Verstappen cruises to fifth win in a row in Monza

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 and George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13 battle for position. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race
© XPB 

Max Verstappen wasted no time in recovering from a grid penalty to blast his way to the front of the Italian Grand Prix, and after that there was never any doubt he would triumphantly collect his fifth race win in a row.

It puts him 116 points ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in the drivers championship, meaning he could theoretically clinch the 2022 title in Singapore.

Leclerc finished in second after an early change to mediums failed to pay off, with George Russell continuing a remarkable run of consistency to claim his fourth podium in the last five races ahead of Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.

The race ended behind a safety car after Daniel Ricciardo became the fourth retirement of the afternoon. But there was jubilation for Williams after stand-in driver Nyck de Vries gained two points on his F1 debut.

Circuit atmosphere - Ferrari fans in the grandstand. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

It was a warm and sunny day here once more at the Temple of Speed, with intense blue skies overhead as Formula 1 observed the usual pre-race formalities. In addition there was a moment's silence in memory of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Once that was done it was time for the drivers to head for the grid, with the order somewhat scrambled since the end of qualifying thanks to the high number of penalties for power unit changes.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc remained on pole position, but Mercedes driver George Russell had been promoted to second place alongside him, also on soft tyres. Row 2 was now an all-McLaren affair consisting of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo on mediums. Also boosted up the order were Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso, while championship leader Max Verstappen had dropped five places meaning the Red Bull would start on a set of softs from seventh place. He was one place ahead of fellow Dutchman Nyck de Vries, Williams' last minute substitute driver starting his maiden Grand Prix from eighth and also on the soft compound. Meanwhile Sergio Perez was lining up in P13, Carlos Sainz from P18 and Lewis Hamilton just behind in P19, all three initially taking the medium compound completing a wildly mixed-up grid.

When the lights went out, Leclerc got a good start and protected himself from an attack around the outside of turn 1 by Russell. Norris had suffered a terrible start with anti-stall kicking in dropping him to seven, allowing Ricciardo to move into third where he was immediately under pressure from Verstappen who had already dispatched Gasly and Alonso. Norris managed to recover one of his dropped spots with a move on Alonso, with de Vries cooly holding on to eighth from Zhou Guanyu and Sebastian Vettel.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 leads at the start of the race. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

Sainz had got a flier and was up to P14 by the second lap, passing Perez who had stuttered at the start and dropped to 16th. Strangely inert was Hamilton, who gained just one place to 18th - and that only because Valtteri Bottas had got caught up in the midfield crush and sustained some damage from a clash with one of the Haas cars, dropping the Alfa Romeo to the back of the order.

Verstappen has swiftly dispensed with Ricciardo and now lined up Russell in his sights, sending it down the inside of Rettifilo at the start of lap 5 to snatch second place from the Mercedes with almost contemptuous ease. Verstappen was now two seconds behind Leclerc, but Russell was using the tow to hold on to the lead pair in third as they pulled away from Ricciardo, Gasly, Norris, Alonso and de Vries. Further back, Sainz was also now back in the top ten having swiftly taken care of both Aston Martin drivers Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll, and soon made it ninth with a pass on Zhou.

Perez had been following him up the order but he pitted early on lap 8 to change to a set of the hard tyres. When he departed the pit box there was smoke coming from the front of the car and even visible flames but he continued, relying on the air flow at speed cooling the brakes and snuff out the fire. Meanwhile Sainz was continuing his charge though the field: helped by Ricciardo holding up a train of cars, there were consummate passes on Zhou and de Vries before he dived past Norris at the first chicane at the start of lap 11 to take sixth.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) McLaren MCL36 and Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari F1-75 battle for position. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

Just as Sainz lined up a move on Gasly, there was a Virtual Safety Car on lap 12 for Sebastian Vettel having to park an ailing Aston Martin at the exit of turn 7 with a suspected power train issue. Leclerc took instant advantage by pitting for mediums, but Verstappen and Russell stayed out. The VSC was quickly over as Leclerc returned to the track in third, just ahead of his team mate as Sainz now claimed the scalp of Ricciardo to move up to fourth place. Alonso also made good use of the restart to dispense with Norris and de Vries, leaving Zhou holding on to the final points position.

Verstappen soon pulled out a seven second lead at the front; his team mate Perez was still running, but he was still only P18 having caught and passed Williams' Nicholas Latifi. By contrast, Hamilton was finally on the move and now passed Stroll for 11th place, but it nonetheless remained slow going for the seven time world champion, who was still four seconds away from the top ten and earning any points this afternoon. Also having a good phase was Norris, recovering from his bad start and up to fifth place as cars around him started their scheduled first stop sequence. Ricciardo, Gasly, Zhou and Stroll all opted for the hard compound, while de Vries gambled on a set of mediums.

Verstappen and Russell (still on softs) as well as Sainz, Norris, Alonso, Hamilton, Mick Schumacher were all yet to stop. Meanwhile Perez was back up to ninth, no sign of any lasting ill-effects from the earlier brake fire on the Red Bull. Bottas was in the top ten, with Kevin Magnussen in 11th the last of those yet to stop, having also incurred a five second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Russell was in next on lap 24, but it was a sluggish stop as the Mercedes pit crew took 3.6s to bolt on a new set of the hard compound, thereby dropping him to fourth place behind the Ferraris and ahead of Norris.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13 makes a pit stop. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

Verstappen finally pitted on lap 25, also opting for a set of hard tyres for his last stint. It dropped him to second, meaning that Leclerc was back in the lead with a nine second advantage over the Red Bull - but on a set of 15-lap-old mediums. Sainz was 15s behind Verstappen in third and yet to stop at all, and he was being told by the Ferrari pit wall that the softs were proving quicker than expected. When he finally pitted on lap 31 - locking up as he did so - it was indeed for the softs, a 2.3s stop putting him back out on track in eighth behind Perez.

Alonso had just been picked off by Hamilton, but it was moot in any case as Alpine ordered him to pit on lap 32 having identified a suspected water pressure issue on his car that made him the second retirement of the afternoon. It promoted Russell back into the top three ahead of the yet-to-stop Norris and Hamilton. Perez had been up to sixth place, but his old hard tyres were now no match to Sainz' new softs.

Just as Sainz pulled that off that pass on lap 34, the Ferrari mechanics were out in pit lane to receive Leclerc for his second stop and a move to the soft compound. Although he came back out in second ahead of Russell, he was now 20s off the leader and initially lacking the pace of Verstappen. Hamilton and Schumacher also pitted at the same time, and then it was Norris who came in on lap 36. It was a painfully slow stop for the McLaren, with a problem on the front right and a sticky rear left meaning that he came out just behind Ricciardo. Seconds later as he struggled to get up to speed, he got picked off by Gasly - and then Hamilton jumped both of them.

Nyck de Vries (NLD) Williams Racing FW44 Reserve Driver. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

Once his tyres got some heat in them, Norris was soon able to have his revenge on the AlphaTauri. Hamilton had already scythed his way past Ricciardo, and seconds later Norris also got the better of the Aussie. With 15 laps to go it was Verstappen in a commanding position followed by Leclerc, Russell, Sainz, Perez, Hamilton, Norris, Ricciardo and Gasly. The Frenchman was under pressure from de Vries who was provisionally on course to claim a championship point on his F1 debut appearance, although Zhou in 11th had other ideas about that and Esteban Ocon was clearly determined to catch and take care of both of them.

Stroll had already been lapped by the time that the call came from the Aston Martin pit wall to bring the car in and retire on lap 41. There was some white knuckle business between Latifi and Schumacher as the Haas insisted somewhat unnecessarily on a risky pass on lap 43 for 14th. Meanwhile Zhou was turning the screws on de Vries for P10, but on this occasion the Williams newbie was up to the threat despite his mediums looking distinctly end-of-life compared to Zhou's set of the hard compound, even though both had originally pitted at the same time. De Vries got some valuable relief when Zhou had to back off to allow Verstappen to lap them both.

Lap 44 saw Perez pay for his early pit stop by having to make a second visit to pit lane for a new set of softs, in pursuit of snatching the bonus point for fastest lap from Leclerc even though it temporarily dropped him from fifth to seventh. But just when it looked like the race was effectively done, there was a twist to the tale when Ricciardo's engine failed on lap 47 forcing the McLaren to stop - and triggering a full safety car in the process, meaning the drivers had one last throw of the dice with an opportunistic 'free' stop.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA Safety Car. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

Verstappen and Leclerc had already passed pit lane entry so it was Russell and Sainz who made the first stops followed by Norris after Hamilton opted to stay out. The race leaders were able to pit next time by, both taking on soft tyres, but that temporary confusion meant the safety car had initially picked up Russell as the race leader; with the laps fast running out, sorting out the confused situation with the lapped cars meant there was no time to restart the race before the chequered flag came out.

As a result, Verstappen has secured his 11th win of the season and fifth in a row, earning his first career podium at Monza in the process. A frustrated Leclerc finished second ahead of Russell, with Sainz ending up in fourth followed by Hamilton, Perez, Norris, Gasly, de Vries and Zhou. Just missing out on the points were Ocon, Schumacher, Bottas, Tsunoda, Latifi and Magnussen with four retirements (Ricciardo, Stroll, Alonso and Vettel).

Verstappen now has 335 points in the drives championship with Leclerc 116 points in second after losing out on the bonus point for fastest lap to Perez, who is nine points being in third in the standings with Russell rapidly closing just seven points in arrears. Red Bull's lead over Ferrari in the constructors battle is now 139 points with just six races remaining in the 2022 season.

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