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Monza win gives Verstappen one hand on title


It was at Monza two years ago that Ross Brawn insisted reverse grids were the way to add spice to F1.

The F1 MD was speaking in the wake of an Italian Grand Prix that proved to be a perfect storm in terms of those chains of natural events that can turn races on their heads.

Lewis Hamilton was penalised for entering the pitlane while still closed after Kevin Magnussen had stopped on track. Then, following a huge crash for Charles Leclerc, the race was re-started, only for Hamilton to be handed a time penalty that subsequently dropped him to the back of the field.

Due to the various tyre strategies and the timing of the incidents, at the re-start the original grid was basically reversed and with Hamilton indisposed the way was open for teammate Valtteri Bottas to clean up but the Finn basically missed an open goal.

At race end it was Pierre Gasly who took a famous victory, ahead of Stroll, Norris, Bottas, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Ocon, Kvyat and Perez.

"Yesterday's race showed the excitement a mixed-up pack can deliver and with next year's cars remaining the same as this year, our fans could be treated to the similar drama we saw this weekend at Monza," opined Brawn in his post-race debrief.

"With a reverse grid sprint race, teams will set their cars up differently," he insisted. "Right now, Mercedes set their cars up to achieve the fastest lap and then to control the race from the front. If they know they have to overtake, they will have to change that approach. We will continue to evaluate new formats with the aim of improving the show but always maintaining the DNA of Formula 1.

"What was fascinating was watching how the Mercedes - with such superior aerodynamics over its rivals - had such difficulties overtaking. You could see Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas' performance was compromised by being out of position in the pack. It was astonishing how such a dominant car struggled in traffic."

Thankfully the evidence wasn't convincing enough, and the reverse grid concept has been consigned to history.

However, looking at today's grid, it appears Brawn might have found another means of achieving his dream.

Courtesy of the grid penalties handed out to nine drivers, only one - pole-sitter Charles Leclerc - starts from the same position in which he qualified.

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen starts from seventh, and Carlos Sainz and Hamilton from the back row.

With George Russell now joining Leclerc on the front row, and the McLarens of Lando Norris and (2021 winner) Daniel Ricciardo right behind, Brawn will be salivating.

However, as we have said before, when these circumstances come about naturally it is fun to watch, but today's grid is the result of engine penalties and it is artificial.

However, as Brawn no doubt prepares another call for reverse grids, let's make the most of what we've got, and what we've got is intriguing.

Leclerc has an open goal, but this is Ferrari we are talking about, therefore it remains to be seen how the likes of Russell and Norris can capitalise on the early absence of Verstappen.

The world champion has problems of his own, for he has that wily old fox, Fernando Alonso ahead of him and rookie Nyck de Vries behind.

Sergio Perez starts from 13th, ahead of Ocon, Bottas and the Haas pair, while Sainz and Hamilton fill the back row.

This being Monza, overtaking isn't easy, and the fear is that this afternoon could be one long DRS train. Indeed, Hamilton half-jokingly suggested that he might take an iPad with him in order to watch Game of Thrones during the race.

Sadly, with the sun shining the Weather Gods look unlikely to lend a hand, while Pirelli admits that it is likely to be a one stopper.

However, this is Monza, a circuit that is known for throwing up surprises, just ask Gasly or Ricciardo, so perhaps its best to forget about Brawn and his desire to spice things up and just sit back and enjoy what we have.

The best one-stopper on paper involves starting on the soft to make the most of its initial grip, before moving onto the hard, which should provide a consistent and competitive performance in the warm conditions. The alternative one-stopper consists of a longer initial stint on the medium before then going on to the hard.

The pitlane opens and Verstappen is first out, but soon he is joined by his rivals.

Leclerc complains that his car is bottoming more than normal.

Air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 43 degrees. Risk of rain is 0%.

Ahead of the minute's silence for Her Majesty The Queen, Sylvester Stallone is spotted on the grid, the actor who tried hard to make an F1 movie a few years back but was thwarted by a certain Mr E.

Having admitted that he'll be happy to finish second, Verstappen makes a pint of shaking (Ferrari chairman) John Elkann's hand.

All are on mediums bar Leclerc, Russell, Verstappen, de Vries, and Ocon who are on (fresh) softs. As ever - and, no, we don't know why - the Aston Martins start on used (medium) tyres.

Verstappen clearly on an all-out attack strategy, as are Leclerc and Russell.

They head off on the formation lap. The field is incredibly strung out, and as Leclerc heads into the Parabolica, Tsunoda is still rounding the second Lesmo.

The grid forms.

They're away! Great starts from both Leclerc and Russell, while further back Gasly is quick out of the stall. Into the first part of the first chicane, Leclerc is on the inside with Russell to his left, Ricciardo is third, just ahead of Verstappen and Gasly.

Norris has had a dreadful start, thought to be anti-stall related and has lost a number of places.

Zhou misses the first part of the first chicane, and Russell misses the second, while further back Bottas and Magnussen touch, leaving Hamilton no option but to also cut the second part of the chicane as he takes avoiding action.

"He pushed me wide," complains Russell of Leclerc.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Leclerc, Russell, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Gasly, Norris, Alonso, de Vries, Zhou and Vettel. Sainz is up to 16th while Hamilton is 19th.

Verstappen p[asses Ricciardo at the first chicane for third, as Stroll passes his Aston Martin teammate for 10th.

Sainz passes Perez for 15th, the Mexican having made a poor start.

At the start of lap 3, Verstappen, who posted a new fastest lap (26.181), is all over Russell, while Gasly is harrying Ricciardo.

At the start of lap 5, Verstappen nails Russell as they head into the first chicane, while Sainz is up to 12th and Perez 14th. Hamilton is 18th.

"Stay with Sainz, follow Sainz," Perez is told.

In fourth, Ricciardo heads a DRS train of 10 cars.

In rapid succession Sainz passes both Aston Martins, while Perez passes Ocon for 13th.

After 6 laps, Verstappen is 2.1s down on Leclerc, while Russell has fallen 1s behind the world champion.

"Fronts are washing out quite a lot," warns Russell.

Lap 7 sees a new fastest lap from Verstappen (25.297), as Perez pits. The Mexican heads out in last position on hards, but there is smoke coming from his front-right.

"There's something strange on the right disk," he reports.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monza here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 14/09/2022 1:35

"@ Mad matt...Piastri is good. He is ruthless and relentless as his F33 & F2 year proved. Whether he can translate his past performances next year at McLaren is a question yet to be answered. One can only hope that next years car is a marked improvement and that a year on the sidelines hasn't dulled his edge. It's quite clear that McLaren and specifically Zak Brown, have chosen Norris as their No.1 but Piastri needs to be treated equally if the youngster is to flourish. Nothing saps a drivers will so much as being forced to demur to their team mate. I look forward to seeing just how it all pans out."

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2. Posted by Mad Matt, 13/09/2022 6:47

"@kenji Yes I hope they can do better with the car next year, as you say the Red Bull goes past like their not in the same league.

I don't know much about Piastri, other than seeing a few of his races against Jamie Caroline in British F4.... but I hope he gets a good car and space to find his place in F1."

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3. Posted by kenji, 13/09/2022 1:16

"@ Mad Matt...all cool. Have you read Gasly's comments? Daniel drove that McLaren's wheels off to maintain his lowly position despite the relentless pursuit by the other cars in the train. The fact is, that McLaren car is a dog insofar as it lacks outright performance. Watching the way the Bed Bulls and Ferraris passed them just shows how far behind they actually are. I do sincerely hope that next year they manage to build a better car for Piastri to drive. Should he falter the British media will have a field day trashing him and his management team."

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4. Posted by Mad Matt, 12/09/2022 18:07

"Hey Kenji, always difficult to tell and sometimes we put more emphasis on drivers words than they perhaps warrant. In my case it was a post race interview where Daniel appeared relieved to have managed to stay in front of Pierre Gasly, which implied he wasn't holding him back on purpose.... but as I say, perhaps I'm reading too much into a throw away comment :-)"

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5. Posted by kenji, 12/09/2022 12:31

"@MadMatt....I didn't say that Ricciardo had it over Norris 'all weekend' was just for the race. When the team asked Daniel to back up Gasly it did appear [ to me ] that the gap between himself and Gasly actually increased! Maybe I was seeing things but I guess that lap times woiuld tell the true story. Roll on Singapore."

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6. Posted by Mad Matt, 12/09/2022 12:19

"They could and the BTCC does add extra laps in those circumstances but even that is capped so the extra laps may have been used up by an earlier incident.

They could stop the race for any safety car in the last 10 laps, and do a grid restart plus allow refuelling and new tyres but that could feel a bit artificial and seem a bit OTT for something that rarely happens. Oh and there then might be some who complain that they didn't have any new tyres to put on at that stage....."

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7. Posted by yakker, 12/09/2022 11:53

"Why not stop the lap count when the safety car is deployed."

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8. Posted by Mad Matt, 12/09/2022 10:11

"I'm not sure I'd say Daniel had the measure of Lando all weekend but he was certainly on terms with him and if it weren't for a problem pitstop McLaren would have got Lando out in front of Lewis... and then if they hadn't pitted in the safety car period he might have been a few more places up the road.... IF, IF, IF :-)

Pit call or not it seemed to me that Daniel suffered a little bit more than Lando in the race but it was probably the call to hards which really put an end to any hopes of a better finish... which was clearly a mistake from the team but one it seems other teams also made.

As for the safety car: Daniel's car couldn't be quickly cleared but they didn't know that immediately so, from my perspective the rules were followed. A shame they didn't get a last two laps sprint but that's the way it goes sometimes.

They could change the rules to red flag it in future but then you'd have to know the car couldn't be moved and what if there was another safety car and now there's only 2 laps left... or one?"

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9. Posted by kenji, 12/09/2022 0:40

"Once again, a race of many parts that shows just how large the performance discrepancies between teams reall is! There were a few standouts but generally it did not live up the promise one feels should be demonstrated at Monza. The RB in the hands of Verstappen is just a superb machine. The problem with that is that he is starting to become too good for the race! De Vries showed that he has the talent to provide a competitive car but then again there are quite a few drivers sharing that accolade. The Sky trio were an embarrassment as they fought each other to provide the ultimate cringe in gushing superlatives. It was great to see Ricciardo make another fantastic start and by the exit of the first chicane he was in third and Norris was down in seventh. DR had the measure of Norris all race and was headed for a super finish until his engine let go. It seems as though bad luck begets further bad luck. The pit wall call for him to back up Gasly to help Norris was unbecoming considering the status quo. All in all a damp squib finish that left lots of people both bewildered and let down. Michael Masi should be reinstated and then we would've seen a last few laps of full-on battle for supremacy. As it was Wolff and Hamilton were able to indulge in some retrospective 'hair shirting'. "

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10. Posted by rick, 11/09/2022 18:17


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11. Posted by Ricardo_sanchez, 11/09/2022 16:26

"Masi would’ve red flagged it and then had a sprint to the finish. ;-)"

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