Record-breaking Verstappen wins Italian GP, Monza 2023 Review
September 4, 2023

Red Bull was the team on top then, and they have resumed their place at the peak of F1 with perhaps the most potent combination of car and driver in the sport's history.

The record-breaking win wasn't as much of a certainty as most of Verstappen's previous nine. Home team Ferrari pipped the Dutchman to pole position, and they held back the charge for longer than we've seen through most of 2023. Carlos Sainz was the driver to electrify the crowd on Saturday, taking the P1 starting slot in Qualifying, as Verstappen missed out by just 0.013 seconds.

Sunday's drama began before lights out as Yuki Tsunoda's AlphaTauri pulled off at the side of the road. The Japanese driver's engine failure triggered two additional formation laps and a delayed start, drumming up more anticipation from the Italian crowd.

When the race finally started, it was a dream getaway for Sainz, with his Ferrari SF-23 making it to the first chicane ahead of the chasing Red Bull. Behind, the sister Prancing Horse of Charles Leclerc played defensive duties against George Russell's Mercedes, fending off the Briton's charge into the Variante della Roggia chicane to keep Verstappen sandwiched by two Ferraris.

Record-breaking Verstappen wins Italian GP, Monza 2023 Review

Although the race didn't feature safety cars, race-ending crashes, or red flags, action came throughout the field. Alex Albon kicked it off in seventh place as he used his Williams' superior straight-line speed to retake P6 from Oscar Piastri after the Australian passed him on the opening lap. The pair represented one of several close battles, with Sainz and Verstappen fighting for the lead and the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez trying to take P4 from Russell.

Turn 1, at the end of the DRS-enabled pit straight, was the spot to try and pass, but neither Red Bull racer could muscle ahead. Some stern defending from Sainz and Russell shut the door at the first corner's exit kerb. Verstappen claimed Sainz was 'naughty' in his elbows-out driving, and Perez used the escape road after a late-braking move failed to come off.

However, the repeat attempts finally took their toll, and a lock-up by Sainz at the first chicane left him vulnerable by the second. Verstappen took the outside line at Curva Grande, which became the inside line at Roggia, and he swept by Sainz to take the lead. The move was like a dam-breaking moment for Red Bull, and Perez soon followed suit to get by Russell. He completed his overtake on the pit straight with some DRS assistance and set off to chase the two Ferraris occupying the podium positions.

As the pit stops to swap from Pirelli's medium tyre to the hard compound came, Piastri fell behind Lando Norris as the two McLarens bumped wheels. The move meant Albon instead had to defend from a different papaya-coloured car, but he still held firm in P6. The fresh tyres also let Perez find more time, and he made a second DRS-assisted pass into the Turn 1 braking zone, this time on Leclerc, as he reached the podium positions.

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Record-breaking Verstappen wins Italian GP, Monza 2023 Review

The fight behind Perez was the one to begin heating, though, as Lewis Hamilton became a McLaren and Williams threat. A contrary tyre strategy let the Mercedes star have the faster medium compound as his final tyre set, and he began probing for weaknesses in Piastri's defence. However, Hamilton didn't intimidate the rookie driver, and the seven-time champion only got by after making contact with the McLaren at the second chicane.

The move added a five-second penalty to Hamilton's race time, meaning he'd have to clear Norris and Albon ahead and then open a gap in the remaining laps. As Pirelli's hard tyres faded, that became an easier task for the medium-equipped Mercedes. Hamilton overtook both drivers in the last laps and crossed the line eight seconds clear to finish P6.

Out front, the podium-position fight blew up. Perez's advance through the field from his P5 starting slot got him to P2 with five laps to spare as he got by Sainz. Yet it wasn't clear who would claim P3. The two Ferrari drivers began a scintillating in-team tussle for the right to celebrate on one of F1's best podiums in front of Ferrari's home crowd. Despite coming close, they somehow managed not to crash into each other, and Sainz did just enough to keep his Monegasque teammate at bay.

The day belonged to Verstappen, though, whose incredible achievement will be spoken of for many years, possibly decades. The dominance of the Dutch driver is now at record levels, and there's no knowing how far he might extend his streak with so much of the season still to come. The next opportunity will come in Singapore in two weeks' time when F1 begins its final 2023 chapter with the flyaway races in Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.

Record-breaking Verstappen wins Italian GP, Monza 2023 Review
Record-breaking Verstappen wins Italian GP, Monza 2023 Review