The illusion lasted for 15 laps with Carlos Sainz leading the Italian Grand Prix, then Red Bull’s dominance became evident with Ferrari struggling with their tires. However, for the first time this year, Scuderia Ferrari gave the feeling of being able to challenge Verstappen. The duel between Sainz and Leclerc provided a spectacle that had the pit crew and fans on the edge, but it was a positive note as the team experienced their best weekend of the season.
The fifty-one laps of the Italian Grand Prix reshaped Ferrari fans’ dreams, bringing them back to reality. Still, it was a reality embraced with smiles by the ‘Rosso’ faithful at Monza. It was impossible to ask for more from Ferrari; the story of this season has been known for some time, and what Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc achieved over the weekend was realistically the best the Scuderia could aim for.
Carlos Sainz’s and the fans’ dream lasted for fifteen laps, but the verdict was already written. After ten laps, Giampiero Lambiase, Verstappen’s race engineer, reassured his driver over the radio, as Max Verstappen complained about Carlos Sainz’s changing lines. “Relax Max, his rear tires are already at the limit.”
The information was correct, and the overtake arrived a few laps earlier than planned (on lap fifteen) due to Carlos locking up at the first chicane. The following lap, Sergio Perez passed George Russell, moving up to fourth place, and with a clear track, the two Red Bulls displayed their true potential.
However, this doesn’t diminish the excellent work Ferrari did to tackle their home race. There were twenty-four dream hours, from yesterday’s pole position to the race start, but even Monza, as special as it is, isn’t a guarantee of miracles. The only hope for a double ‘rosso’ podium depended on Perez’s performance, but today ‘Checo’ made a strong comeback despite his power unit carrying a fair number of kilometers, installed before qualifying.
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Free to Race
The race, the most thrilling seen so far in 2023, offered plenty of action. There were expected duels, as well as surprises, like the final showdown between Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. Some frowned upon the lack of team orders to freeze positions, but the only message from the pit wall was not to take risks.
“If we had asked to freeze positions, people would be asking us now, ‘why did you do that?'” explained Frederic Vasseur. “In the end, it was my decision, and I simply told them not to take risks that could jeopardize the team’s result. Since everything went well, I can say I’m proud of the work done today by the drivers. In the end, I think it was a way to thank all the fans who supported us this weekend.”
“We pushed hard,” commented Carlos Sainz, “but it was a beautiful and fair battle between teammates, and that’s what all of you want to see.”
Charles Leclerc was even clearer: “Maybe the guys in the pit wall risked a heart attack, and maybe some fans too, but for me, this is Formula 1, and it should always be like this. Overall, I believe it was our best weekend of the year,” added Vasseur. “We confirmed a good pace, and for the first time, we were able to compete with Red Bull. Their pace was certainly better than ours, but we managed to stay with them for a good part of the race. It was undoubtedly the best weekend overall, and I’m happy for Carlos because I think he took a step forward.”
Carlos Sainz, a Weekend as a Top Driver
Carlos loves Monza, but perhaps even he hadn’t imagined what he experienced this weekend. It’s not about points, even though they are important. It’s about the role and messages. Throughout the weekend, Carlos Sainz was Ferrari’s leading driver, and he confirmed this in the race with a staunch defense of the lead, even with Verstappen’s Red Bull shadowing him.
He gave way when the tires overheated, but this wasn’t Carlos’s fault; it was the SF-23’s limitation. The lock-up that allowed Max Verstappen to take the lead was somewhat understandable. Perhaps, with a bit of cunning, Carlos could have cut the chicane (as the race leader, he wouldn’t have to give up his position), thus maintaining the lead. However, we’re talking about details within an important weekend. The well-deserved crowd’s cheer on the podium, earned down to the last meters, helps solidify Carlos’s status among Ferrari fans. It was on the Monza podium, four years ago, that they definitively adopted Charles Leclerc.
The twenty-seven points secured from the third and fourth positions at Monza have allowed Ferrari to surpass Aston Martin and claim third place in the Constructors’ standings, reducing the gap to Mercedes to forty-five points. The goal of finishing in second place remains challenging to achieve, but having two drivers is the extra weapon that allowed Ferrari to overtake Aston Martin and is indispensable for competing on par with Mercedes.