Analysis: Things we learned from the Italian Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Italy, Autodromo Nazionale di Monzait

Last weekend saw the Formula One field move to one of its iconic venues, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for Round 14 of the 2023 F1 season. F1Technical’s senior writer Balázs Szabó picks out the key lessons we learned from the Monza F1 round.

Vettel’s record – Max Verstappen not only took his 47th career victory in Monza, but he also broke the record of consecutive victories, taking over Sebastian Vettel’s long-standing record of nine consecutive wins. The Dutch racer has been unbeaten since the Miami Grand Prix which means that he has won ten races in a row.

Unbeaten - Red Bull Racing broke McLaren’s long-standing record of 11 successive race victories earlier this year. The Milton Keynes-based outfit has managed to extend that record since the Hungarian Grand Prix, and its stands now at 15 victories in a row.

Fourth – Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz secured a well-deserved pole position on Sunday on Ferrari’s home turf which was the fourth pole position of his career. The one-time F1 race winner clinched his first career pole at last year’s British Grand Prix in very difficult wet conditions before inheriting a first starting spot at Spa. He then went on to set the fastest lap in qualifying at the US Grand Prix before delivering an eye-catching lap last Saturday in Monza in front of Ferrari’s adoring fans.

Fastest lap – McLaren’s rookie driver Oscar Piastri set the fastest race lap at the Italian Grand Prix, recording a 1m25.072s. The McLaren driver would have probably preferred not to set the fastest lap as a late, unplanned change for fresh tyres allowed him to get the additional point. The former F2 and F3 champion collided with Lewis Hamilton with the incident meaning that he picked up significant front win damage.

It marked the first time that the Australian secured a fastest lap in 2023, but he has now joined the group of drivers who have already set a fastest race lap this year at least once with this gang including Max Verstappen (6), Lewis Hamilton (2), Sergio Perez (2), George Russell (1) and Zhou Guanyu (1), Fernando Alonso (1).

Early retirement – AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda qualified P11 on Saturday, and was eager to build on that result on race day. However, his chances were dashed on the opening lap when he suffered a power unit issue coming out of the Ascari chicane. This was the first time this year that the Japanese driver was unable to finish a race.

Interestingly, he has already had two other DNS cases in his relatively short F1 career. Three years ago, in his debut season, he was unable to start the Italian Grand Prix due to brake issues while a power unit problem prevented him from starting the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2022.

Tough weekend – It was a difficult weekend for Mercedes. The Anglo-German team struggled for pace on all tyre compounds all through the weekend. In truth, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was always going to highlight the W14’s weaknesses which is a lack of straight-line speed.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton qualified 4th and 8th on the starting grid, and ended the shortened 51-lap race in P5 and P6 respectively. Both drivers were handed out penalties during the race. Russell received a five-second time penalty for gaining a lasting advantage after he left the pits following his single pit stop.

The FIA statement read: “Russell left the pits, and was on the inside of Ocon at the entry to turn one. However, as Russel approached the apex, he showed some lockup and went straight entering the runoff at turn one and rejoined after turn 2, passing Ocon while doing so and gaining both the position and time. Russell did not give back the position and thus gained a lasting advantage.”

Following a collision with McLaren racer Oscar Piastri, the seven-time world champion also received a five-second time penalty that was added to his overall race time. Furthermore, he was also handed out two penalty points on his license.

“While overtaking Piastri at the entry to turn 4, Hamilton moved to the right in the braking zone and made contact with Piastri while Piastri was moving to the right away from him and was close to the side of the track,” the stewards’ statement read.

Penalties - McLaren’s Australian was involved in another incident with AlphaTauri’s debutant Liam Lawson which saw him earn a five-second penalty.

The statement read: “Piastri missed the corner at turn 1 and rejoined after turn 2 having gained an advantage against Lawson. Piastri gave the position back at turn 3 then tried again to overtake Lawson at turn 4.

“However, Piastri was not ahead at the apex and thus, in the opinion of the stewards, did not have the right to the line at turn 5, the second part of the chicane. He left the track at turn 5 and gained the position over Lawson and did not subsequently give it back, thus leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage.”

Elsewhere, Williams driver Logan Sargeant received a five-second penalty and two penalty points for a collision with Valtteri Bottas.

The stewards explained: “Sargeant was attempting to overtake Bottas on the inside at turn 4. Sargeant, who never reached a point where he could have made the overtake, missed his braking point and hit Bottas who was already in the turn and to his right. Sargeant was wholy to blame.”

Driver of the Day – Although his skilled defensive driving was not enough to take victory on Ferrari’s home turf, Carlos Sainz was still regarded as the Driver of the Day by the fans. His mighty Monza efforts sa the Madrid-born driver earn 31.5 per cent of the votes, followed by Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc.

Pit stop – After eye-catching performances in recent races, McLaren was unable to keep up with the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes at the high-speed Monza circuit. However, they proved to be the fastest in the pit lane, conducting the fastest tyre change whey they serviced Lando Norris’ car in 2.13s.

Ferrari completed the second fastest tyre change, closely followed by Red Bull. An interesting name popped up in the sharp end of the field with Alfa Romeo completing the sixth fastest tyre change at Monza. The Hinwil-based outfit is currently ninth in the overall standings of the DHL Pit Stop Award.

Back to McLaren: the Woking-based outfit were on top form for the third time this season after their impressive work in Spielberg and Silverstone. Norris’ 2.13-second stop on lap 22 was an important factor in a successful undercut. He raced against his team-mate Oscar Piastri, who got a new set of wheels one lap later in a time of 2.77 seconds.

Track infringements – A total of 17 lap times were deleted during the Italian Grand Prix. The critical corners were Turns 2, 4, 5, 7 and 10.

Lando Norris and Sergio Perez came closest to a five-second time penalty as both drivers exceeded the track limits three times apiece. Fernando Alonso, Oscar Piastri, Lewis Hamilton had two lap times deleted while Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Valtteri Bottas and Logan Sargeant exceeded the track limits once apiece.

Return to form - After a very difficult Dutch Grand Prix, Ferrari returned to form on home turf, capitalizing the strengths of their SF23 on a track where aero efficiency and straight-line speed are crucial. The Scuderia took their 23rd pole position on Saturday, the most by any constructor at any circuit.

On race day, the Maranello-based outfit was unable to convert their first and third starting position into a win, but they still ended their home race with their biggest point haul in 2023. With their third and fourth-place finish, Ferrari managed to jump Aston Martin in the standings.