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Danny Ric’s Revival
The Italian Grand Prix
Text & Photos | Thomas Lam
Edit | Henry Lau

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo revived his F1 career with a commanding victory in the Italian Grand Prix. The jubilant Aussie seized the race lead at the start in the first turn and never let go, while championship leaders Verstappen and Hamilton eliminated each other in a frightening crash


Overview

Monza’s crowd was filled with “feel good” as McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris combined for a fabulous one-two for the Woking team, 3,213 frustrating days since the team’s last win in F1.

However, the Italian Grand Prix will be most remembered for Lewis Hamilton terrifying collision with title rival Max Verstappen at Monza’s first chicane on Lap 26.

Following their high-speed coming together at the British Grand Prix earlier this year, this one was slower but no less dangerous.

Poor Pit Stops

The accident was due to two very poor pit stops from the Red Bull and Mercedes teams. As Hamilton rejoined the track on Lap 26, he thrust his W12 into an immediate side-by-side duel with title rival Verstappen at Monza’s first chicane.

Entering the corner, Hamilton squeezed Verstappen into the outside kerb as the Brit continued to turn in. The two cars

locked wheels, lifting Verstappen’s Red Bull into the air and bringing it down on top of Hamilton’s head as both cars slid into the gravel.

Hamilton’s roll hoop and halo device bore the brunt of the crushing impact, but it left his car badly damaged.

Leaders Out

With Hamilton and Verstappen both eliminated, the McLarens of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris quickly locked up a popular one-two for the Woking team. It was McLaren’s first victory in Formula 1 in nearly nine years, with Jenson Button’s win at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012 their last.

Finishing third was Valtteri Bottas, up from last on the starting grid. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took fourth from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, followed by Ferrari’s Sainz. Aston Martin’s Stroll claimed seventh, infant of Alonso and Russell, Ocon took the final point in tenth.

Sprint Qualifying

Hamilton and Bottas locked out the front row. Although it was Bottas who had taken pole by 0.096 seconds, most commentators expected the Finn to cede Hamilton the lead at some stage to guarantee the world champion an extra point in the drivers’ championship as well as the pole.

Sprint Race

Instead of grabbing the lead from Bottas, Hamilton suffered excess wheel spin at the start, dropping four places to sixth, and only regaining fifth place after Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly drove over his own front wing after his collision with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo at the first Rettifilo chicane. That brought out the Safety Car for a few laps.

Procession

From then on, the Sprint Race became something of a pious procession, with Verstappen unwilling to risk trying to pass Bottas for the sake of a single point and Hamilton unable to get past Lando Norris’ McLaren in fourth.

Hamilton was visibly crestfallen in his post-race interview, predicting an “easy win” for Verstappen and saying he was now in “damage limitation” mode.

The Italian Grand Prix

Verstappen produced a perfect launch, but Ricciardo got to the first turn first. It would be the first time Ricciardo would lead a race since Abu Dhabi in 2018.

Would he be able to hold on?

Hamilton was in third and soon challenged Verstappen for second but ran past the corner after wheel contact, leaving Norris third as Hamilton dropped back to fourth.

By Lap 3, Ricciardo led Verstappen by nearly two seconds, but the Dutchman closed to within 0.7s on Lap 8. The Red Bull could probably have lapped a second quicker than Ricciardo, but not while the Dutchman followed in the McLaren’s wake. Meanwhile, Bottas, who started from the back of the grid, was up to 14th.

Two battles emerged – Ricciardo vs Verstappen for first and Norris vs Hamilton for third. Hamilton, in fourth, was 0.8 seconds behind Norris but faded to 4.3 seconds back on hard tyres compared to his rivals’ mediums.

Perfection Versus Disaster

Ricciardo made a perfect pit stop on Lap 23 as Verstappen stayed out. The McLaren man rejoined in seventh.

Verstappen radioed that his Red Bull tyres were gone on Lap 24. He pits, and his stop is a disaster, taking 11 seconds. He dropped from the lead to 10th and was out of contention. Ricciardo was now in command.

A lap later, Hamilton overtook Norris into the chicane giving the Briton the lead. However, Hamilton’s attack had ruined his tyres. He pits on Lap 26.

Hamilton rejoined, coming out next to Verstappen. Hamilton seemingly was in the lead, barely, but the two collided going into the chicane, and both were out of the race.

The Halo’s Value

Verstappen’s car virtually climbed over the top of Hamilton’s car as the halo did its job. The Safety Car took over the race pace until Lap 32 (of 53). Once again, Ricciardo grabbed the lead with Leclerc in second until Norris overtook the Monegasque’s Ferrari on the grass, while Bottas took fifth place from Sainz.

On Lap 38, Perez received a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage while leaving the track, to be given after the race. As a consequence, the Mexican continues to hold up Bottas from challenging the McLaren twins.

Cruising

With the Australian now cruising in the lead ahead of teammate Lando Norris, the Mclaren team ordered the young Brit not to overtake his teammate.

By Lap 45, Riccardo led Norris by over two seconds. Perez was 1.5 seconds behind Norris in third and Bottas 0.9 secs back of the Red Bull in fourth. The quartet took the checkers in that order.

Bottas’ Podium

Bottas, who started from the back of the grid, is awarded the third podium step thanks to Perez’ five-second penalty.

Hours after the race, Max Verstappen received a three-place grid penalty for his collision with Hamilton in the upcoming Russian Grand Prix.

“Damage limitation” mode indeed.

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