Verstappen wins in Ferrari's back yard, Italian GP Review

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Verstappen wins in Ferrari's back yard, Italian GP Review

Published:
September 12, 2022
Last Updated:
September 12, 2022

Another win for Max Verstappen means the 2021 champion could take the 2022 crown in the next Formula One race after his dominant season. The Italian Grand Prix carried a lot of potential after post-qualifying demotions for nine racers shook up the order for the starting grid. Engine penalties had Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, and Lewis Hamilton start further down the pack, but a late-race Safety Car ended any hopes of a grandstand finish.

Charles Leclerc and George Russell lined up on the front row together – despite Russell's P6 qualifying time – and the pair used their Soft Pirelli tyres to drag race down to Turn 1. Russell's ambitious move on the outside of the first corner meant the Mercedes driver had to cut the chicane to avoid contact, letting Leclerc keep his Ferrari in the lead, much to the jubilation of the home crowd.

While many drivers started on the Medium compound rubber, Verstappen was one of few outside the front row to try and take advantage of the Softs. It worked incredibly well, and his Red Bull that started in P7 on the grid had jumped to third place by the second lap. By Lap 5, he had closed in and passed Russell for second place in the latest example of the 2022 Red Bull-Verstappen potency when starting from the midfield.

Verstappen wins in Ferrari's back yard, Italian GP Review

With one Red Bull hunting down a Ferrari, it was a different story for the sister cars. Sainz started from a lowly P19 and Perez P13 after their engine penalties, but one progressed through the backmarkers much quicker than the other. By Lap 6, Sainz had reached the top 10 while Perez had only mustered three places and sat in P13. Red Bull chose to pit their Mexican driver early to try and run Pirelli's Hard tyre to the end while Sainz continued his march up the order.

Although Perez's stop came unexpectedly early, the race-leading Leclerc also visited the pits before the pit window opened. A Virtual Safety Car period began after Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin stopped on the side of the track, and Leclerc tried to take advantage. Swapping from Soft tyres to Mediums, the Ferrari driver re-emerged in P3 as the green flag began to wave.

The scheduled stops shuffled the order further, and the "big three" teams eventually filtered to the top-six positions as the race entered its final stages. Verstappen took his Softs to Lap 26 and came back on track 10 seconds behind Leclerc, but with much fresher Medium compound rubber to close the gap. 

Verstappen wins in Ferrari's back yard, Italian GP Review

However, Verstappen didn't need to overtake to take the lead, as Leclerc's earlier VSC pit stop meant he needed another set of Soft tyres. He pitted seven laps after Verstappen. As a result, his Ferrari returned to the track 20 seconds adrift of the lead, with 20 laps to close the gap. It would take a Herculean effort to win, but the hopeful Italian crowd cheered their hero on.

Elsewhere, Sainz's stop also had him come out behind a Red Bull, but his gap was much smaller to close. Within two laps of his pit stop, Sainz eased past Perez into the Roggia chicane to take a P4 he'd keep until the flag. Hamilton, who started one place behind Sainz, had also advanced through the pack, especially after his pit stop where he took a set of Soft Pirellis. He reached P6 with his overtaking prowess, which eventually became P5 as Perez pitted once more after his Hard tyre gamble.

Verstappen wins in Ferrari's back yard, Italian GP Review

While Leclerc's hopes of taking one second per lap out of Verstappen's lead had failed, he was soon right behind his rival after a late-race Safety Car. Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren suffered an oil leak in the closing stages, and the field began to take "free" pit stops and bunch up behind the Safety Car. However, with how long it took for the race leaders to line up behind, a race restart never came, handing Verstappen the win without needing to defend from Leclerc or Russell in P2 and P3.

The victory marks Verstappen's fifth win in a row and his third in three weekends as his almost flawless 2022 campaign continues to impress. Formula One now takes a two-week break before beginning the final six rounds in Singapore at the start of October. Verstappen could mathematically be crowned champion in F1's return to the home of F1's night racing, but even if he's not, it won't be long until he takes the 2022 title.

Verstappen wins in Ferrari's back yard, Italian GP Review

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