Verstappen ruins Ferrari party to take Monza victory
Although Charles Leclerc salvaged with a second place at the Temple of speed it was Max Verstappen who won on Ferrari's home ground. The Dutch driver was miles ahead when the race was neutralised 6 laps from the end. George Russell completed the podium in third.
Numerous penalties have made sure of an entertaining starting grid with faster man in qualifying, Charles Leclerc starting from pole with next to him Russell, both on softs. The McLarens start from row two followed by Gasly and Alonso, a foursome on medium tyres which could be a disadvantage of 6m before the first corner, according to Pirelli.
When the lights went out, Leclerc went off with a great start but it was Russell who challenged for the lead into Turn 1, only to overcook the corner a little bit and having to go for the escape road to settle for second.
Ricciardo slotted into second just ahead of Verstappen who gained 3 places, only to move up yet another one half a lap later. Gasly was 5th, ahead of a badly starting Norris, then Alonso, De Vries, Zhou and Stroll.
Just like Stroll, Ocon moved up two spots into 12th but Magnussen, Sainz and Tsunoda all gained three places. Perez on the other hand lost three, dropping down into 16th place. Lewis Hamilton didn't have the greatest of starts and remained 19th.
By lap 4 it as clear the top three were on another level as Ricciardo lapped more than a full second slower. This resulted in a DRS train header by the Australian with Gasly, Norris, Alonso, De Vries and Zhou all close to one another.
At the start of the next lap, following a few fastest laps, Verstappen made a simple move on Russell in Turn 1 to easily take second place.
On lap 7 Perez was the first to pit. He changed to hard tyres but when leaving the pitlane his front right brake was burning. It ik kept on smoking throughout the outlap, Perez as told to change brake bias towards the rear in the hope that a little bit less braking pressure on the fronts will automatically clear the problem.
Meanwhile at Ferrari, Leclerc maintained his lead on Verstappen even though the gap slowly reduced by 2 tenths per lap. Carlos Sainz on the other hand made impressive progress and fought his way up into 7th place, seemingly not bothered to make his way through the DRS train from P4 to P10.
Vettel was less fortunate as his engine blew up, forcing him into retirement on the approach to Ascari. Vettel stopped nicely alongside the barrier just aside a marshall post but clearing the car mandated a Virtual Safety Car.
This was the perfect moment for Leclerc to stop. The Ferrari driver changed to mediums and returned to the track in third place, a mere few tenths ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Nobody else pitted and when the race was on again Sainz made it past Ricciardo to move up into 4th, much to the joy of the tifosi who now had their beloved scarlet cars within two seconds of each other.
Leclerc though had better pace on the fresher mediums are opened the gap to Sainz by more than a second a lap.
Behind the Ferraris the McLarens were rejoined as Norris passed Alonso and Gasly was pitted on lap 19. It didn't last long as Ricciardo, De Vries, Ocon and Tsunoda all pitted on lap 20. This promoted Alonso back up into 6th with 4s behind him Lewis Hamilton. Schumacher, Bottas and Perez completed the top 10. It was take a few laps of trying but Hamilton passed Alonso eventually on lap 27.
Just before halfway it was time for the race leader to pit. Verstappen ended his long stint on softs and switched to fresh medium tyres on lap 26. Verstappen returned to the track about 10s down on Leclerc after a very quick pitstop.
5 laps later it was Sainz's turn to stop. The Spaniard ran in third place and explicitly asked for the soft tyres. The team fulfilled his request and got him out again in 2.3 seconds. Alonso stopped one lap later but sadly for him it was to retire the car due to a water pressure problem on his Alpine A522.
The next lap was Leclerc's turn. No errors this time in the Ferrari pitlane and Leclerc was back out on soft, 18.6s down on Verstappen and 2s ahead of Russell. Hamilton and Schumacher pitted moments later to copy the same medium-soft strategy.
McLaren's Lando Norris and Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas were the last of the medium starters to make their single pitstop on lap 36. Norris has a slower pitstop of 5.1 seconds and returned to the track 9th, soon passing Gasly and Ricciardo towards 7th. Bottas found himself in 17th, ahead only of Mick Schumacher but just half a second behind Stroll. The latter retired his Aston Martin a few laps later as the team asked him to.
When positions for the top 8 seemed more or less fixed due to big gaps and little relative pace difference, Perez shook things up by pitting to take on softs for the final 10 laps. The Mexican came back on track in 7th place, midway in the rapidly increasing 10s gap between Norris and Ricciardo.
6 laps from the end it was the same struggling Ricciardo who parked his car halfway on the track. Without any obvious clearance possibilities the safety car was brought out, triggering a bunch of pitstops. Of the top 7 only Hamilton and Perez didn't pit and as Norris did he lost two positions.
Sadly it took a long time before the McLaren could get cleared, meaning that the race ended behind the safety car and Verstappen demonstrated once again how great the Red Bull is in his hands.