Verstappen scores perfect ten out of ten with Italy GP win

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 03.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
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Red Bull's Max Verstappen has become the first driver in F1 history to score ten back-to-back victories in a season, dashing Ferrari hopes of a home win with a peerless performance in today's Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

Pole sitter Carlos Sainz battled valiantly to stay in front but ultimately gave way on lap 15, and subsequently also lost out to Sergio Perez who made it a Red Bull 1-2.

But Sainz did manage to hold on to third despite coming under intense pressure from his team mate Charles Leclerc, making for a thrilling no-holds-barred battle between the Ferrari pair in the closing laps.

It was a lovely late summer's day for a motor race with just some high clouds and hazy sunshine over a very warm Monza, umbrellas only required to provide welcome cooling shade. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz had already given the local fans in the packed grandstands reason to dare to dream by taking pole position for the race. However he was made to wait for the start after Yuki Tsunoda pulled over on the formation lap with smoke filling the cockpit of the AlphaTauri. The AT04 was stuck in gear so a second formation lap proved premature, and the drivers were told to park on the grid and turn their engines off for a 15 minute delay as the car was craned away on a low-loader.

When the race did finally get underway, Sainz delighted the Tifosi once again by winning the sprint to the first chicane. He swept across the front of Max Verstappen who was hard on his heels in the Red Bull, while Charles Leclerc resisted pressure from George Russell for third. The majority of drivers had opted for mediums, the exceptions being Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas who all opted for the hard compound in the hope and expectation of a long first stint and no safety car.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23 leads at the start of the race.
03.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Behind Sergio Perez, Alex Albon initially lost out to Piastri on the first lap, but the superior pace of the Williams won out on the second and returned him to sixth. Hamilton was struggling to turn on his hard tyres and initially lost a place to Lando Norris in the second McLaren. Further back there was light contact between Alpine team mates Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly who were squabbling over 16th.

Six laps in, the lead Ferrari was already starting to slide around. Verstappen used DRS and the slipstream to attempt a cheeky pass into the first chicane only to find Sainz fighting back, forcing the Red Bull to drop back into line. "That was naughty!" Verstappen commented. He continued to apply the pressure but remained frustrated, while Perez also found himself similarly thwarted in his attempts to pass Russell for fourth. It was coming down to tyre wear, with Gasly first to pit on lap 11 but suffering a problem with the front jack.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL60 and Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren MCL60 battle for position.
03.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Verstappen finally pounced and took the lead on lap 15 with a better exit coming out of the first chicane, and he was soon pulling out of DRS range. A lap later, Perez also dispatched Russell. Sainz finally pitted for hard tyres on lap 20 but it was a sluggish service. Russell was in at the same time, and then it was Verstappen and Leclerc's turn to pit on lap 21, also for hard tyres. Perez made his stop on lap 22 handing temporary control to Piastri and Norris, and the hard-shod Hamilton took the lead when the papaya pair pitted and made slight wheel-to-wheel contact as they came back out on track.

Verstappen resumed the lead on lap 25, Hamilton pitting soon after to switch to mediums. Verstappen soon pulled away, leaving Sainz, Leclerc and Perez battling over the remaining podium places; the Red Bull ultimately proved too quick for Leclerc on lap 32. Russell was in fifth, but had been given a five second penalty for passing Ocon off-track as he came out of pit lane. However he still had enough in hand over Albon, Norris and Piastri to keep fifth position.

Hamilton had closed on that battle and pushed past Piastri on lap 41 resulting in contact that led to Piastri being forced to pit for a new front wing, plus a five second penalty for Hamilton. Meanwhile things were getting increasingly heated between Sainz and Perez over second with the Mexican finally taking the spot on lap 46, leaving Sainz and Leclerc pulling no punches in the remaining laps as they battled over the final podium spot. Pleas for team orders went unanswered, and Sainz just held out to cross the line in front.

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