Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor CFD1801J
Ambient 28.4° Track 43.4° Humidity 38.4% Wind 0.2 m/s
Glorious azure skies, dotted with a spray of clouds tented the vast park which ensconced the glorious temple of speed, otherwise known as Monza, as the teams scurried about, last minute tasks multiplying as the start approached. The last remnants of yesterdays sprint qualifying played out when Alpha Tauri chose to install an upgraded Energy Store on Gasly’s car which meant it would be a pitlane start after yesterday’s rather unfortunate first lap shenanigans. This meant he would be chasing Bottas back up the grid and he would not be the only one with some work to do. With the departure of Bottas to the back of the grid, after winning yesterday, Verstappen inherited pole position, and with a brace of McLarens between him and Lewis Hamilton, starting again on the slippery side of the grid, perhaps his best chance in ages to win at one of Red Bull’s worst tracks. Contrawise, Mercedes will be hoping that their late night analysis of yesterday’s botched start will perhaps give Lewis the edge he needs to take one, if not both, of the Maccas on the trip to Turn 1 particularly if internecine warfare distracts them, as occasionally happens…
Pirelli are firmly in the one stop camp for today’s race, with Medium-Soft with a stop between laps 27 to 33 or vice versa with a stop between laps 15-20 being equally quick. Worth noting that Mercedes kept an extra set of new Softs for their drivers vs Red Bull, who elected to rock 2 sets of fresh Mediums in their arsenal. Medium-Hard also a possibility with a stop between laps 17-25 and the real interest would be who might elect to start with the Softs for early advantage, with the possibility of pitting into traffic as the big negative to that strategy, but the promise of an early Safety Car perhaps a counterweight.
And there you go, Hamilton on the HARDS!!! Who knows what the heck Mercedes strategists are up to, but running long and the overcut might be the obvious guess. Formation lap issues with his brakes for Tsunoda meant he rocked into the pits instead of taking to the grid and a bad day for Alpha Tauri was rapidly getting worse.
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Ricciardo and into the lead he rocketed into Turn 1, Verstappen falling neatly into line. Crucially, behind Hamilton managed to nip by Norris and was firmly in front of Norris on the way to the Curva Grande. Into Turn 4 it was Hamilton, pulling alongside Verstappen and on the entry to Turn 4 there was the briefest puff of smoke as Max ran Lewis out of room and the Mercedes driver took to the kerbs and cut the corner, emerging behind Norris. Behind, for the second week running, Giovinazzi into a wall after tangling with Sainz and being spun. He, too, cut the corner but less fortunately came across the front wheels of Sainz as he attempted to re-establish his position on track behind Leclerc. He managed to get the car started and the Virtual Safety Car was out, as the Alfa bailed into the pits for a new nose.
But only briefly and the Virtual Safety Car was lifted at the start of lap 2, with Ricciardo getting an excellent restart. Further back it was Vettel, who lost out most with Stroll running him wide onto the kerb into the first Lesmos, which then let both Alonso and Ocon by on the way to the second Lesmos.
Verstappen wasted no time taking it to Ricciardo and by lap 5 was still under a second behind the Macca driver but it was Bottas, making the absolute most of his new Power Unit, all the way up to P13. On the radio, Verstappen was complaining of the difficulty of getting round Ricciardo, to which his engineer sagely replied “you’ll have to wait”, presumably, for their tyres to start to go…
Lap 8 and Ocon, who cut the Rettifilo on lap 1, was forced to give Latifi his place in line as the midfield was trained up behind Stroll for the moment, and Hamilton was into DRS on Norris. Perez took Sainz on the outside of Rettifilo and made it stick and Bottas was up to P8 as the race began to settle into the first stint. Giovinazzi got dinged 5 seconds for the contact with Sainz and with Ricciardo at the front, the usual gaps were not really appearing, though Perez was sitting on a 5 second gap to Leclerc in P5.
Lap 12 Hamilton had his first go, onto the gearbox of Norris through Parabolica but unable to finish the move once he juked out of Norris’ slipstream. As with yesterday, the McLaren just seemed to have a slight advantage on the exit of the last turn and it was just enough to keep the Mercedes from getting the job done.
That said, blister on the right front for Norris and with 13 laps to the predicted window a bit of a worry for Macca as the Hard tyre was working perhaps better than expected. And as with yesterday, the defense being laid down by Norris meant they were slowly falling back from the Verstappen/Ricciardo pair, with Max seemingly more at peace with letting Ricciardo get on with it for the time being. Vettel managed to rock alongside Ocon into the second chicane, and on entry the Alpine drifted back towards the racing line, the resulting contact putting Vettel two wheels off and bringing an investigation from the stewards.
Lap 18 and closeups of the right front tyres were now being shown, with Verstappen’s looking quite raggedy in an epic slo-mo shot. Bottas took P9 from Alonso and it was increasingly looking like Mercedes had nailed their strategy. 5 second penalty for Ocon, and Verstappen was complaining about energy use issues, after having a bit of a lockup into the first chicane. His engineer recommended a switch to Mode 7 to help with the alleged uselessness of Verstappen’s overtake button.
Lap 23 and Ricciardo was in, and out on a set of Hards, just behind Sainz in P7. Vettel followed suit and was out in P16 just behind Schumacher, as Ricciardo was covering off Bottas. Verstappen rocked in lap 24 for the exact same reason but oh no, disaster as the right front refused to play ball, and he was bounced all the way down to P10, just behind Alonso. In the excitement, Hamilton managed to finally get round the outside of Norris, on the way into Turn 4. This brought Norris in at the end of lap 25 and out on the Hards, just ahead of Verstappen as the misery for Red Bull continued. Lap 26 and Hamilton was in, and out behind Norris in an attempt to cover off Verstappen, and oh my it’s a crash into Turn 1 as Verstappen tried to go round the outside and they have managed to put themselves out of the race…
Safety car out as Hamilton stayed in the cockpit and tried to reverse out from underneath Verstappen’s car, though he was ultimately unsuccessful. Taking advantage of the Safety Car was Leclerc, who had yet to pit, and rocking serenely out of the pitlane into P2. The replay showed that into Turn 1, Hamilton was ahead on the inside to the entry of Turn 1 and Verstappen, who tried to hang round the outside, clipped the sausage kerb which pitched him into, and then over the top of Hamilton, his rear wheel running directly over Lewis’ head, another reminder of the importance of the halo in driver safety.
Lap 30 and the Safety Car was in, everyone on fresh tyres to the end… And off they went, Norris doing Leclerc on the way through the Curva Grande while Bottas, carrying the Mercedes’ colours, rocked by Sainz and up to P6. Ocon put the knife into Latifi at the end of lap 32. Perez cut the chicane to get ahead of Leclerc, though complaining that he was left no room, and Bottas was now all over the back of Leclerc taking it to the Ferrari driver. Briefly, Bottas was ahead but Leclerc took the position back into the second chicane. Not for long though as the second go round for Bottas, start of lap 34, the job was properly done and Perez next up in the queue.
Other excitements include Mazepin spinning Schumacher and Kubica making a hella overtake on Vettel, who also got tapped by Schumacher. Bad news for Ricciardo, Norris was decidedly quicker and already on the radio looking to be let go… But a quick call from his engineer to not worry about tyre saving and the greens re-established themselves on Danny Rics side of the board. Also in the excitement, it was Bottas onto Medium tyres at his stop, giving him quite the advantage as he chased down the Red Bull. Perez got dinged for a fiver for jumping Leclerc and currently that would put him back to P7 from P3.
The bad news for Bottas was that Perez, penalised though he was, was still in front of him and also in DRS on Norris, making it exceedingly difficult for the Mercedes driver. Schumacher got round Mazepin on lap 40 after the Russian had a massive lockup into Turn 1. At the end of the lap Mazepin rocked in for some new tyres, and was also dinged 5 seconds for spinning his teammate.
Lap 43 and Bottas finally had a chance, as Perez fell out of DRS on Norris and on the outside into the Roggia and looked to have it done but Perez made the cutback on exit and into the first Lesmos the Red Bull took the place back. Mazepin stopped it at Turn 10 and that brought out the Virtual Safety Car, which ended with 8 laps to go. Ricciardo got quite a good jumpas the racing got back underway and Perez, under huge pressure from Bottas, was also well outside DRS of Norris.
And after another lap or so of trailing in DRS, the race again began to settle, perhaps as Bottas built up to a final challenge, the tyres perhaps needing a bit of looking after or maybe some fuel saving to get to the end. Lap 49 and it was Bottas, again inside DRS on Perez but it was an increasingly pointless duel as ahead Norris was nearly 2 seconds up the road with 3 laps left. And as they started in on lap 52, Bottas let the gap go back out to just over a second, it was Ricciardo, swanning around in the lead, 2 seconds up on Norris and absoutely on pace… and there you go, fast lap to boot as he crossed the line for the final time, astonishing race from McLaren as they nab their first one-two in eleven years, elation on the radio sending McLaren fans into paroxysms of joy.
And rightly so, the strategists having absolutely nailed it on for the scrappy team, slowly regaining the stature of their glory years after wandering the wilderness for most of this regulatory era. And quite likely they would have pulled off at least the win, regardless of the Verstappen-Hamilton brouhaha. Massive win, massive result and hard to argue. Mercedes will be pleased with Bottas in P3, after the penalty for Perez was applied as they would be extending their lead in the Constructors but their real fight will be behind the scenes in the stewards office as they attempt to make it all Max’s fault.
Ferrari will also be thinking it was a bit of a magical day, as Leclerc in P4 and Sainz in P6 is possibly a bit more than they thought they might achieve, though they will be left wondering if maybe, just maybe, had Perez given the spot back he might have wound up on the podium. As it stood, though, it was just by the skin of his teeth that he managed to take the place from Perez, 1.4 seconds to the good.
Red Bull will also be thinking they made the correct choice for Perez, but much like Mercedes their battle will now be in the stewards office as they seek to avoid being blamed for the pas de deux in Turn 1 with Hamilton. They will maintain the lead in the Drivers which is perhaps all they would have asked before the weekend started.
Aston will be cheered that Stroll rocked up into P7 amidst all the madness, a good result after a tough stretch for them. Alonso in P8 is a big win for Alpine, as they did not look to be anywhere near the points after qualifying, and despite the 5 second penalty, getting Ocon into P10 will be happy days for them, as their nearest rivals, Alpha Tauri were entirely unable to participate today.
Which leaves Williams, with Russell into the points in P9 and clearly having turned some kind of corner and with Albon incoming sunnier days ahead seem more and more likely as the new management and new investment begin to pay off.
Two weeks for the teams to lick their wounds, manufacture their replacement parts and then the circus rolls onto Russia where they get to do it all over again…
And remember to play nice in the comments!!