Verstappen on top in Italy as title inches closer

Verstappen on top in Italy as title inches closer

September 11, 2022

It was Max Verstappen on the top step of the podium yet again as he scored his eleventh victory of the season, winning for the first time ever in Monza in front of the Tifosi. The Dutchman was just too quick for Ferrari to handle, and his win now puts Red Bull inches away from both the titles.

Behind Verstappen, pole sitter Charles Leclerc finished second ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell. The other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz finished fourth ahead of the British pair of Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Pérez. McLaren’s Lando Norris finished seventh ahead of Pierre Gasly, while debutant Nyck de Vries finished a stunning ninth, with Zhou Guanyu rounding up the points places. 

Verstappen’s win now puts him 116 points ahead of Leclerc in the Championship battle. It’s only a matter of time before the Red Bull driver secures his second consecutive title.

Red Bull, too, have built their Constructors’ lead to a healthy 139 points, and it looks all but certain that the Austrian team will be taking home both the titles for the first time since 2013. 

Pole sitter Leclerc led the line from the start, while Russell managed to stay within a car’s length of the Monégasque. McLaren’s Lando Norris had a shocker of a start and was passed by a host of cars, including Championship leader Max Verstappen, who was up to P4 from P7 by the end of Lap 1.

By Lap 5, Verstappen had sailed past Russell to take P2 and was just over two seconds behind Leclerc, whose teammate Sainz, meanwhile, who started P18, also enjoyed a strong start and was up to P10 by Lap 6. 

Sergio Pérez was the first driver to pit as he came in on Lap 8, switching to the hard compounds, while his teammate up ahead was eating into Leclerc’s lead.

The race saw its first retirement on Lap 11, when the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel stopped on the side of the track with an engine issue, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car (VSC). Ferrari called in both of their drivers for their pit-stops under the VSC, and Leclerc rejoined in P3 while Verstappen led from Russell.

The problem for Ferrari, however, was that the Red Bull car was too quick for them. Even on fresher tyres Leclerc wasn’t able to catch Verstappen, who by Lap 18 had built his lead to over seven seconds. The Dutchman did come in for his first pit-stop on Lap 25, which gave Leclerc the lead of the race once again, with Verstappen re-joining in second place, 10 seconds behind him.

On a fresher set, Verstappen was eating a tenth of Leclerc’s lead every lap, and when Ferrari called Leclerc for his second stop on Lap 33, Verstappen re-took the lead from Leclerc, while Hamilton, who had made his way into the points places, rejoined in P12 after his stop.

Further down the grid, things got from bad to worse for Aston Martin as they suffered a double DNF after Lance Stroll retired on Lap 42 due to another technical issue.

Verstappen, meanwhile, seemed to be cruising to yet another victory and seemed to be doing it on a one-stop. Not only did Red Bull have more pace, but they also had better tyre-management.

The race saw its final piece of action on Lap 47, when last year’s Italian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo stopped on the side of the track due to an engine issue. His on-track retirement saw the Safety Car come out, which saw a host of cars, including the top four, all pit for a fresh set of tyres.

With only six laps left for the race, by the time Ricciardo’s car was removed and the lapped cars could be un-lapped, the race would’ve gotten over. The race, therefore, ended under the Safety Car in an anti-climatic way.

The win has now put Verstappen just a win away from his second title; a win in Singapore should wrap up the title for him.

For Ferrari, it was yet another afternoon that left them asking what they could have done. This time around, though, the answer is simple: they just had no answer to Red Bull’s pace, which has been the case for the majority of the season.

As we head to the Asian leg of the season, Red Bull’s double title looks inevitable. When we return to racing in three week’s time, all eyes will be on Verstappen to clinch that title. 

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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