7 Points we can take away from the Italian Grand Prix
After a red flagged race due to a crash by Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, in the Italian Alpha Tauri, wins the Italian Grand Prix, closely followed by Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll
WHAT A RACE. After a few lacklustre races, the Temple of Speed did not disappoint and provided the first race in which there was not a Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari driver on the podium since Hungary 2012. The race was action packed right from the start, where we saw Bottas loose out to both McLarens, a Racing Point and a Renault, a yellow and red flag, two ten-second stop-go penalties and a fight for pole position right until the end. We saw one of the youngest podiums as Pierre Gasly took his first career win in a Formula One car, becoming the 109th driver to win a Grand Prix; Carlos Sainz took a career-best second place and Lance Stroll matched his career-best from Baku 2017 coming third. Here is what we learnt...
1. "And it's lights out and away we go"... well maybe not for Bottas...
Lewis Hamilton got off the line well to lead the race, but it was what was going on behind him that grabbed viewers attention. It appeared that Bottas was slow getting off the line, whilst Sainz had a quick reaction to the lights going out, plus a good slipstream from Hamilton, and immediately took second place from the Finn. Behind him, his teammate Lando Norris also got off to a great start and started jostling with Bottas for third around the first chicane, before sealing the deal in close wheel to wheel racing around Turn 3 at Variante della Roggia. The fight for third position caused Bottas to slow down in pace which Sergio Perez took advantage of and overtook Bottas at Lesmo, with Daniel Ricciardo doing the same soon after coming into Ascari, pushing Bottas down to sixth. Due to the close wheel to wheel combat with Norris, Bottas believed he had a puncture, which could explain the much slower pace than his teammate, however, his engineers informed Bottas, via radio, that there were no issues with the tyres and instead, it was the first glimpse in the race that indicated that Mercedes struggle when they are surrounded by turbulent air.
Further down the pack, it was fortunate that no one crashed out as Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Lance Stroll fought for positions. As Lance Stroll moved to the left of the track to turn into the tight right Turn 1 chicane, Pierre Gasly became squeezed between Stroll and Albon, pushing Albon onto the grass causing him to leave the track and miss the chicane completely. The stewards looked into the incident but they deemed it to be a racing incident.
2. This season has gone from bad to worse for Ferrari
Just as we thought it could not get any worse for Ferarri, they have an absolutely dismal weekend at Monza. During qualifying on Saturday, Charles Leclerc extracted the best out of the car, but best meant p13. Sebastian Vettel didn't do great either and couldn't even manage to get out of Q1, partly due to the drivers holding each other up the second time they went out in Q1. With Vettel in p17 and Leclerc in p13, it marked the first time since 1984 that Ferarri were not in the top ten at Monza.
Race day proved even worse for the prancing horses. At the start of the race, Vettel lost a position to George Russell in the Williams, but, he managed to get this position back during the next lap. Whilst in Q3 the day before, Vettel watched the drivers intently, and if he had learnt anything by watching them he couldn't put it into good use as by Lap 6 it was race over. Vettel had a brake problem which caused him to miss the first chicane completely, and instead go through the polystyrene. The German then had to coast the Ferrari around the track and into the pits.
On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Leclerc managed to maintain his thirteenth position, but by Lap 18, his tyres were wearing out and Giovinazzi, in an Alfa Romeo was closing in on the Monégasque. Leclerc pitted on the same lap and came out in p17. Kevin Magnussen, the lap after, parked his Haas just out the pits due to a power unit problem causing a safety car to come out. Once the stewards pushed the Haas into the pits and the pit lane was reopened, the majority of the grid saw their opportunity to pit. As Leclerc had already pitted, this bumped him up to sixth, and with a great restart, Leclerc quickly passed the two Alfa Romeo cars to take fourth position. However, the lap after Leclerc lost control car due to a driver error and smashed into the tyre wall along Parabolica causing a red flag. The Ferrari was in a pretty mangled state, but fortunately, Leclerc was not hurt and it was great to see him running back to the pits.
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3. Mercedes struggle with high car temperatures when they aren't in clean air
Coming into Sunday, it was pretty certain that Hamilton would win his 90th podium, matching Michael Schumacher's record, ironically at the same track, and Bottas would come in second for a Mercedes 1-2. The recent ban on party mode didn't seem to affect the team as they were seventh hundred of a second in front of Carlos Sainz who took third position on the grid. However, in a unusual chain of events, neither Mercedes ended up on the podium.
As I said earlier, Bottas had a poor start to the race and found himself in sixth position. Bottas had major oversteer going into right hand corners and by the time he recovered from that, around Lap 12, Bottas was looking for clean air along the straights and out of Ricciardo's slipstream due to the Mercedes overheating. Bottas complained over the radio that the engine mode they were using was not proving useful to the Finn. This meant that Bottas could not get near the cars in front to overtake, on what is a hard track to overtake at the best of times. After Leclerc's red-flagged crash, we saw Mercedes trying to argue their case with the stewards to replace some of the parts on Bottas' car. After the standing start on Lap 28, the car improved somewhat, but he still had to get out of Norris' slipstream by Lap 33. In the end, Bottas could only manage fifth position.
Lewis Hamilton had a better start to the race and cruised out in front. With clean air surrounding the Mercedes, no one could get near. After Magnussen pulled over to the side of the Parabolica to retire, Lewis Hamilton pitted onto a fresh set of tyres. However, this decision proved costly as the pit entry was closed in order to wheel the Haas into the pits safely. Hamilton was awarded with a ten-second stop-go penalty, putting him at the bottom of a closely packed track due to the restart on Lap 28. With clean air, Hamilton managed to lap after lap set the fastest time to catch up with Alex Albon. During Lap 39, it did came apparent that Hamilton was having the same issues as Bottas with overheating, however, this quickly availed and he overtook Albon on Lap 40, with the help of the Thai going wide. Hamilton the managed to quite easily take Russell on Lap 41 and Grosjean 42. Hamilton worked his way up and to finish seventh.
4. Where were Red Bull?
The Italian Grand Prix will certainly be a race that Red Bull will want to forget. During qualifying, Alex Albon kept getting his times deleted due to exceeding track limits around Parabolica. Albon just about scraped his way into Q2 in p15 after being forced to abandon his second lap after a messy second half to Q1 with drivers fighting for positions on the track. With a few improvements, Albon squeezed into Q3 by taking tenth place and finished the session in ninth. Albon then had a poor start the the race when fighting with Gasly, which saw him go off the track and down to fifteenth. Albon began slowly recovering, but with a yellow flag, Albon lost out when pitting and pushed him back down the grid. After the restart on Lap 28, Albon started at the bottom of the pack and he could not improve on this. The only thing that saved Albon from not finshing the race plum last was Giovinazzi's ten-second stop-go penalty.
Max Verstappen's weekend was no improvement either. Verstappen started the race in fifth position but with a poor getaway at the start, it pushed Verstappen down two places. Like Albon, Max lost out during the pit stop once the pit entry was reopened and after Leclerc's crash which caused a red flag, things did not improve. After the restart, there was a PU issue with the car forcing the Dutchman to retire from the race on Lap 32.
Copyright: McLaren 2020
5. Great racing from the McLaren boys
The Smooth Operator lived up to his name and had a strong performance throughout the weekend. Carlos Sainz pushed his McLaren right to the limit during Q3, so much so, the adrenaline rush meant he was still shaking after he had got out of the car. Sainz got everything out of the McLaren which led to a stellar lap that put him in third position and behind Hamilton on the grid. On race day, Carlos had a great start off the line to take second position. Sainz comfortably maintained second position until the yellow flag and then the red which pushed him down to sixth. With Giovinazzi and Hamilton having to take a ten-second stop-go penalty, this pushed Sainz up to fourth. On Lap 34, Kimi Räikkönen put up a good fight, but ultimately Sainz got past. With Lance Stroll's lock up causing him to miss the second chicane, this ultimately helped Sainz up the grid. Sainz then only had Pierre Gasly out in front of him and lap after lap was closing the gap, however, the Alpha Tauri was just out of reach and Sainz only managed to get into DRS zone in the last lap which was not enough. Whilst Sainz was disappointed to not win, second place is still an amazing result for the team.
Sainz's teammate, Lando Norris, also put a strong performance in on Sunday. Like his teammate, Norris got a great start off the line and went from sixth to fourth, before fighting with Bottas for third around the first chicane and then overtaking him on the second chicane, providing great wheel to wheel action. Norris kept a cool head and maintained his third position despite the quick Racing Point behind him. Norris also lost out at the restart and started seventh. Norris was pushed up fifth once Hamilton and Giovinazzi went into the pits and he was able to get past the slower Alfa Romeo. Again, Norris kept his cool despite having a Mercedes behind him and finished a respectable fourth.
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6. Pierre Gasly - The Comeback Kid
If someone had said that Pierre Gasly would win the 2020 Italian Grand Prix in an Alpha Tauri you would think they were crazy. It has been a whirlwind eighteen months for the Frenchman that has been full of ups and downs. At the start of the 2019 season, Gasly was promoted to Red Bull, but with a slow start to the season, he was quickly demoted back to Toro Rosso, after the Hungarian Grand Prix, in favour of Alex Albon. During the next race weekend at Belgium, his good friend Anthoine Hubert tragically passed away due to an accident in a Formula Two race. Redemption then came for Gasly, when he came second in the Brazilian Grand Prix, just over two months after he was demoted. Over the 2020 season, Gasly has been one of the drivers to watch and thus was further magnified, most notably, when he got driver of the day during Spa last weekend. Whilst this season has also seen Gasly's house being broken into and a failed relationship, Gasly has managed to maintain good consistentcy throughout races. Whilst luck was on the Frenchman's side with the yellow flag and Hamilton's penalty, the way he kept his cool and held first position whilst Sainz was closing in on him should be applauded.
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7. Thank you Williams
The Italian Grand Prix marks the end of an era as the Williams family will no longer be in Formula One after forty-three years in the sport after Claire Williams steps down as Team Principle after their sale to Dorilton Capital.
In 1977, Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head started out in a empty car warehouse in Oxfordshire and only had seventeen members of staff. In just their second season, Williams finish runner-up in the Constructors' Championship despite having to race with their FW06 up until the Belgium Grand Prix because their FW07 was not ready in time. By 1980, Williams win the Constructors' Championship whilst their driver, Alan Jones comes first in the Drivers Championship and Carlos Reutemann in third. The team then win the Contructors' Championship again in 1981 as Reutemann looses out by just one point in the Drivers Championship. Jones comes third despite braking his little finger half way through the season following a traffic accident in London. Keke Rosberg then wins in 1982 in the FW07C and FW08 before the team struggle with the new turbo engine era. 1986 was a mixed year for the team after Frank was left confined to a wheelchair after a bad accident on his way to the airport after pre-season testing at Paul Ricard. The team win the Constructors' Championship with their drivers Nelson Piquet and, 1986 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Nigel Mansell. In 1987 Williams again win the Contructors's Championship with a Honda-V6 Turbo engine and Piquet wins the championship with Mansell second.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Williams show good consistency but are unable to match the speed of both McLaren and Ferrari until 1992 when they win the Constructors' Championship. Mansell comes first and Patrese second in the Drivers Championship. Alain Prost then becomes World Champion in 1993, with Damon Hill third, giving Williams their sixth Constructors' Championship. Williams win their third consecutive Constructors' win, but the season was left with heartache after the tragic death of Ayrton Senna. In a dominent 1996 season, Williams win all but four races and score more than double championship points of its closet rival. Damon Hill and David Coulthard come first and second in the standings and lead Williams to their eighth Constructors Championship. 1997 sees the last time that Williams win the Constructors' and Drivers Championship with Villeneuve winning the Championship and Frentzen coming second.
After poor seasons in recent years, Claire was forced into a position that left her no option but to sell. Whilst the sale to Dorilton safeguards the teams future, it's incredible sad to see the force of the Williams family leave the paddock.
To Frank, you gave so many drivers the opportunity to live out their childhood dreams of becoming F1 drivers and even champions. You gave Williams fans a car to cheer about. You always stayed humble throughout it all despite leaving a huge legacy. I hope you get to see a competitive Williams again in the near future.
To Claire, you gave women a platform in a very male dominated sport and although you had a hard time as Team Principle, you always had you fathers' professionalism and held your head high.
Thank you Williams.
If only every race was that entertaining... Whilst on the one hand, it was fortunate that the tifosi were not out in force due to Ferarri's poor weekend, it would of been great to see their reaction to the Italian Alpha Tauri winning at Monza.