Max Verstappen won the 2022 Italian Grand Prix under the Safety Car, with pole-sitter Charles Leclerc finishing runner-up as Red Bull denied Ferrari a home victory at Monza.
After the paddock paid their respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II, the mixed-up grid lined up behind Leclerc and fellow front-row starter George Russell in the Mercedes, both eschewing the general consensus of medium tyres to begin on new softs along with Verstappen, Williams’ debutant Nyck de Vries, and Alpine's Esteban Ocon.
From P7 on the grid, Verstappen made it into the top three by Lap 4 and took P2 off Russell a lap later. The Dutchman then led as, during a Virtual Safety Car (for Sebastian Vettel’s DNF on Lap 12), Leclerc pitted from softs to mediums.
Verstappen extended his first stint and swapped for mediums on Lap 26, relinquishing the lead back to Leclerc, who then pitted a second time for soft tyres on Lap 33. The Monegasque driver had a tyre advantage over Verstappen, but a 20-second deficit to claw back by Lap 53. The Dutchman seemed assured of a comfortable victory until a Safety Car on Lap 48, for the stationary McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo. That allowed the top five to pit for softs anticipating a restart.
Ricciardo’s car seemed immovable, however, and the ticker reached Lap 53 and the chequered flag with the field behind the Safety Car – giving Verstappen a slim but altogether comfortable victory over Leclerc and allowing Russell to retain the final podium place.
From P18, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz made it to the podium spots with a lengthy first stint on medium tyres, but fell to P4 after pitting, and ended up behind Russell. Lewis Hamilton declined to pit under the late Safety Car and finished fifth for Mercedes ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who pitted early for hard tyres and ended up settling for sixth and fastest lap, having started 13th.
Lando Norris finished seventh for McLaren, having started on the second row, with Pierre Gasly taking eighth for AlphaTauri. That left Williams’ Nyck de Vries ninth for Williams on his first-ever Grand Prix appearance, the Dutchman also taking Driver of the Day honours.
Rounding out the top 10 was Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, with Ocon missing out on points. Mick Schumacher made late gains for P12 for Haas ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo, with Yuki Tsunoda finishing 14th having pitted under caution in the AlphaTauri. Nicholas Latifi lagged on hard tyres and finished 15th for Williams ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who picked up a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage on Lap 1 in the Haas.
Ricciardo retired late on to bring out the Safety Car, while both Aston Martins – Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel – failed to finish the race with suspected power unit issues. Fernando Alonso also retired, ending a run of points scores for the Alpine driver.
AS IT HAPPENED
The 2022 Italian Grand Prix began with a solemn moment of silence to mark the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, drivers and team members lining up in the pit lane to pay their respects.
After that moment of reflection, it was time for the mixed-up field to find its way to the grid, a number of grid penalties having shaken up the order post-qualifying. Charles Leclerc would start on pole ahead of George Russell, with the McLarens on the second row and Max Verstappen starting from seventh.
With Nyck de Vries promoted to P8 on the grid for his F1 debut (in place of an unwell Alex Albon), Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon would start from 13th and 14th, while Carlos Sainz dropped to P18, Lewis Hamilton P19, and Yuki Tsunoda to the very back.
Sun beaming down on the Temple of Speed, it was time for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix – 100 years after Monza was constructed. Five drivers – Leclerc, Russell, Verstappen, de Vries, and Ocon – would begin on brand-new soft tyres with the rest on mediums.
Lights out, and it was Russell who enjoyed the best launch, attempting to move around the outside of Leclerc into Turn 1 but avoiding disaster with an excursion over the rumble strips to rejoin in second. Verstappen made up three places, meanwhile, as Lando Norris had fallen to seventh before retaking a place off Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton’s start wasn’t ideal, the Briton going through the escape road at Turn 1 to avoid a potential collision; Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas making slight contact at the start.
As Lap 2 began, Verstappen was up into the podium places at the expense of Daniel Ricciardo, going late on the brakes into the opening chicane. Behind, the used-medium-shod Aston Martins went wheel to wheel battling for P10 and Sainz and Perez jostled in the fight for P15. Sainz would soon clear Perez and the Haas of Magnussen for P13 by Lap 4, when Verstappen was bearing down on the rear wing of Russell for P2.
The Red Bull driver duly made the pass at the start of Lap 5, Verstappen well clear of Russell going into the first chicane. With Leclerc 2.1 seconds ahead in the lead, the 2022 champion-elect enjoyed the start he wanted at Monza, his team mate down in P14.
Sainz made swift work of moving into the top 10, making it into the points at the expense of Aston Martin’s Stroll at the start of Lap 6, while Perez had made it up to P13 in front of Ocon. In the midfield, a DRS train had formed from Ricciardo in P4 to Sainz in P10.
Verstappen began to recharge his batteries in order to mount a challenge for the lead, and Perez entered the pits to swap his mediums for hards on Lap 8 – brake smoke flickering out of his right-front tyre, and then a brief spit of flames. Perez was told to move his brake bias rearwards to cool his discs and Sainz meanwhile continued his recovery from P18, prying places off Zhou Guanyu and de Vries for P8 on Lap 9, then P7 off Alonso on Lap 10 to a huge roar from the crowd.
Former team mate Norris was another easy pass for Sainz and just as Lap 12 began, he pried P5 off Pierre Gasly – just before the Virtual Safety Car was deployed to recover the stationary Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, who had pulled to the side on the run to Ascari with a loss of power. It was a DNF for the four-time champion, at the circuit on which he clinched his very-first Grand Prix victory back in 2008.
The pit lane was abuzz with a swarm of yellow-clad mechanics, Leclerc agreeing with his pit wall that a stop for mediums was the right choice – the stop executed just before the VSC was rescinded. The Monegasque emerged third, holding on ahead of Ricciardo with Verstappen now leading over Russell. The Dutchman was told that it would be a tough ask for Leclerc to continue with mediums until the end of Lap 53.
Sainz declined to pit during the VSC, and took P4 off Ricciardo soon after Leclerc’s pit stop. Gasly attempted to follow suit with a pass on Ricciardo but had to skip through Turn 1 and give the place back. “Ricciardo is all over the place,” exclaimed the AlphaTauri driver.
A familiar feeling of consternation emerged from the Ferrari pit wall as they told Leclerc not to short-shift on the exit of corners, the pole-sitter responding to say that he couldn’t do such a thing – imploring his team to make sure the engine didn’t fail on him.
While Verstappen extended his advantage over Russell to seven seconds, Alonso and Norris battled as the McLaren driver had run wide and relinquished P7 to the Alpine. The Briton easily retook the place from the Spaniard, while de Vries stalked the cars in the hopes of taking points on his debut – a black-and-white flag for exceeding track limits the only blot on his copybook so far.
Gasly then opened the pit window on Lap 19, pitting for hards, and followed by Zhou and Stroll. Ricciardo, de Vries, Ocon, and Tsunoda responded a lap later – and thanks to a slow stop, the undercut had not paid off for Gasly, who was 13th behind Ricciardo after that flurry of tyre changes. As for Sainz, he was losing time on his starting set of mediums and now pleading with the pit wall to let him change tyres.
The Spaniard’s recovery had gone smoothly so far, but in P4 – 28 seconds off Verstappen – Sainz was now a pit stop’s distance away from the lead, while Perez was making gains after his early stop for hards having made it up to P9 and making quick work of the yet-to-stop midfielders around him.
Russell took the chance to pit for hards on Lap 24, a slightly slow stop seeing him emerge behind Sainz – but crucially in P4 ahead of Norris. Hamilton was meanwhile gaining on Alonso for P6, with Perez a few seconds back.
With Verstappen’s lead growing past 13 seconds, he pitted on Lap 26 and emerged in second on medium tyres, putting the onus on Leclerc – who, while 10 seconds up the road with half the race remaining, was on medium tyres that shouldered a significant burden.
Hamilton finally made the move on Alonso for P6 on lap 27.
Russell wasn’t thrilled with the pace of his hard tyres, but the Mercedes driver was still gaining around eight-tenths per lap on the medium-shod Ferrari of Sainz ahead and matching Leclerc, who in turn was losing time to Verstappen with the lap ticker reaching 30 of 53.
The lead over Russell amounting to just 1.8s, Sainz pitted for softs on Lap 31 and emerged in P8 behind hard-tyred Perez.
One lap later, Alonso pulled into the pits with a power unit issue and the Alpine driver’s race was over. With Ocon running 14th and both McLarens in the points, the battle for P4 in the constructors’ championship was turning away from Alpine.
The lead then changed hands again as Leclerc pitted for softs to emerge 20 seconds behind Verstappen – and 2.5s ahead of Russell – on Lap 34, just after Sainz had passed Perez for P6 into Turn 4.
Hamilton followed suit, choosing to pit from P7 to emerge on softs in P12 – with a DRS-endowed train of cars to pass for a points finish.
Hamilton made quick work of Zhou for P11, then de Vries for P10, with Norris responding and stopping on Lap 36. The McLaren driver emerged behind Ricciardo, but Hamilton breezed past – passing not only Norris but Gasly too – to take P7.
The other McLaren of Ricciardo was easily dealt with too, Hamilton making it up to P6 on Lap 38 as the soft tyres showed their worth – with Norris overtaking hard-shod team mate Ricciardo for P7 in chase of the Mercedes.
Lap 41 saw Lance Stroll come into the pits to end his run of finishes in every race this season and cap off a double retirement for Aston Martin.
With 10 laps remaining, Perez was pulled into the pits to swap his hard compounds for softs, as Hamilton was catching up in the hope to pry P5 off the Red Bull. The Mexican lost track position not only to Hamilton, but also Norris, as he emerged seventh.
Verstappen’s lead looked assured; he was 17 seconds ahead of Leclerc with 10 laps left, while Sainz was 10 seconds behind Russell in the chase for the final podium spot.
In lapping the backmarkers, Verstappen inadvertently helped out his compatriot de Vries, who was attempting to hold off Zhou in the place for the final point and – as blue flags flew – the Williams driver managed to break out of DRS range of the Alfa Romeo, and get within DRS range of the AlphaTauri of Gasly ahead.
Hopes of a huge margin of victory for Verstappen were however dashed when Daniel Ricciardo came to a halt ahead of the second Lesmo on Lap 47, triggering the Safety Car and allowing the top four to stop for soft tyres (Sainz taking new softs while Verstappen, Leclerc and Russell had to take scrubbed softs) in anticipation of a restart.
However, the field only lined up behind the Safety Car on Lap 51 of 53, a number of lapped cars mixing it up with those on the lead lap, and it soon became clear that this race would end under caution. With that, Verstappen took the chequered flag with a slim lead over Leclerc, but in reality the Dutchman seemed on course for his first-ever Italian Grand Prix win after the pit stops had taken their course.
Leclerc was furious that the race didn’t restart, and the fans weren’t particularly happy either, but Ferrari were set to be beaten on pace. The Monegasque settled for P2, with Russell ending up third ahead of Sainz in P4.
Hamilton couldn’t get a free pit stop under the Safety Car and thus stayed out, finishing fifth ahead of Perez – whose gamble to pit early in the race for hard tyres did not yield a podium finish.
Norris ended up seventh having pitted under that late caution, with Gasly’s one-stop strategy from mediums to hards seeing him finish eighth.
De Vries was voted Driver of the Day for taking P9 on his maiden F1 appearance as he did an admirable job filling in for Alex Albon. The Dutchman’s medium tyres were suffering towards the end of the race and that was clear when he battled with 10th-place Zhou just before the Safety Car emerged.
Ocon couldn’t make waves on his soft-hard strategy and Alpine ended up leaving Monza without points. Mick Schumacher made an impressive late pass on Nicholas Latifi and finished 12th at the flag ahead of Valtteri Bottas, with back-of-grid starter Yuki Tsunoda ending the race in P14.
Latifi struggled to P15 and finished ahead of Magnussen, who took a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage on Lap 1 and finished 16th.
With his first podium and victory at Monza, Verstappen heads to Singapore knowing he can mathematically clinch his second drivers’ title there.
"We had a great race," said winner Max Verstappen. "On the heavy compound we were quickest and the deg was very good, so we had a really good race car. It was just controlling the gap at the end, and then of course then the Safety Car came out; unfortunately we didn’t get a restart…
"The start was very good. I had a clean [entry into the] chicane and then I could quickly get back into my rhythm and get into second. It was really good on the tyres, it was really enjoyable to drive today even though it was quite hot out there, but great day for us.
"Yeah, it took a bit of time to be on a great podium like this, but finally, we are on it."
The field makes a long-awaited return to Marina Bay for the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix on September 30-October 2.
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