Verstappen leaves Ferrari in his wake at Italian GP to put F1 title in sight

Max Verstappen won the Italian Grand Prix in another dominant race for the Red Bull driver who raced through the field from seventh on the grid. He beat Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari to second place at Monza, where the Scuderia attempted an alternative strategy but were once again unable to keep pace with Verstappen. George Russell was third for Mercedes, Carlos Sainz fourth for Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton came back from 19th on the grid to take fifth. Sergio Pérez finished sixth for Red Bull.

Verstappen was absolutely on top almost from the start in what ended up being a rather pedestrian Italian GP. Such is the composure and pace of the World Champion at the moment, once he completed the opening runs of the race cleanly, the outcome never really looked in doubt. Indeed, after the Dutchman took the lead, he was almost quiet up front for his maiden victory at Monza.

Verstappen has now won five straight in an indomitable run that has secured him a hand on his second championship. His 31st career victory is his 11th this season and in another remarkable display of dominance and mastery of the skill to cross the field. It’s the third time he’s won since seventh or lower on the grid this year.

He now leads Leclerc, who is second, by 116 points and with six meetings to go and 164 points available, he can potentially seal the title at the next round in Singapore or with the almost certain exception of the following race in Japan. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel’s shared record of 13 wins in a season is also now within reach.

It was another masterclass from the world champion who shows control and composure that left his rivals in shock.

Leclerc had just held onto his lead from pole until Russell’s first chicane, but Verstappen’s determination was immediately evident as he moved up two places into the first corner. The Dutchman then moved into fourth, overtaking Pierre Gasly at Ascari, while Daniel Ricciardo quickly fell on the straight on lap two, taking him to third.

He had closed within a tenth of Russell on lap four, with the front two simply not having time to open a gap to Verstappen. A lap later he rode a solid run down the start-finish straight to pass the British driver on the inside at the first corner.

Hamilton, 19th, could not progress as quickly, moving up a place on lap five. Sainz in the Ferrari was advancing quickly but dropped from 18th to sixth on lap 12.

Verstappen was two seconds behind Leclerc and seemingly unstoppable. The Monegasque driver clings however, Verstappen only taking a tenth of a lap from his lead. His gains are nevertheless inexorable and the gap is reduced to one second on the 12th lap.

Charles Leclerc in the pits.
Charles Leclerc in the pits. Photography: Dan Istitene/Formula 1/Getty Images

A VSC was called when Sebastian Vettel pulled over with a problem with his car. Ferrari pitted Leclerc under the VSC for a free stop and he came out in third place ahead of the traffic, but Ferrari had gone into a long final stint and hadn’t quite taken all the advantages of the VSC which ended halfway through their stop. Verstappen stayed out, while Leclerc now had to finish the rest of the race on medium tyres.

Verstappen led ahead of Russell, with Leclerc 17 seconds behind, as Hamilton finally moved through the field, up to 11th on lap 18. Red Bull pitted Verstappen on lap 25 to take the middle rubber, with 28 laps to go. He came out second, 10 seconds behind Leclerc but with much fresher tyres. Hamilton stayed out after finishing seventh, where he feuded with Fernando Alonso, finally making him stick on lap 27.

Verstappen was now setting the pace however, taking up to half a second on the lap from Leclerc’s lead and Ferrari had no choice but to try and stop two their man. They duly pitted Leclerc on lap 33 to take the soft tires to hunt down the Dutchman. He emerged 18 seconds with 20 laps to go, or almost a second per lap. What became clear was indeed too much when Leclerc couldn’t match let alone surpass Verstappen’s pace.

However, as Verstappen continued towards what seemed an inevitable victory, a late safety car was called on lap 48 when Ricciardo stopped on the track. Red Bull pitted Verstappen and Leclerc needed to match them but there was to be no late drama. Ricciardo’s car could not be moved in time and the race ended behind the safety car. A far from spectacular finish but one that Verstappen was entirely satisfied with as his second title loomed on the horizon.

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    Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren, Pierre Gasly eighth for AlphaTauri, Nyck de Vries scored his first F1 points in his debut race with ninth for Williams, replacing Alex Albon. Guanyu Zhou was tenth for Alfa Romeo.

    Verstappen leaves Ferrari in his wake at Italian GP to put F1 title in sight

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