Gasly wins at Monza! F1 2020 Season Review: Italy
A fantastic first win for Alpha Tauri since 2008!
We have all been complaining about the Mercedes dominance recently. Whether you are Mercedes fans or not, constant winning has started to make Formula One somewhat boring. Today, this was changed when Pierre Gasly became the first driver since Kimi Raikkonen's Australian Grand Prix victory in 2013 to win a race and not be a part of the top three teams!
The 2020 Italian Grand Prix is one for the history books, but we are once again getting ahead of ourselves. Before we dive into this fascinating race, let's recap what happened in yesterday's qualifying session.
Yesterday's qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix saw some drivers start in places they never would be starting at the start of the season - though, this can be taken in both a positive and negative way.
The first qualifying session saw a lot of traffic out on circuit, very similar to the dramatic Q3 from last year that saw 8 drivers cross the line in time to start their final laps. A particular incident to note involved Esteban Ocon, who blocked Kimi Raikkonen massively going through the Turn 3 right hander on their outlaps. The on-track traffic saw a lot of drivers start to bunch up towards the end of the outlap, with Sebastian Vettel being the talking point of the session as he was unable to get a good drive out of the final corner, costing him a place in Q2. The other drivers to be knocked out of Q1 were Nicolas Latifi, George Russel, Antonio Giovinazzi and Romain Grosjean. Great efforts from Kevin Magnussen and Kimi Raikkonen saw the pair make it into Q2.
The second qualifying session wasn't quite as dramatic as the first, but saw Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon fail to make it to the final session. A nightmare season would continue for Ferrari, while Ocon will have been disappointed to have not qualified ahead of the two Alpha Tauris. The final order in Q2 would be Daniil Kvyat in 11th, followed by Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen.
The final qualifying shootout would be quite different this weekend, with the new rule that teams are only allowed to use one mode throughout qualifying, and use the same mode during the race. This was a proposal submitted by Red Bull in an attempt to counter Mercedes' 'Party Mode', which unlocks a lot more pace from the Mercedes power unit during the final run of qualifying. Regardless of this, Mercedes were still able to lock out the front row with Lewis Hamilton being the fastest; but behind them is where things start to get a little bit unique...
Carlos Sainz would find a huge amount of pace in his MCL35, putting him behind Valtteri Bottas in third place. Sergio Perez would join the future Ferrari driver on the second row, putting Racing Point in a competitive fourth place. Max Verstappen was only able to put his Red Bull in fifth after a crash during free practice, with Lando Norris qualifying in sixth place, two tenths slower than the Red Bull driver. Lance Stroll would start in eighth, ahead of Alex Albon - who seems to not be having a great time in his Red Bull this year. Pierre Gasly would round off the top 10 - which makes his victory that much more amazing.
Now that we have looked at qualifying, let's dive into the race!
As the five red lights went out to commence another race at Monza (a track that rarely disappoints), it was Valtteri Bottas that would have a shocking first lap. His reactions to the lights going out were much slower than that of Hamilton and Sainz, meaning he had already been passed by the Spaniard before he reached Turn 1. Hamilton was able to hold position through the Turn 1 and two chicane, followed by Carlos Sainz and a mini battle between Norris and Bottas behind. Norris tried to go around the outside of Bottas, bumped wheels and was unable to get ahead on exit; but then slipstreamed his way alongside Bottas at Turn 3 to go around the outside at the Turn 4 chicane!
Bottas would then be put under pressure by Sergio Perez after a poor exit by the chicane, only to be passed after running wide at the second 'Lesmo' corner; before being overtaken for a final time by Daniel Ricciardo at the 'Ascari' complex. It was an awful first lap for the Finn, who thought he had a puncture after bumping wheels with Norris, but was actually struggling with the power unit. Gasly and Albon would be under investigation by the stewards after bumping at Turn 1, causing Albon to be forced off track.
Lap 6 would see Sebastian Vettel draw alongside George Russell, before the left-rear brake failed and caused the German to straight-line the first chicane and destroying the polystyreine markers in the process. The rear-left brake was seen in replays to be on fire and falling apart at the Ascari complex on Lap 5, and the four-time world champion would have to retire, once again missing out on points. Alexander Albon also received a 5-second penalty for an incident with Grosjean, where he forced the Frenchman off-track at Turn 1.
By Lap 11, Lewis Hamilton had started to pull away from Carlos Sainz in second place, but the rest of the pack was all bunched up in a long train, at one point, there were four cars that were all within DRS range of each other, meaning there was less than four seconds between them! This is a big achievement for Formula One, considering that cars have been struggling to follow each other in recent years.
On Lap 17, Charles Leclerc was passed by Alex Albon before pitting for Hard tyres a lap later. This caused multiple cars, including Latifi, Leclerc and Raikkonen to pit as well. Magnussen then pulls over on the exit of the 'Parabolica' right hander (the final corner) and brings out a yellow flag in sector three. Pierre Gasly immediately pits, expecting a safety car, and a lap later his wish was granted.
The safety car was deployed as Hamilton, the leader, was going through the final corner. Hamilton dived into the pits to fit the Medium tyre, but was not followed by Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris or the rest of the pack. Himself and Antonio Giovinazzi were the only drivers to pit, which caused confusion as to why the rest of the field didn't pit to gain an advantage.
It was soon displayed that the pitlane had been closed in order to recover Kevin Magnussen's retired car. Hamilton and Giovinazzi had entered a closed pitlane, and were both under investigation for doing so. The pitlane was opened a couple of laps later, causing the rest of the field to pit and bringing Hamilton back to the front again. McLaren would double stack their drivers in second and third, which put Lando Norris under investigation as he travelled too slow into the pitlane.
After the pitstops had been completed, Sainz and Norris dropped down to eighth and nineth, followed by Bottas in tenth, Ricciardo and Perez in eleventh and twelfth, and Verstappen in thirteenth. The midfield had been jumped by the drivers that pitted earlier and by Stroll who hadn't pitted. Lance Stroll was now in second, followed by Gasly, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Leclerc and Latifi.
The race was restarted on Lap 24, and the slower cars started to drop down the pack as the front-runners made their way through. This included Latifi, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. Gasly and Stroll were in good positions, as Hamilton in front had a potential penalty to ruin his day.
Then, a huge accident occurred at the Parabolica on Lap 25 after Charles Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari. The Monégasque was trying to keep up with the front runners when he was a little too eager with his throttle application at the exit of the final corner. The back end of the SF1000 stepped out and Charles attempted to save it, otherwise known as a 'tankslapper'. This then caused the Ferrari to sharply turn left and into the gravel-trap, where he hit the tyre barrier at a great speed. Thankfully the 22-year-old was okay, but the car hit the wall at a speed enough to lift up the front end, causing him to feel 'a little bit sore'. Zero points was not what Ferrari had in mind at their home Grand Prix, though it is good news that their drivers were okay after a scary accident and an equally-scary brake failure.
Due to the damage done to the tyre barrier, the FIA opted to Red Flag the session on Lap 26 in order to replace the scattered tyres, and recover the destroyed Ferrari. Though, this wasn't without drama as the Marshall's crane actually dropped Leclerc's Ferrari during the process!
The Second Restart
The race would be restarted on Lap 29 of 53, with all cars leaving the pitlane behind the safety car and forming on the grid for a standing start. According to Channel 4 commentator, Ben Edwards, this is a new rule that his been implemented after spending years of using rolling starts to restart the race.
The grid would once again get away from the line cleanly, and Hamilton started to pull away after himself and Giovinazzi received 10-second Stop/Go penalties for driving in the pitlane when it was closed. This involved driving in the pitlane, stopping in their respective pitbox for 10 seconds (without their team touching the car) and continuing with their race - this would cost the pair 30 seconds each. Lance Stroll locked up into Turn 4, and lost positions to both Alfa Romeos and Carlos Sainz as a result. Sainz and Stroll would then go wheel-to-wheel into Ascari, with Stroll taking his place back briefly.
Hamilton opted to stop for his penalty at the end of Lap 29, dropping him all the way to the back of the pack and out of contention to win the race. Antonio would serve his penalty two laps later.
Pierre Gasly would take the lead at this point for Alpha Tauri, followed by the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen and Carlos Sainz in third. Sainz was instructed by his engineer to 'take his time with Raikkonen', to which he responded that he was concerned about Gasly pulling away up front. Sainz then goes around the outside of a slower Kimi Raikkonen, who was incredibly fair and gave the Spaniard a lot of space. This started a 20 lap hunt for Pierre Gasly.
Lap 31 saw Max Verstappen retire from 14th place, only three places ahead of Pierre Gasly in a disappointing weekend for Red Bull. The cause was an engine issue, though it seemed that a podium finish or even points were not likely at this point for Verstappen.
Lance Stroll would overtake Kimi Raikkonen for third place on Lap 35 around the outside of the Turn 4 chicane - Kimi was once again fair with the amount of space he gave the Canadian. Raikkonen would lose a lot of positions after this and finish in 13th, due to some difficulties with tyres in the closing stages of the race. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, was on a charge. The Briton was setting the fastest lap of the race consistently in order to continue a streak of forty consectutive points finishes. He would end up passing Albon, both Williams, Kimi Raikkonen, Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon to finish in an impressive seventh, considering he was in last place and 25 seconds behind the pack with only 23 laps to go.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz had continued to hunt down Pierre Gasly for the remaining laps of the race as both drivers chased their first Formula One victory. Carlos Sainz was around one or two tenths faster than Gasly every lap, but struggled to close in on the Alpha Tauri as he got closer due to the disturbed air. Sainz only received DRS on the final lap of the race; but it wasn't enough as Gasly would weave on the straights to break the tow and cross the line less than half a second ahead of the McLaren driver. A few screams later, and it started to sink in that Pierre Gasly had just won his first Formula One Grand Prix at the same track that Toro Rosso took their first victory in 2008 after a phenomenal drive from Sebastian Vettel in the rain. Lance Stroll would cross the line in third place, ahead of Lando Norris in fourth and Valtteri Bottas in a disappointing fifth...
Wow, what a race that was! Isn't it refreshing to see a podium of three drivers from the midfield? Races like these really do give me hope that we will see more midfield teams fighting at the front when the budget cap is introduced to Formula One next year, and will make the 2022 regulations changes that little bit more exciting.
Overall, I would rate the 2020 Italian Grand Prix an 9 out of 10. Not only did we see Pierre Gasly take a thoroughly-deserved first victory; but we saw plenty of on-track action on the wonderful circuit that is Monza. We aren't finished with Italy yet, though, as F1 is racing at Mugello for the first time next weekend! Mugello is a terrifying track, and I look forward to seeing how the cars handle the tight corners and the long, uphill right-hander!
I would also like to take a moment to thank the Williams family for their legendary contributions to Formula One over the decades, and wish them the best of luck with their future! Formula One won't be the same without them, but I am glad the Williams name will continue, and hope to see the name rise to the top once more!
You can see the race results below:
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