Formula 1 fans know that Mercedes have had a stranglehold on the series for the past few years, with Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas consistently winning Grand Prix events. However, this year’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza was the exact opposite of that.
At the start, Hamilton jumped into a commanding lead, as he normally does. His teammate Valterri Bottas was not as lucky, falling back as low as sixth is the first quarter of the race after a weak start. This propelled both McLaren cars into the podium early in the race, as Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris held second and third early on. Ferrari’s race turned from bad to worse on lap six, as Sebastian Vettel suffered rear brake issues which ended his day. A safety car on lap nineteen would change the entire complexion of the race.
With the safety car on track due to Kevin Magnusen’s mechanical issue, and due to where the car had stopped on course, the pit lane was closed. However, two drivers pitted for a new set of tires right after the safety car was brought out. One of those drivers was Lewis Hamilton, the other being Antonio Giovinazzi. Both drivers would be penalized for entering the pit lane before it was closed, resulting in a 10 second stop and hold. However, before the two served their penalty, racing would resume while the stewards decided the fate of both drivers. Lewis bolted ahead again, as the drivers behind him jostled for position. The red flag would then come out on lap 24 as Charles Leclerc would lose control of his Ferrari exiting Parabolica making hard contact with the tire wall. During the red flag, the penalties for Hamilton and Giovinazzi were revealed, meaning they would have to serve them under green flag conditions.
The man who benefited greatly from the red flag was Lance Stroll, who was able to take a new set of medium compound tires, which would take him to the end of the race. When the race resumed, Stroll would have a terrible start, giving the lead to Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly. On lap 31, Max Verstappen would retire his car after engine issues. With the struggles of Mercedes on the day, it seemed like a prime chance for Red Bull to take advantage of their misfortune. However, mechanical issues and damage at the start on Alex Albon’s car ended what could have been a fantastic day for Red Bull. With less than 20 laps to go, Gasly leads the field over Carlos Sainz, who is charging hard in the McLaren after the restart.
Gasly, Sainz and Stroll would lead the field with less than ten to go, with Sainz closing hard on the French driver in the closing laps. This gap would be too much for Sainz to cover, as Alpha Tauri and Pierre Gasly go on to win the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Gasly is the first French driver to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix since Olivier Panis claimed the win at Monaco in 1996. Carlos Sainz said after the race, “I can’t be too disappointed with P2. With a normal race I would have scored P2 behind Lewis. We’ve been super quick all weekend. Chasing Pierre, finishing three or four tenths back – it is what it is.” Over the radio on the cool down lap, Sainz said all he needed was one more lap to pass Gasly, but that lap would not come today. “It was such a crazy race. The car was fast, and to go through so much in the space of 18 months. First podium last year, now first victory in Monza. I have no words,” stated Gasly after his first Formula 1 victory.
Pierre Gasly reflects on his first Grand Prix victory (Formula 1)
What a race in Monza!
Featured Image Credit: XBP Images
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