own race.”
The next stop on the 2023 F1 calendar will be Marina Bay for the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, which takes place from September 15-17.