Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc drove his heart out at Monza, but Max Verstappen used the superior speed of his car once again to secure his fifth consecutive victory. Reporting from the Monza F1 paddock, F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó picks out a few things we learnt from Round 16 of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship.
The Mexican – Sergio Perez set the fastest lap of the Italian Grand Prix which has been the third time this season that the Mexican has achieved this feat. His late stop for Pirelli’s soft tyres allowed the Red Bull Racing driver to go three tenths of a second quicker than Leclerc with Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz setting the third and fourth fastest lap of the race.
Two-horse fight – The Italian Grand Prix saw Red Bull Racing secure its 12th victory of the 2022 F1 season with Ferrari being the only other team to have claimed victories this season. The Scuderia has won four times courtesy of Leclerc, who has won three victories while Sainz has taken a single victory so far.
Impressive debut – After Alexander Albon had been diagnosed with appendicitis, Williams decided to give its reserve driver Nyck de Vries the chance of making his F1 debut. The Dutchman qualified 13th, but moved up to P8 due to engine-induced grid drop penalties for rivals.
The 2021 Formula E champion made benefit from the retirements of Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso, who were both set to finish a long way ahead of de Vries, but it was still a huge achievement from the Williams reserve driver to finish in the points on his debut without completing a single lap on high fuel prior to the race. Speaking to de Vries after the race, he was a very happy chap, who has seemingly set his sight on a race seat for 2023.
First time – Both Max Verstappen and Red Bull have achieved important milestones at Monza. For the Anglo-Austro outfit, it was the first podium finish in the hybrid era. For the Dutchman, Monza has been a territory to conquest, as he had never finished on the podium at the Italian Grand Prix.
Big haul of points - His debut season at Mercedes is slowly turning into an incredible year for George Russell. Despite Mercedes’ lack of pace compared to Ferrari and Red Bull, the young Briton has taken 15 top-five finishes of which he has ended up on the podium on seven occasions. With his last P3 finish, he has moved
Upward trajectory - Despite the high hopes and immense pressure, Charles Leclerc was once again able to hold his nerves in front of the Tifosi, claiming his second consecutive podium finish with P2 after a third-place finis hat Zandvoort. The Monegasque started the season on a high, taking two victories, two second-place finishes and a sixth place in the first five grands prix before finishing outside of the podium in the following five races.
The latter was the result of Ferrari’s reliability woes and strategy mistakes that saw the Monegasque lose four potential victories as he was on course to take the win in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Baku and Silverstone. In Austria, he bounced back by taking his fifth career victory in a commanding fashion despite issues to his throttle, but it was then followed by another series of bad results, which saw him finish off the podium in the following three races.
Commanding lead – With his latest victory, Verstappen now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 116 points ahead of Leclerc with only 164 points to achieve considering the points that can be collected by race victories, fastest laps and the sole remaining sprint race.
The same dominance can be associated by Red Bull’s position in the Constructors’ Championship with the energy drink company owned team leading the way by an eye-catching 139 points ahead of Ferrari. Mercedes find themselves a further 35 points adrift.
Battles – Various championship battles are shaping up in the midfield with Alpine and McLaren separated by only 18 points in P4 and P5 while there is an increasingly intense fight for the sixth place in the teams’ standings with Alfa Romeo currently holding a healthy lead, but it could change quickly with some chaotic races in the remainder of the season.
The highest top speed – The highest top speen recorded during the 53-lap race belongs to Sainz, who achieved a maximum of 356.4kph, followed by Ocon and Gasly. Interestingly, second-placed Leclerc finished at the bottom of this list which was down to the fact that he was unable to use his DRS on the start-finish straight in the race.
Versatile compounds – Pirelli brought the middle of its range for Monza with the C2 compound featuring as the white-banded hard tyres, the C3 as the medium tyres and C4 as the red soft tyre. Degradation was low, meaning that even the soft compound held on well. Verstappen complteted the longest stint on the C4 compound with 25 laps. It was this compound on which Perez set the fastest lap of the race with a 1m24.030s
McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas extended their respective stint on the C3 the longest with both of them notching up a total of 35 laps. It was Verstappen, who clocked the fastest lap on this compound with a 1m24.754s. On the hardest compound, the C2, Zhou Guanyu, Perez and Pierre Gasly completed the longest stint with 35 laps respectively. It was Mercedes racer George Russell, who set the fastest lap on the particular compound with a 1m25.288s.
Four retirements – The Italian Grand Prix saw four drivers retire from the action. Aston Martin had a particularly dismal weekend as they started the last European venue off the pace before retiring from the race with both cars. Sebastian Vettel had an ERS-related issue before his team mate Lance Stroll was asked to retire car as a precaution to save engine mileage.
Daniel Ricciardo was on course to take some points thanks to an impressive form from the Australian, but he suffered an oil leak which led to his retirement. Fernando Alonso had also high hopes of a strong point-scoring finish, but he was also forced to retire with a suspected water pressure issue.