An impeccably observed minute’s silence, both on the grid and in the grandstands, followed by a round of applause, before the start of the 2022 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix at the Monza circuit. The minute’s silence for The Queen was followed by a performance of the Italian national anthem by Andrea Bocelli. There was huge expectation among the tifosi, with the grandstands full of red.
Charles Leclerc was informed by Scuderia Ferrari that George Russell and Max Verstappen would start the Italian Grand Prix on softs, just like Charles, while McLaren chose the mediums for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, who started from the second row. Carlos Sainz, in the other F1-75 cars, had to begin the Monza race from P18 due to grid penalties for using fresh power unit elements also opted for the medium tyres in the first stint.
A good start from Charles Leclerc, but a better one from George Russell: however, the Ferrari just hang on, as Russell went off track briefly at the chicane, while Max Verstappen jumped two places at the start and then overtook Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo to climb to third at the end of the opening lap. Carlos Sainz also had a good start and made up four places in the first two laps. Lewis Hamilton only managed to climb one place to 18th, and potentially sustained some damage on that opening lap.
Unfortunately, it only took Max Verstappen five laps to get up to second. He had too much pace for George Russell and went up the inside into Turn 1. It therefore seemed like a straight contest between Charles and the Dutchman from that stage on. Carlos Sainz was showing some really nice pace and passed both Aston Martin cars to get into the top ten by lap 7. The worst getaway at the front came from Lando Norris, who dropped from third to sixth at the opening lap. That left him behind his McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who was fourth, and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
Carlos Sainz was continuing to fly through the field: the second Ferrari passed Zhou Guanyu to get to ninth. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez come in for a very early pit stop which was needed due to overheating brakes, with smoke coming from his right-front as he drove down the pit lane.
“I’m losing power,” said former Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, as the Aston Martin man was told to stop the car and the virtual safety car was deployed: the Maranello team decided to pit Charles Leclerc under the virtual safety car. A green flag was waved to end the virtual safety car while Charles Leclerc was in the pits, but the Monegasque will saved some time from a regular pit stop there. He was put on medium tyres, which Ferrari hoped could see him through the 39 remaining laps. George Russell also stayed out, and was now running in second.
Charles Leclerc came out just in front of Daniel Ricciardo to hold onto third after his pit stop. The Monegasque was around 17 seconds back from the Red Bull driver, but the question was whether those tyres would last. Carlos Sainz passed Ricciardo after the restart, and was now running directly behind his Maranello team-mate. Quite the effort from the Spaniard to get from 18th to 4th so swiftly. Lewis Hamilton wasn’t making the sort of progress Carlos was, but he was moving forward: the Mercedes driver passed Lance Stroll to get up to 11th, and was close to a points finish. Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly pitted, which signaled the start of a series of stops.
Max Verstappen was 10 seconds clear of George Russell in second, but more crucially, remained 14 seconds clear of third-placed Charles Leclerc. Ferrari were hoping that the Monegasque was already working on making those tyres last, otherwise it appeared Verstappen had the potential to be significantly quicker on fresh tyres. Max Verstappen made his pit at the end of lap 25, leaving Charles Leclerc to retake the lead. He came out 10 seconds behind Charles, but with significantly fresher tyres. And the Dutchman cut the gap to the lead down by two seconds in a matter of laps since his pit-stop.
Carlos Sainz come into the pits at the end of lap 30, as George Russell was closing on him. The Mercedes driver retook third, while the Spaniard emerges behind Sergio Perez in eighth. But with the fresh soft tyres, Carlos could now charge to finish over the final 20 laps.
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Ferrari saw how quickly Max Verstappen was catching Charles Leclerc, and decided to bring their man in for another pit stop: he put on soft tyres, and comes out almost 20 seconds behind the Red Bull driver. It was going to take something remarkable for the Ferrari to catch the Red Bull from there.
Charles Leclerc was going faster than Max Verstappen on track at this stage, but we needed to go 1s-a-lap quicker, and that was sadly not happening. Red Bull also wanted to go for the extra point awarded for the fastest lap of the race and called Sergio Perez back in to mount the soft tyres with 8 laps until the end.
With five laps to go, Daniel Ricciardo stopped in the second sector with a reliability issue. George Russell and Carlos both stopped for soft tyres and the following lap, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc also pitted, but the Monegasque didn’t have a fresh set of softs available (because he only had two fresh sets and already used them), so his set was used. Verstappen was on fresh softs.
But in the end it didn’t even matter anymore. The cherry picker needed a lot of time to remove Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren and there was no time left to resume the race. The Italian Grand Prix therefore finished behind Safety Car, as the Tifosi started to boo from the stands for the unfortunate outcome of the race.
Max Verstappen this won the Italian Grand Prix, his fifth race victory in a row! Given his pace advantage, it’s a much-deserved win for the Dutchman and only a miracle could stop him winning the title from here. Charles Leclerc finished second ahead of George Russell and Carlos Sainz.
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