Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Verstappen Makes it a Perfect Ten at Monza After Thrilling Red Bull, Ferrari Battles

Max Verstappen took a record breaking tenth consecutive victory in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, although he was made to work hard for it during the opening stint at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza after a defiant defence from Carlos Sainz Jr.

The Oracle Red Bull Racing driver went into the race knowing another win would see him beat the record of race wins in a row previously jointly held by Alberto Ascari and Sebastian Vettel, but unlike in several of his other wins during the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, Verstappen did not have everything his own way.

The start was initially delayed when Yuki Tsunoda broke down on the way to the grid, the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver appearing to suffer an issue with his Honda engine.  An additional formation lap was initially called, but when it became clear that it was not able to move the car without the use of a crane, the start was aborted completely and delayed by almost twenty minutes.

Scuderia Ferrari’s Sainz had started from pole position at Monza and held onto his advantage at the start, with Verstappen and the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc falling in behind.  George Russell held onto fourth place while Sergio Pérez in the second Red Bull ran fifth ahead of Williams Racing’s Alexander Albon.

Verstappen was keeping well in touch with Sainz at the front, but with overtaking proving difficult, it took until lap fifteen, an a few aborted moves, before an overtake for the lead took place. 

Sainz kept placing his car in the right place to keep the Red Bull driver behind him, but a small lock-up heading into turn one proved enough for Verstappen to take advantage and get through heading into the second chicane.

From there, Verstappen showed his true pace and was able to stretch a gap to Sainz, which insured he was able to retain his position through the pit stop window and until the chequered flag.

Pérez was also finding it difficult to make gains, and it took him to lap sixteenth to depose Russell for fourth, but as soon as the Mexican was in clear air, he eliminated the gap between him and Leclerc in third.

Lewis Hamilton briefly took the lead after starting on the hard compound tyre and pitting later than any of the frontrunners, but the pace of his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team car, coupled with the ageing tyres, meant he was easy prey for Verstappen to reclaim the lead.

Leclerc had lost the DRS advantage behind the leading two as he struggled to match the pace of team-mate Sainz, and when Pérez caught up with him, he was able to draft passed to take third on lap thirty-two.  However, Leclerc did not lose the DRS to Pérez and was able to bring himself back into the battle for second place.

Sainz defended well again against Pérez as he hoped to hold onto second place, but the Mexican was able to make the definitive pass to ensure a sixth Red Bull one-two finish of the season.

However, the defending for Sainz was far from over, with team-mate Leclerc eager to claim the final spot on the podium.  The two Ferrari drivers got close to one another on a few occasions, particularly into turn one, but the Spaniard did just enough to claim his first top three finish of the season.

Verstappen was even able to nurse his RB19 home in the closing laps to take his tenth win of the year ahead of Pérez, with Sainz and Leclerc finishing third and fourth.

Russell ended up fifth for Mercedes despite a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining a position as he bid to stay ahead of Esteban Ocon heading into turn one following his pit stop. Russell cut across the run-off at the turn and was obviously at fault for the incident.

Hamilton finished sixth having made good progress in the second half of the race having switched from the hard tyre to the medium compound.  However, his recover was not without incident, with the seven-time World Champion colliding with McLaren F1 Team’s Oscar Piastri into the second chicane that earned him a five-second time penalty.

Hamilton then passed Lando Norris for seventh and Albon for sixth, and he pulled enough of a gap to the Williams driver to ensure the five-second penalty did not cost him any places.

Piastri was forced to pit for a new front win following the contact with Hamilton but it lost him his chance of scoring points, with the top ten being completed by Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas.

Liam Lawson’s second outing as Daniel Ricciardo’s replacement at AlphaTauri was impressive as he claimed eleventh place at the chequered flag, with Piastri ending twelfth.  A five-second time penalty for Logan Sargeant for avoidable contact with Bottas meant he finished just ahead of the second Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake car of Zhou Guanyu in thirteenth.

Pierre Gasly was the sole BWT Alpine F1 Team driver to see the chequered flag but fifteenth was not the result he nor the team were hoping for going into the weekend, whilst team-mate Ocon was forced to retire. 

Lance Stroll had a very low key race in the second Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team car to finish sixteenth, although he ended up ahead of both MoneyGram Haas F1 Team drivers, Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

The Ferrari’s gave the Tifosi something to cheer by finishing third and fourth – Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre
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