MONZA, Italy – Winning in front of his fans last weekend, Max Verstappen did it on the opposing field on Sunday to trail the Red Bull driver in touchdown for a second in a row. F1 Title.
Boos rang out from passionate red-shirted tifosi fans as Verstappen stepped onto the iconic Monza podium for the first time in his career, after winning the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
“I had a great view,” said delicate Verstappen, whose previous highest on the track was fifth in 2018. “The atmosphere for me was not great. But that’s what it is.”
Verstappen currently has a 116-point lead over Charles Leclerc, who finished second after another questionable strategic decision from Ferrari on his home circuit. With only six races left, the Dutchman could win the title in Singapore next month.
Verstappen started in seventh after he was among the drivers affected by the penalties but rose to third in the first corner of the second lap. The Red Bull driver then picked up George Russell in a Mercedes at the start of Round 5 to begin the hunt for Leclerc hounds in his Ferrari.
“Very good start,” Verstappen said. “It was fun to drive today even though it was quite hot. A great day for us.”
The virtual safety car (VSC) gave Verstappen a chance as it appeared in Round 12 after Sebastian Vettel’s last race at Monza came to a bad end, with the four-time world champion pulling up the side. edge of the track after complaining of a power problem.
Ferrari decided to include Leclerc in the middle tire change, leaving Verstappen in the lead. Leclerc re-entered the race in third place.
“I think we all had doubts, I think if I hadn’t done it Max would have done it,” Leclerc said.
“It was a bit of a pity because in the middle of the lane we had a virtual safety car finish so we didn’t get all the benefits of stopping at that point. And from that point on, we went a little behind.”
It was a strange season for Ferrarirife with bad strategic decisions and strange incidents, but Leclerc believes it’s just unfortunate timing in Monza.
“I think if you look at our whole season, there are bound to be mistakes and we need to improve,” Leclerc said. “If today was an obvious mistake, I don’t think so. It was just our pick and looking back, you can’t predict when VSC will end.
“So yeah, nothing to blame for anyone there. Just a little bit of bad luck and maybe a bit of a lack of speed as well.”
Leclerc overtook Russell and then quickly regained the lead as Verstappen pitted in lap 26 but the pair swapped places seven laps later when the Ferrari driver pitted the new tyres for the second time.
The safety car resurfaced shortly after last year’s winner, Daniel Ricciardo, went above lap 47, leaving most drivers bummed by the soft tyres.
A final battle, however, never materialized as the race ended behind the safety car with Verstappen taking his 5th straight win and 11th of the season – 1 more than with last year.
Russell was third, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr and Lewis Hamilton, who both fought on the field after starting at the bottom of the net after penalties.
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez has also been affected by the net penalties and has started in 13th place but, despite an eventful race there was also a brake fire, he finished sixth and also got extra points for the fastest lap.
Lando Norris is seventh, after a poor start from third, just behind Pierre Gasly.
Williams’ reserve driver, Nyck de Vries, finished his first F1 race in ninth place. The 27-year-old was a belated replacement for Alex Albon after the Thai driver was diagnosed with appendicitis.
“Awful. Thank you thank you so much. This is unbelievable, points on the debut, thank you guys,” De Vries said on team radio after crossing the line, before while saying emphatically and adding “my shoulder is dead, dead.”