Pierre Gasly, the 24-year-old Frenchman coldly rejected by Red Bull 13 months ago, celebrated his maiden Formula One win for Alpha Tauri, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, and Racing Point driver Lance Stroll completing an improbable, yet truly astonishing 2020 Italian Grand Prix podium at Monza.
Gasly, who becomes the first French driver to win a grand prix since the similarly unlikely triumph for Olivier Panis in a Ligier at Monaco 24 years ago, was reduced to tears when he crossed the line. “Oh my God,” he screamed into his radio. “What did we do!? Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
Lewis Hamilton had been cruising for his sixth victory of the year after establishing a commanding 11-second lead with just 20 of 53 laps on the board. But the world champion and his all-conquering Mercedes team then performed an uncharacteristic error.
With Kevin Magnussen’s stricken Haas car stopped in a dangerous position, and the safety car subsequently deployed, both Hamilton and his Mercedes team missed two on-track red crosses warning the teams that the pit lane was closed.
Hamilton and the Mercedes pit wall had just seconds but failed to do so. The Brit dived in for fresh tyres and sealed his fate.
The stewards hit Hamilton with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for the infringement, ending his hopes of claiming his 90th career win at Monza and moving to within one of Michael Schumacher’s victory record. Hamilton finished seventh.
Workers removed Magnussen’s car on Lap 23, just in time for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc’s staggering 180mph crash at the daunting Parabolica on Lap 24 to trigger a red-flag period. The following standing start set up a scintillating run for the chequered flag.
There wasn’t a hint of Sunday’s epic flat-out run to a surprise victory during Saturday’s qualifying runs. As expected, Lewis Hamilton was more than dominant, sealing his 93rd career pole position by setting the fastest lap in Formula One history. Hamilton flew around Monza’s 3.54 miles of asphalt at an average of 164.267mph at the Temple of Speed.
Valtteri Bottas joined his team-mate in yet another Mercedes front-row lockout, – the Finn just seven hundredths behind Hamilton – with McLaren driver Carlos Sainz a stunning P3. Max Verstappen finished a disappointing fifth, one spot behind Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
It was an afternoon to forget for Ferrari. Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel finished 13th and 17th. Vettel was the first to fall, knocked out of Q1 after he came unstuck in traffic through the Parabolica as he scrambled to position himself for the tow on the pit straight. Leclerc made it through to Q2 but failed to find Top 10 speed in his SF1000.
It marks the first time in 36 years that both scarlet cars would start Ferrari’s home race outside the top 10.
Hamilton made a perfect start while Carlos Sainz mugged teammate Bottas. The Spaniard had tested as the quickest reacting driver on the grid and was nearly halfway between Hamilton and Bottas before the Finn gained traction. Lando Norris, in the other McLaren, was up to P4 by the first chicane. He tried scrambling around Bottas on the outside in the second chicane and made it stick. Its Mercedes, McLaren and McLaren at the end of Lap 1. Meanwhile, Bottas dropped back four positions into P6 – he’s reporting a possible puncture.
Verstappen is in the same boat, as Lance Stroll drops the Dutchman uncharacteristically into P8. Verstappen gathers it all up and squeezes back past Stroll at the first chicane on Lap 3.
Screaming down the front straight on Lap 6, Vettel applies his brakes and finds they’ve failed. He went straight on at the first chicane and through the polystyrene boards in the runoff area. The video showed a big fire on the left rear of his car. He pitted and retired immediately.
By Lap 10, Hamilton led Sainz by 5.6s. Norris followed with Sergio Perez hot on his tail. Bottas struggled to close on Ricciardo’s low-downforce Renault.
Both Mercedes are set-up work to run from the front, meaning that with Bottas in traffic and carrying a bit more downforce, the Finn’s Mercedes’ drag prevents him from slicing through the field. With Mercedes’ designed-in dominance for qualifying, Bottas, like Hamilton, doesn’t have the speed on the straights to overtake quickly.
On Lap 20, a full Safety Car deploys when Kevin Magnussen’s Haas stops near the pit lane entrance. Giovinazzi and Hamilton pit for tyres, but have missed the Pit Closed warning. Both are immediately under investigation and given 10-sec stop-and-go-penalties. Sainz and Norris stay out until the pit lane opens on Lap 23. Charles Leclerc is up to P4.
As Leclerc nears the end of Lap 24, he loses his Ferrari in Parabolica, and he spears the outside barriers at over 180mph. The barriers and his cockpit halo do their jobs superbly, but the mess triggers a red flag. All cars return to the pits.
Racing resumes in race order with a standing start.
All drivers, except Lance Stroll’s Racing Point, had previously stopped for tyres, so he doesn’t require a mandatory second stop.
The remaining cars take the restart with 27 laps left. Hamilton leads with another great start, Pierre Gasly moves into second, while Stroll drops down to fifth behind the two Alfa Romeos. Gasly’s Alpha Tauri takes the lead as Hamilton pits to serve his penalty.
Verstappen retires on Lap 30 of 53, with Albon down in P14. By Lap 39, Hamilton is not making much forward progress as Gasly leads handily from Sainz.
With ten laps remaining, Gasly leads Sainz by 2.7sec. The Frenchman is absolutely flat out, sliding through every corner like his future depends on it, because it does.
Sainz is throwing everything into the fight as well, as he claws into Gasly’s DRS range. The Spaniard breaks through on Lap 52, but he only has three opportunities remaining. Gasly gets an excellent exit from the first chicane, but Sainz regains DRS into Ascari. Gasly responds and holds the advantage.
Two turns to go, but its Gasly’s day. Sainz falls just 0.415secs short. Stroll holds on for third.
Norris finishes fourth – Bottas fifth and Ricciardo sixth for Renault. Hamilton is seventh, followed by Ocon, Kvyat and Perez.
“This is amazing! I’m lost for words! It’s unbelievable! I’ve been through so many things in the past 18 months and it’s better than anything I expected, said Gasly. I focused hard when I re-joined Scuderia AlphaTauri. Day by day, race by race, we improved ourselves and got stronger and stronger.
“When I was fighting the last few laps to keep P1, I knew how gutted I would have been if I had lost it. The last five laps were so intense, I almost shunted 10 times… I was pushing so hard! My tyres were gone but I wanted that win so much!”