Verstappen victorious at Monza

Championship leader Max Verstappen produced another superb recovery charge to overcome a grid penalty and jump Charles Leclerc to deny Ferrari a home victory at Monza.

Polesitter Leclerc defied expectation by running a two-stop strategy but his late push on fresh tyres failed to produce enough pace to reel in the defending champion as Verstappen rose from seventh position.

Leclerc had his hopes bolstered by a late safety car that had the potential to throw a spanner in the works, but it was slow to pick up the leaders and duly denied a thrilling sprint to the finish and denied any Ferrari comeback.

That allowed the Red Bull Racing driver to claim his 31st victory, fifth in a row and eleventh of the season to close to within two triumphs of the record for the most successful Formula 1 season.

After a change of internal combustion engine on the advice of supplier Honda, Verstappen lined up seventh thanks to a five-place grid penalty following his lap for second in qualifying.

His RB18 was shod in the softest available C4 tyre to launch well and claim fifth swiftly following an anti-stall trigger for third-starting Lando Norris and a pass on Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen kept climbing in the early stages of the 53-lap 100th anniversary race at Monza. He relegated AlphaTauri pilot Pierre Gasly for fourth at the end of lap one before diving past 2021 Italian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo under braking into the first chicane for a provisional podium.

That left only Leclerc and second-starting George Russell up ahead, the Mercedes holding firm after aborting the first chicane while squabbling with the Ferrari for the early lead.

Despite the W13 separating the pair, Leclerc and Verstappen traded early fastest laps over the timing line as a net 2.5 seconds split the protagonists.

Then the Red Bull claimed second with a great run out of Ascari before combining DRS and the tow to pass Russell cleanly down the main straight to tee up the fight for the win.

With Verstappen a couple of tenths faster per lap, Ferrari attempted to twist by using a virtual safety car – called when Sebastian Vettel parked up with a smoky engine – to give Leclerc a cheaper pitstop.

He stopped for a set of mediums on lap 13 with a swift 2.2 seconds service just as the green flags were waved to dent the effectiveness of the undercut and Leclerc was released in third with 18 seconds to find.

Despite his aging softs, Verstappen was able to hold a decent pace – lapping only 0.5 seconds slower than Leclerc while holding a 10.2 seconds cushion to Russell as Leclerc trailed by a further 4.1 seconds.

As the F1-75 began to make gains, Verstappen pitted for mediums on lap 26 and courtesy of a quick 2.4 seconds stop, came out only a touch over 10 seconds adrift of the leader.

Verstappen’s fresh rubber enabled him to close the gap to 5.4 seconds when Ferrari called Leclerc in again on lap 34 for softs seemingly for a straightforward run to flag, the Red Bull returning in second over Russell.

Leclerc’s initial pace was subdued but he managed to turn up the wick to lap 0.4 seconds faster than Verstappen as the gap stood at 18 seconds with ten laps to go.

But a spanner was thrown in the works on lap 47 when Ricciardo parked up out of Ascari with an engine failure to trigger a safety car, which was deployed late but Verstappen pitted next time around for new softs and Leclerc swapped to used C4s along with Russell in third.

With the field well spread out, the safety car picking up Russell instead and then the lapped cars of Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda splitting the lead duo, plus the McLaren taking time to be cleared by the crane, the race was not restarted to deny a sprint to the flag.

As such, Verstappen secured the win over Leclerc as Russell completed the podium, while Carlos Sainz turned in a rapid first-stint ascension to offset his back of the grid penalty and snare fourth.

Lewis Hamilton did similar, notably holding onto his Mercedes while chasing Alonso plus performing a slick double pass on Norris and Gasly to bag seventh position.

Sergio Perez was able to make the flag despite a persistent brake fire at his first stop for hard tyres, as Norris claimed seventh over Gasly.

Formula E champion Nyck de Vries equalled Williams’ best result of the season in ninth to cap off his fine substitute appearance for an appendicitis-side-lined Alex Albon.

This was an impressive drive by De Vries, subbing at late notice and delivering by finishing in the points with P9.

Zhou Guanyu, meanwhile, completed the top ten for Alfa Romeo ahead of Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher.

Behind Bottas and Tsunoda, Nicholas Latifi and Kevin Magnussen (picking up a 5 seconds penalty for aborting the first chicane) completed the runners.

Alongside Ricciardo and Vettel, Lance Stroll and Alonso (suspected water pump failure) were forced to pull up early.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen. After a triple header of races at Spa, Zandvoort and Monza, the Red Bull driver has won it all and is heading towards his second championship title thanks to the big haul of points. Well deserved.

Italian Grand Prix, Monza:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:20:27.511
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.446
3 George Russell Mercedes +3.405
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +5.061
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +5.380
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull +6.091
7 Lando Norris McLaren +6.207
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +6.396
9 Nyck de Vries Williams +7.122s
10 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +7.910s
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine +8.323s
12 Mick Schumacher Haas +8.549s
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1 lap
15 Nicholas Latifi Williams +1 lap
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
– Daniel Ricciardo McLaren DNF
– Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF
– Fernando Alonso Alpine DNF
– Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin DNF

Leclerc takes pole position at the temple of speed

Charles Leclerc scored a popular pole position in front of the passionate Tifosi at Monza. Championship leader Max Verstappen qualified in second with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz third but both will drop several grid positions due to exceeding power unit.

Regardless of Verstappen taking a five-place grid drop for a new internal combustion engine, Leclerc set the pace by a quarter of a second to the delight of the home fans as Sainz, who will start at the back of the grid, clocked third over Sergio Perez.

Ferrari had provisionally secured a 1-2 in Q3 as Sainz delivered a one minute, 20.584 seconds on his first run in Q3, helped by a purple run through sector one, to edge Leclerc’s one minute, 20.770 seconds effort.

Verstappen initially settled for third, despite his second-sector prowess, as he was a little under a tenth adrift of the second F1-75.

And then for the climax, it looked as though the Red Bull might offer a last-ditch reply when Verstappen clocked the fastest run through the middle part of the circuit yet again to heap on the pressure.

Even though Leclerc had been a couple of hundredths slower than Sainz’s benchmark in S1 and never stitched together a purple sector, his combined effort scored a peerless one minute, 20.161 seconds.

That gave him the bragging rights over Verstappen’s one minute, 20.306 seconds even before the RB18 takes up sixth on the grid as Sainz ran to a one minute, 20.429 seconds.

With Perez dropping ten places – Check having been a league behind the top three as he 0.8 seconds down on the sister Red Bull – and Lewis Hamilton another driver exceeding his permitted parts limit, George Russell will start alongside Leclerc.

This came despite the Mercedes W13 again struggling to heat its tyres.

Lando Norris, meanwhile, snared seventh fastest over Daniel Ricciardo as Pierre Gasly did enough to pip Alpine’s Fernando Alonso – the double champion aborting his final run.

Gasly had fired himself into the top ten shootout courtesy of a one minute, 22.062 seconds effort in Q2 to find 0.07 seconds over Esteban Ocon, the Alpine driver missing out in P11 after running slower in the first and second sectors compared to his previous lap.

Gasly escaped the stewards’ attention for being released side-by-side with Lando Norris as part of a late flurry to find track position when all left the garages with two minutes and 20 seconds to go.

Valtteri Bottas, who struggled on the brakes throughout practice, ran to P12 ahead of Formula E champion and Alex Albon replacement Nyck de Vries aboard the Williams.

De Vries had been complaining in his first-ever F1 qualifying session of struggling on the brakes into the first chicane, but his final flying lap was scuppered later in the lap.

On the approach to the second chicane, the former Formula 2 and Formula E champion locked the rears to suffer a big snap which he eventually caught, but immediately knew his qualifying session was done.

Despite that error, he put the FW44’s straight-line speed supremacy to good use to take a solid P14 ahead of Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo and Yuki Tsunoda.

The AlphaTauri driver, who joins Hamilton and Sainz with a back of the grid penalty, did not take part in Q2.

That came after Verstappen became the first driver of the weekend to fall below one minute, 21 seconds, having topped the 18-minute Q1 by 0.35 seconds over Leclerc courtesy of his one minute, 20.922 seconds flier.

But it was less rosy for Nicholas Latifi, whose struggles on the brakes eliminated him in the first part of qualifying as he lapped just two hundredths slower than de Vries’s first go.

Subbing for an appendicitis-sidelined Alex Albon, de Vries hung on for a Q2 appearance despite his final faster lap in Q1 behind scrubbed for pushing his luck with track limits.

Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, continued his run of Q1 exits in P17 while Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll was only P18 as Haas brought up the rear.

It was a messy session for both VF-22s, as Kevin Magnussen twice had his times deleted for exceeding track limits thanks to a brace of offences at the second Lesmo.

Mick Schumacher, who was stymied in practice by clutch issues, ran slowest after a considerable front-right lock up into the first chicane to run straight on.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc. To take pole position in the Italian Grand Prix driving a Ferrari in the team’s home event is a rewarding and with so many drivers with grid penalties this is the best chance for Leclerc to win the race.

Italian Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:20.161
2 George Russell Mercedes 1:21.542
3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:21.584
4 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:21.925
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:22.648
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine No time
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:20.306
8 Nyck de Vries Williams 1:22.471
9 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:22.577
10 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:22.587
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:22.636
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:22.748
13 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:21.206
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:22.130
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:22.235
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:22.908
17 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:23.005
18 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:20.429
19 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:21.524
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri No time

Verstappen achieves his tenth victory this season

Championship leader Max Verstappen scored an important result at his home race in front of the massive orange army by winning the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, his tenth victory of the season for Red Bull Racing.

Although Verstappen won from pole and initially looked to have Charles Leclerc easily covered, Mercedes’ race pace brought it into play with a one-stop strategy versus Red Bull’s planned two services.

That gave Lewis Hamilton a chance for an unlikely win, before he initially lost that then regained during dramatic virtual and the full safety car periods close to the end of the race.

When the lights went out under thick cloud cover that had built up ahead of the start, Verstappen quickly moved to chop off Leclerc’s look to the inside of Turn 1.

In any case, the Ferrari driver was never close enough to make a move, while behind, Sainz and Hamilton touched lightly as the Mercedes gained ground considerably around the inside of the Tarzan hairpin.

The pack made it through the opening turns without further incident, with Hamilton the only one of the leaders to use the low line through the steeply banked Hugenholtz Turn 3.

Verstappen pressed his advantage to escape DRS range to Leclerc by the end of the second lap of 72, with Leclerc going from 1.5 seconds behind two laps later to only a second behind his rival over the next few tours.

But just as it looked as if Leclerc might be able to gain the overtaking aid, Verstappen suddenly found a chunk of pace in the low one minute, 16 seconds to re-establish his bigger advantage.

The two leaders were the only pair able to stay in that laptime bracket, with Sainz soon falling far behind Leclerc and with Hamilton swarming, the highest place driver to start on the medium tyres compared to the softs being run on the leading three cars.

As the race settled down, Verstappen continued to edge away from Leclerc, his lead rising steadily towards three seconds before ballooning to nearly five before Ferrari called Leclerc in at the end of lap 17.

Red Bull responded on the subsequent tour and despite his similar service to go from the softs to the mediums being nearly a second slower than Ferrari’s, Verstappen emerged with his lead barely tripped given his in- and out-lap speed.

The top two pitting left Hamilton to lead on his first stint mediums, with George Russell running three seconds behind his Mercedes teammate having started on the same compound and battled by Lando Norris once DRS was activated after the McLaren had jumped the second Silver Arrows car at the start.

Verstappen and Leclerc used their fresh mediums to head back towards the Mercedes cars over the next phase of the race, with the Red Bull, which had been nearly nine seconds off Hamilton’s lead when he returned from the pits, reaching DRS range behind Russell on lap 27.

But at the start of the next lap, Verstappen used the DRS to shoot right up behind the Mercedes and blast by to move up to second on the outside run through Tarzan.

Before Verstappen could close on Hamilton, Mercedes brought the driver in to take the hard tyres at the end of lap 29, an attempt to complete the race on a one-stop strategy.

With the home hero handed the lead back and saying he was not interested in trying the hards, Hamilton rejoined a net fourth behind Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull, Sainz having fallen out of contention due to a calamitous Ferrari pitstop shortly before Leclerc came in for the first time.

As Verstappen began a charge that would double his lead over Leclerc and be ten seconds clear shortly after halfway, while Hamilton and Russell used their hards to quickly home in on Perez.

On lap 36, Hamilton used DRS to attack Perez on Tarzan’s outside line, with Perez locking up on the inside and the running aggressively running the Mercedes wide before Hamilton backed off.

Hamilton attacked again on the Turn 11 entry to the track’s stadium but was again rebuffed on the outside line, but the next time by into Turn 1 he was able to run around the outside to take third.

But there was a sudden danger when Sebastian Vettel’s lapped Aston Martin emerged from the pits just ahead of the battling pair and stayed ahead for several corners, which meant Perez could crowd Hamilton but was unable to pass when Vettel eventually allowed the by, the Aston Martin driver receiving a five-second penalty for his actions.

Hamilton set off after Leclerc and Verstappen, who had changed his mind about the durability of his mediums and Red Bull considering hards for his second stop, which it gave to Perez on lap 40, just after Russell had also passed him at Turn 1.

Ferrari realised Leclerc would have little defence against the charging Mercedes pair and he also came in to take the hards at the end of lap 45, by which time Hamilton had gone from nearly 20s behind Verstappen to not much above half that.

But around the same time, the race changed dramatically when Yuki Tsunoda stopped in the middle of the fast Turn 4/5 sequence, initially fearing his wheels were not properly attached after his second stop back in the pack.

He got going again and returned to the pits where AlphaTauri spent 30 seconds checking something inside his cockpit – possibly his seat belts – before he rejoined but then did stop at Turn 4 saying he thought the differential was broken.

That meant the virtual safety car was activated and Red Bull could bring Verstappen in for hards with a cheap pitstop, which preserved his lead.

In fact, it stayed exactly the same as Mercedes also used the temporary suspension to put Hamilton and Russell back onto the mediums – the former recognising the VSC had “stuffed” his previous charge on the one-stopper.

When the action went green again on lap 50, Verstappen and the Mercedes shot into the 1m14s bracket, with Hamilton facing a 12.6 seconds gap and Leclerc back to fourth after losing out having made his stop before the VSC.

Over the next couple of laps, Hamilton closed that to 11.4 seconds before the race picture was massively altered again on lap 55, this time because Valtteri Bottas lost power in his Alfa Romeo and pulled over just before the first corner on the main straight.

That meant the safety car was activated, with Red Bull bringing Verstappen in to go back to the hards and the two Mercedes staying out while most others – including Leclerc – also dived in to fit the red-walled rubber.

The next time by, Russell demanded Mercedes put him on the softs as he was losing tyre temperature in the mediums at low speed, which allowed Verstappen back into second behind Hamilton who remained on the yellow-walled compound.

The race restarted on lap 61, where Verstappen was all over Hamilton’s rear end as they raced down the main straight and he easily slipstreamed by to retake the lead.

Verstappen blasted to a 1.7 seconds lead at the end of the first lap back to racing speed, with Hamilton fuming to Mercedes about its decision to leave him on the mediums.

His pace was so poor Russell, who had seen off Leclerc’s attentions around the outside of Turn 1 at the restart, was able to quickly close in and jump his teammate, although not before they nearly came together running down the main straight when Russell had DRS.

Hamilton was then overcome by Leclerc to fall off the podium, still sending angry radio messages about his final tyre strategy, while Verstappen pulled out an eventual winning margin of 4.0 seconds.

Sainz crossed the line fifth having come back into the picture and got ahead of Perez during the VSC and safety car chaos, but he dropped down to eighth in the final order as a result of an unsafe release into the path of Fernando Alonso at their final stops during the Bottas-stoppage-caused race neutralisation.

That meant Perez, Alonso and Norris moved ahead to take positions five to seven, with Sainz also having to explain post-race an incident with Esteban Ocon (ninth) where the Ferrari appeared to overtake the Alpine under yellow flags activated when Bottas stopped.

This followed Sainz’s initial first pitstop disaster when Ferrari did not have all his medium tyres ready in time and Perez, behind the Alpine driver in the first stint after starting fifth, running over and breaking a Ferrari wheel gun that had been left in his path in the tight pitlane.

Lance Stroll completed the top ten, with Bottas and Tsunoda the only retirements.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning his home event for the second year in a row. This is looking good in terms of the championship with a healthy points lead over his rival. It’s Ferrari’s home race next at the temple of speed at Monza.

Dutch Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:36:42.773
2 George Russell Mercedes 4.071s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 10.929s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 13.016s
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 18.168s
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine 18.754s
7 Lando Norris McLaren 19.306s
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 20.916s
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 21.117s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 22.459s
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 27.009s
12 Alex Albon Williams 30.390s
13 Mick Schumacher Haas 32.995s
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 36.007s
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 36.869s
16 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 37.320s
17 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 37.764s
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams FW44 +1 lap
– Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo DNF
– Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri DNF

Verstappen takes pole position at Zandvoort

Championship leader Max Verstappen took pole position at his home race, Zandvoort, beating Charles Leclerc by a tiny margin of 0.021 seconds.

Verstappen ended up with pole after reversing Leclerc’s advantage from the opening Q1 runs, with the session interrupted by race fans throwing flares onto the track, causing Q2 to be red flagged.

Leclerc led Verstappen by 0.059 seconds after the first Q3 runs, with the 2022 frontrunners converging on pace after Red Bull’s tricky start to the weekend.

The Ferrari driver set the quickest times in the first and last sectors on his final lap, but being unable to replicate his best time in the middle part of the track cost him dear.

This was because Verstappen set a purple sector and ended up with a best time of one minute, 10.342 seconds, 0.021 seconds quicker than his rival.

Carlos Sainz slotted into third position just before Sergio Perez spun at the end of his final lap – Checo dipping his left-side wheels into the gravel at the exit of the penultimate corner and spearing around to the inside of the banked final turn.

That meant the following Mercedes drivers were obliged to lift off and so Lewis Hamilton ended up fourth with Perez fifth ahead of George Russell.

Lando Norris took seventh ahead of Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda, while Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll finished tenth after being unable to run in Q3 due a technical issue on his car.

Stroll’s mechanics were spotted inspecting the front damper area of his AMR2022 before Q3 began – the final segment featuring flare smoke blowing from the pit exit but covered by a brief yellow flag ahead of the final runs.

Q2 was suspended shortly after it had begun when another lit flare from the grandstands overlooking the exit of Turn 12 and the last part of the track’s stadium section was thrown on the track.

The FIA, which said the person who threw the flare “identified and removed by event security”, suspended the action until it went out and could be removed.

During the stoppage, the marshals at Turn 7 attempted to clear some pigeons that had settled on the inside of that corner, which Alex Albon had noted as he ran solo at the start of the middle segment before the flare had to be cleared.

The Q2 action resumed after a six-minute delay and when it ended Pierre Gasly ended up as the highest-placed runner eliminated in P11 – despite setting a personal best time on his final flier.

That meant Tsunoda survived to reach Q3, with Esteban Ocon likewise knocked out after producing his best time at the end of Q2.

Fernando Alonso trailed his Alpine teammate in P13, but put the blame for his early exit on encountering Perez going slowly on an in-lap through the Turn 9 double apex right-hander.

Zhou Guanyu finished P14 for Alfa Romeo, with Albon shuffled back from P10 to P15 after completing his final lap well ahead of the rest in the closing Q2 minutes.

In Q1, Gasly’s late improvement knocked out Valtteri Bottas in the other Alfa Romeo, with Kevin Magnussen, initially out in P17 but was soon dropped to P18 as his flirtation with track limits at the Hugenholtz on his final flier went too far and the FIA deleted his effort.

That meant Daniel Ricciardo finished P17 when teammate Norris had got through the opening segment in fifth, while Sebastian Vettel ended up back in P19 after making a major error on his last lap.

Just after he had set a then fastest time in the first sector and his quickest middle sector of Q1, Vettel could not hold an oversteer snap through the penultimate corner and so slid wide and into the gravel trap on the exit.

Nicholas Latifi finished last for Williams.

So after a tricky practice sessions on Friday in which Max Verstappen suffered a gearbox/driveshaft issue and lost valuable track time, the Red Bull driver bounced back in terms of pace to take pole position in qualifying. Can Max score a popular win in front of his home fans? The pressure is on at Zandvoort.

Dutch Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:10.342
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:10.363
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:10.434
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.648
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:11.077
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:11.147
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:11.174
8 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:11.442
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:12.556
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes No time
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:11.512
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:11.605
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:11.613
14 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:11.704
15 Alex Albon Williams 1:11.802
16 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:11.961
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:12.041
18 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:12.081
19 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:12.391
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:13.353