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Verstappen wins entertaining Italian Grand Prix


For once, we are going to climb down off the fence.

Over the years we have been accused of bias either in favour of one driver or team or against, and while there was a time your editor possessed a pair of rosso tinted spectacles they have long since been thrown out.

Today however, for reasons regular readers will fully understand, we will admit to being biased in favour of one particular driver.

It would mean a great deal, on purely personal level, if Fernando Alonso were to claim the top step of the podium.

Having qualified tenth, and with no sign of rain, this is unlikely, but we can dream. We have called on Aston Martin to pull out all the stops, so it is basically in the lap of the gods.

Funnily enough, a certain editor shouted himself hoarse here for a certain 'red team' in 1998, and having been rewarded that day 25 years ago, perhaps the Gods will look down kindly again today, albeit for a certain 'green team'.

Even though this wonderful circuit has been somewhat emasculated over the years, it remains a firm favourite of the drivers, and one that all want to win, if only to experience the joy of the podium.

Yesterday set us up nicely, with Ferrari sandwiching Max Verstappen as he targets a record tenth successive win.

In days gone by, it was not unknown for Ferrari to produce something special on Friday or Saturday merely in a bid to ensure a full house on Sunday, but this weekend seems different, the Maranello outfit genuinely appears to have a chance... it certainly has the speed.

However, Verstappen, who pays little heed to records, has even less towards sentimentality, will be determined to extend his championship lead, a championship that could be secured as early as the next double-header.

The win appears to be down to Max and the Ferraris, however over the years we have seen the race decided at the first chicane - though in 2021 it wasn't on the opening lap.

Though Carlos, Max and the rest will be keen to be first into that first chicane, they will do well do learn from the lessons of the past.

Mercedes and McLaren have been playing down their chances, while the sheer speed of the Williams could see Albon in the mix for decent points, and then there's Sergio who really does need another strong performance.

Impressive yesterday, indeed all weekend, was Lawson, who has settled in with amazing speed at AlphaTauri.

Despite what the likes of Toto Wolff and Frederic Vasseur might say, the poor pace of the Alpines yesterday is proof that the FIA needs to act in terms engine convergence.

A single stop is the quickest option, with the hard compound being the main protagonist. However, it remains to be seen if some will decide to start on the medium to have more flexibility, with a good level of grip at the start, or risk starting on the soft to try and make up places in the early stages.

The two-stop strategy is conditioned by the fact the pit lane is very long and therefore time is lost at each pit stop, but it could be a valid choice if the race is neutralised at any point.

Of course, the 'Temple of Speed' is famous for its slipstreaming, however in recent years we have witnessed the phenomenon of DRS trains, and this could be a real problem today, not only for the drivers but for the watching fans.

Such are the speeds - the cars averaged over 160 mph in Q3 - the race usually lasts around 75 minutes, so sit back and enjoy the ride... and maybe give Fernando a cheer.

The pitlane opens and the cars begin heading out.

The pitlane closes and ahead of the anthem the air temperature is 29 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees. It is a beautiful, sunny day.

"How do you think you can win," Verstappen is asked on his way to the grid by the lovely Rachel Brookes. "By finishing first," he dryly replies.

All are starting on mediums bar Hamilton, Bottas and Magnussen who are on hards. All on fresh rubber bar Albon, Hamilton, Tsunoda, Lawson, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Sargeant and Magnussen.

Sainz leads the field away for the formation lap. All get away cleanly.

Oh dear, Tsunoda has pulled to the side of the track on the back straight ahead of the Parabolica. "Failure, engine failure," he reports.

The grid forms before Sainz leads the way for another formation lap.

"The car is not turning well in the right-hand corners," reports Leclerc. "Is it good?" He is informed that all is well.

Unable to move the stricken AlphaTauri it appears the start will now be aborted with a short delay (5 minutes) before the restart.

As the cars wait on the grid... overheating, still awaiting an official call from Race Control, team personnel are gathered in the pitlane.

Initially the marshals prevent the crews form going on to the track, but eventually some mechanics break through and head out to their cars.

Adding to the fun, Haas suggests that there is a systems issue with starting lights.

Finally, at 15:13. Race Control breaks cover to announce that the formation lap will start at 15:20.

Once again, Sainz leads the way as the (third) formation lap gets underway, the race now reduced to 51 laps.

The grid forms.

They're away! Sainz moves across to cover Verstappen, while the Dutchman has the edge on the second Ferrari.

Sainz leads into the first chicane, ahead of Verstappen and Leclerc, who has Russell on his inside. Just behind Perez is under pressure from Piastri and Albon.

All through the first chicane with no issues. Again through the second chicane the field gets through without any problems, as Russell has a look at Leclerc and Albon eyes Piastri.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Sainz, Verstappen, Leclerc, Russell, Perez, Piastri, Albon, Norris, Hamilton and Hulkenberg.

Albon passes Piastri at the second chicane.

Lap 2 sees a fastest lap from Sainz (26.006) as he maintains a 0.788s lead over Verstappen. Hamilton (hards) runs a little wide in the Parabolica.

Lap 3 sees Verstappen go quickest (25.702), as he closes on the leader whilst having Leclerc 0.915s behind.

The entire field is covered by 15s.

"He's already sliding a bit, so all good," reports Verstappen. "Be sensible," he is told.

Alonso has his time deleted for running wide in Turn 10 (Ascari).

At the start of Lap 6, with the aid of DRS, Verstappen gets alongside Sainz but the Spaniard slams the door... firmly.

"That was naughty," Claims the Dutchman. "Good move," Sainz is told.

At the start of Lap 8, Perez make a similar move on Russell, but again the door is quickly shut.

Behind the Mexican, Albon has dropped back 3.226s but still holds off the McLaren pair.

The leading three are covered by just 0.613s.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monza here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 04/09/2023 2:15

"That was one of the very best races for quite some time. Why we never got to see Fred Vasseur's pulsometer readings was disappointing!! Letting some drivers off the leash allows them to demonstrate what F1 should be all A few points...Lawson drove well but he's really had a ton of experience and is quite up to a real seat in F1. I felt that McLaren really shafted Piastri, again. Norris was complaining that he was faster then Piastri but he couldn't get a real pass on? It was then that the team threw Oscar under the bus. This is the third time Norris has been given priority over Piastri!!! Despite being handed the undercut Norris' track position was borderline when they met and clashed at turn one.Without a slower pitstop then Norris Piastri would've been in front at turn one and we'd of seen a different race between these two. Norris can't be allowed to be beaten by a rookie and Stella's confected displeasure makes that point quite clear. Memo to Mark Webber, you need to get this straightened out pretty soon.

A big thank you to Ferrari for putting on such a great show."

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2. Posted by Ricardo_sanchez, 03/09/2023 20:59

"Some great racing out there today. In particular, Verstappen tracking Sainz at the start and then Leclerc piling the pressure on his teammate at the end, made for an entertaining race. "

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