Ricciardo back on top as McLaren take 1-2 at Monza

September 12, 2021

Championship rivals Verstappen and Hamilton crash again.

Daniel Ricciardo stood on the top step of the podium once again, for the first time in Monaco since 2018, as the Australian put in a sublime drive to take McLaren‘s first victory since Brazil 2012. Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris finished a career-best second to give the Woking team their first 1-2 since Canada 2010. Valtteri Bottas charged through the field to take the final podium spot and limit Mercedes damage on a day the saw both championship rivals collide again.

Ricciardo was on song from the first lap as the Australian took full advantage of his front row start to lead Verstappen into the first chicane. Along with Ricciardo’s fantastic start, Lewis Hamilton had a good start and almost went past Verstappen, but the Red Bull driver squeezed Hamilton off the track, which saw the Brit rejoin in fourth behind Lando Norris. The drama, though, wasn’t over as home-boy Antonio Giovinazzi, who started a brilliant seventh, spun off and rejoined the track dangerously, leaving the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz no choice but to collide with the Alfa Romeo. To make matters worse for the Swiss team, Giovinazzi‘s teammate Robert Kubica spun off too and lost his front wing, bringing out the virtual safety car. As the virtual safety car ended, Ricciardo once again got the better start and sped off, leaving Verstappen to play catch up again. 

Further down the grid, Valtteri Bottas, who started 19th and last after AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda didn’t start due to technical issues, was already on a charge through the field, climbing up an incredible six spots within the first five laps. Bottas’ teammate wasn’t having any of the overtaking luck as Hamilton, who was lapping faster than Ricciardo and Verstappen, couldn’t manage to go past the other McLaren of Lando Norris. By lap 10, Ricciardo led Verstappen by almost a second, and behind them, Norris was putting in a defensive master class holding up Hamilton. 

Ricciardo was the first of the front-runners to pit, and the Australian came in on lap 23, and a swift pit stop saw him rejoin in seventh. Red Bull reacted immediately and called in the then race leader Verstappen on the next lap, and the Austrian team was hoping for another one of the world record pit stops to pip Ricciardo. That thought wasn’t to be; an absolute shocker at the Red Bull pit saw Verstappen stationery for 11 seconds which saw him emerge in 10th place, and to make matters worse, Hamilton up front had managed to go past Norris to lead the race. 

The race took a completely different direction on lap 26 as Hamilton was exiting from his pit stop. The Brit joined in ninth place just ahead of Verstappen, but the championship leader who was desperate to make up for that blotched pit stop, on the inside of Hamilton going into Turn 1, went into Hamilton’s inside and was lifted off the ground and both cars went off into the dirt, taking both of them out. With the Red Bull placed on top of the Mercedes, a Safety Car was deployed immediately. The Halo once again showcased why it was introduced to the sport, protecting Hamilton’s head from Verstappen’s right rear tyre, inches above the Brit’s helmet. 

The Safety Car came in on lap 31, and Ricciardo was back in the lead ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. He opportunistically pitted under the Safety Car and joined in second place ahead of Norris. Norris showcased his skill and bravery on the Safety Car restart as the McLaren squeezed past the Ferrari taking second place. Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, was continuing his charge through the field, and by lap 35, he was just a second behind Sergio Pérez in fourth place. The Finn pushed the remaining Red Bull to the limit as he tried to take the final podium. Pérez’s scrap with the Ferrari, which saw the Mexican gain advantage off the track, handed him a five-second penalty, playing perfectly into Bottas’ hands. Following Verstappen, Hamilton, and AlphaTauri’s retirement, Haas’ Nikita Mazepin retired with a mechanical issue on lap 44 and brought out the virtual safety car. 

As the VSC came in, Ricciardo once again got a better getaway, and within two laps of the VSC going in, he led Norris in second place by more than 1.5 seconds. Ricciardo drove a flawless race and kept his head as he took the chequered flag on lap 53 and headed Norris for McLaren’s first 1-2 in more than a decade. The Australian’s win also was the team’s first win since Jenson Button won in Brazil in 2012. Sergio Pérez held off Bottas from taking third place on the track and probably even the win as the Finn was showcasing some severe pace. However, the Mexican’s time penalty dropped him to fifth place in between the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in fourth and sixth place. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll took seventh place ahead of Fernando Alonso, George Russell, and Esteban Ocon. Ricciardo’s eighth career victory and his first since leaving Red Bull in 2018 turn around what had been a tough start with a new team for the Australian but Ricciardo showed why he is one of the best and highly regarded drivers on the grid. Norris’ career best second place sees the Woking team take a 13.5 point lead in the constructors’ championship from Ferrari for third place, and Bottas’ podium finish makes sure Mercedes holds an 18 point lead over Red Bull. 

Even though neither of the championship rivals took points in this race, what matters most is that neither of the drivers was injured. They both walked away from the bizarre crash unhurt. Both, though, will be disappointed for their reasons, Verstappen for not building a gap on his championship lead and Hamilton for not taking the championship lead. The stewards will investigate the incident after the race but both drivers will get a chance to redeem themselves as racing returns in a fortnight’s time in Sochi.

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