Verstappen breaks Vettel’s record in dominant fashion, Sainz feisty to P3

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Photo credit: Red Bull Racing

Prior to the start of the Italian Grand Prix there were only two things on people’s minds: would Max Verstappen break Vettel’s (and arguably Ascari’s) streak of consecutive Grand Prix victories, and if not, would that mean that Ferrari had converted their impressive qualifying performance in a home victory?

During the formation lap a plume of smoke proved the end for Yuki Tsunoda, resulting in a DNS for the Japanese driver. An aborted start was the result, meaning the number of laps would be reduced to 52. Charles Leclerc complained a bit about his handling, but according to the pit wall all was fine.

The marshalls could not get the car cleared in time, as the AlphaTauri couldn’t get into neutral. This meant the start was delayed, as a flat-bed truck was required to remove the car. It took however a few moments to open the grid and let the mechanics on.

So with an additional delay, not helped by malfunctioning starting lights, the number of laps was reduced to 51, and after another formation lap it was lights out. Verstappen had the better initial getaway, but proper defending by Carlos Sainz resulted in an unchanged order. Charles Leclerc was immediately pressured by George Russell, but he kept his third place. One lap later it was Alexander Albon who retook the sixth place he lost from Oscar Piastri at the start.

After lap 3 DRS was enabled and Verstappen immediately started to pressure Sainz with a fastest lap, while commenting that he aready sees the Ferrari sliding, adding that “it’s all ok”. Russell seems to have lost the connection with Leclerc, while Albon starts to get a little bit into no man’s land, as he drives away from Piastri and loses time to Sergio Pérez.

Verstappen tries his first overtake attempt in lap 6 as he get’s alongside of Sainz, but the Spaniard defends furiously and stays ahead. Pérez tries to overtake Russell in lap 8, but it was fairly easily countered by the Mercedes driver. Fernando Alonso overtakes Nico Hülkeneberg in the meantime for the final point.

The pressure by Verstappen causes Leclerc to catch up a little, but doesn’t yet yield a good overtaking opportunity for the Dutchman. Pérez tries to overtake Russell again, but with Russell braking really late the Mexican stays fifth.

Pierre Gasly is the first one to make a stop after just ten laps, switching to the hard tyre with a scruffy stop by the Alpine creaw. He’s followed a lap later by Zhou Guanyu. Leclerc has fallen out of DRS range, giving Verstappen a bit more peace of mind to attach Sainz.

Liam Lawson is leading a DRS train after overtaking Hülkenberg. Pérez and Russell both outbrake themselves, prompting both to cut the chicane. Pérez gives the place back to the Briton so he can try again.

In lap 15 Verstappen puts enough pressure on Sainz to force the Ferrari driver to lock his brakes into the first chicane. With the additional traction Verstappen hangs it around the outside in the Curva Grande, and he manages to outbrake Sainz in the Variante della Roggia.

Checo follows a lap later as he finally manages to get to the inside of Russell to pass him into the first corner. Russell bites back a bit, but has to let the Red Bull go, just as Sainz who quickly drops seconds behind Verstappen and is under pressure of teammate Leclerc.

A bit further back it’s Lewis Hamilton who is on the tail of both McLarens, where Lando Norris seems to be stuck behind teammate Piastri.

Sains is the first one of the leaders to stop, together with Russell. Verstappen and Leclerc follow a lap later, with Leclerc coming out just behind Sainz, prompting both Ferrari’s to battle during the following lap.

Yet another lap later it is Pérez who stops, but he cannot overcut the Ferrari’s. Piastri is now leading, followed by Norris and Hamilton, with Norris stopping first in an attempt to undercut his teammate. Albon in the meantime overtakes Esteban Ocon, who earlier was pushed off by Russell, resulting in a penalty for the latter.

Piastri stopped a lap later than Norris, but at the end of the straight they meet, with Norris picking off the position from his rookie teammate, despite them touching slightly.

Up front it is Hamilton who leads, but he is soon caught by Verstappen who blasts past the seven time champion. Pérez tries to attack both Ferrari’s but doesn’t have the top speed yet to properly challenge Leclerc. An additional complicating factor is that his group is catching Hamilton, enabling DRS for Sainz as well.

Hamilton stops at the moment he is actually passed by the Ferrari’s, dropping him back behind Alonso. This temporary issue is solved one lap later as he passes the Aston Martin driver into the Variante del Rettifilo.

And while Verstappen slowly pulls away from Sainz, it is his teammate who keeps heaping up the pressure on Leclerc, coming alonside in two different occasions. The second time Pérez also attempts an overtake in the second chicane, but get’s a cheeky shove by Leclerc. A lap later he manages to complete the overtake on the straight with DRS.

Behind Russell it is Albon who is under pressure of both McLarens, but with the Williams’ superior top speed an overtake hasn’t been possible yet. All the way at the back Ocon manages to pass Kevin Magnussen, while Lawson makes his second stop from 11th.

With 15 laps to go Pérez is slowly but surely closing in on Sainz, with Leclerc in his wake. The Monegasque driver isn’t quick enough to attack however. Norris however seems to be quick enough to attack Albon, but he couldn’t make the overtake around the outside work, having to cut the corner.

Because of the battle between Albon and the McLarens Hamilton has caught up and he’s putting the Australian rookie under pressure, making both cut the Della Roggia chicane. A lap later Hamilton gets a great run on the same place, but he goes too far to the outside, hitting Piastri. The latter now has a broken front wing, requiring him to stop.

Sainz and Pérez also are battling, and Sainz needs all the tarmac to keep Checo behind in the first turn, to the dismay of the Mexican. Norris is in the meantime attacking Albon again, but cannot pass him, again, putting hum under pressure of Hamilton. The Mercedes driver has received a penalty for hitting Piastri, so Norris doesn’t defend to hard.

In lap 46 Pérez finally manages to pass Sainz with a great run out of the Parabolica corner and a little DRS help. A lap later he’s under pressure of Leclerc, who overtakes him in turn 1. Leclerc however outbrakes himself, giving Sainz the opportunity to counter. Hamilton in the meantime overtakes Albon, which puts the Thai under pressure from Norris.

Leclerc tries it again on Sainz a lap later but loses the back a bit, and in the following laps Leclerc keeps trying again and again, prompting Ferrari to issue an order to Leclerc. This issue is subsequently ignored, as Leclerc almost hits Sainz. Verstappen in the meantime has to slow down for some urgent issues, but that proves to be no issue in the end.

So Verstappen wins and breaks Vettel’s record. Pérez is second, with Sainz beating Leclerc by about two tenths. Russell comes home fourth in front of teammate Hamilton who managed a large enough gap to Albon. Norris finishes eighth, Alonso ninth and Valtteri Bottas picks up the last point.