Monza Madness Gives Gasly Epic First Win
A recap on Pierre Gasly's first win in F1 at the Italian Grand Prix
Pierre Gasly secured his first ever win in Formula 1, and what a race it was! The young Frenchman drove to a superb victory following a red flag that saw a team outside the top 3 of Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari win for the first time since Brazil 2012, finishing just 0.4seconds ahead of the charging McLaren of Carlos Sainz, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll completing the most unusual podium we have seen in many a race! When thinking ahead to what I might write today, there is not an ounce of me that expected to be writing that…
The race looked to be heading for another straightforward victory for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who, as we have seen so many times this season, had opened a formidable gap at the front of the pack, however that all changed on lap 20 when a safety car was deployed to recover the stranded car of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas from the pitlane entrance. Hamilton dove in the pits for a cheap stop, however was not informed by his team that the pitlane was closed (due to the stranded car) and was penalised with a 10 second stop/go penalty – Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo also suffered the same fate. Just 2 laps after the restart, the race was red flagged following a huge crash for Charles LeClerc.
After a 27 minute delay, and with Hamiltons penalty confirmed, Lance Stroll was the de facto race leader, with Pierre Gasly behind him and the 2 Alfa Romeos rounding out the top 5. A standing restart saw an aggressive Gasly pull off the overtake on Stroll that would ultimately give him the race win and round off what has been a superb resurgence in form, after being dumped by Red Bull just over 12 months ago. The young Frenchman secured his first podium in F1 at the end of last season and has continued to rebuild himself this year, regularly putting in Driver of the Day performances in an underwhelming AlphaTauri car, where he has consistently beaten team-mate and fellow Red Bull reject Daniil Kvyat. Gasly will be ecstatic to pick up his first win in what has been an extremely turbulent F1 career, and if he continues his form this year he will soon be knocking on the door of Red Bull Advisor Helmut Marko to push for promotion back to the senior team. Let it not be forgotten that 12 years ago 4 time World Champion Sebastian Vettel also achieved his first F1 victory at Monza in the AlphaTauri (then known as Toro Rosso) – the teams only victory until today.
The final laps of the race were anything but simple for Gasly, who came under increasing pressure from Carlos Sainz, with the Spaniard putting his McLaren within 1second and into the DRS zone on the last lap. Despite a career best 2nd place finish, Sainz cast a dejected look on the podium in a case of what could have been his first victory. Both McLarens were running in the top 3 prior to the safety car, and the red flag could not have come at a worse time for them, finding themselves in 8th and 9th at the restart. With McLaren showing strong pace all weekend, both papaya orange cars went on the offense at the restart, quickly dispatching the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen despite stellar efforts from the veteran to keep them behind in far inferior equipment. With Hamilton and Giovinazzi soon into the pits to serve their penalties, McLaren found themselves back up to 2nd and 4th, Lando Norris continuing to impress by keeping the usually dominant Mercedes behind him.
In truth, a 5th place for Bottas is an embarrassing result for the Finn, who struggled to make an impression all race. Starting 2nd, Bottas was quickly swallowed up by the cars behind him and found himself down 4 places into 6th by the end of lap 1. In a season where team mate Lewis Hamilton has rarely put a foot wrong, Bottas needs to be taking the fight to the champ and must capitalise on weekends like this where Hamilton finds himself out of position. Despite having one of the worst straight line speeds of all the teams, the Mercedes was still by far the fastest car and even with the removal of ‘quali modes’ this weekend, Hamiltons pole time was still 0.8s faster than the next non-Mercedes car. There is very little defence for Bottas race performances, and if it were not for the fact Mercedes as a team are so dominant I would suggest his race seat would be under threat. Whilst it is true that Mercedes lose a lot of their dominance when stuck in traffic, this offers very little respite for Bottas who saw his teammate finish just 10 seconds behind him despite rejoining last and a full half a minute behind the pack after taking his penalty.
Hamilton split the 2 Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, who finished 6th and 8th respectively in another disappointing race weekend for the French team. After displaying impressive pace in practice Renault were quietly confident of a strong race, but failed to capitalise on a Grand Prix that was full of surprises. Ricciardo demonstrated his overtaking skills are still as sharp as ever with a slick move past Bottas on lap one, but that was the only move of note for Renault, and in a race where only 1 car from Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari finished in the top 6, they would have been expecting a points haul significantly larger than the 12 they picked up.
Rounding out the final 2 points places were Kvyat (AlphaTauri) and Sergio Perez (Racing Point), 2 drivers whose seats for 2021 are under threat. 9th for Kvyat was a slight improvement over his 11th place start and also represents his best finish of the year, however the Russian is being comprehensively beaten by his teammate, and has scored just 4 points this year. In contrast, Gasly’s superb victory today gives the Frenchman 43 World Championship points, and firmly puts Kvyats F1 future in doubt, with young Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda tipped to replace Kvyat if he continues to perform well in F2. Sergio Perez meanwhile will be disappointed to finish 10th, after a season best 4th place qualifying where he too was unable to capitalise in a whirlwind Italian Grand Prix, but he will at least take comfort in knowing even if he is replaced by Vettel at Racing Point (soon to be Aston Martin), the Mexican is likely to secure a seat for next year and beyond with seats expected to be available at Haas.
Despite Haas continuing to struggle, they secured the accolade of the highest finishing Ferrari powered car thanks to Romain Grosjeans 12th placed finish, and are also to thank for triggering what proved to be the pivotal moment of the race with Magnussen retiring the car and pulling to a stop at the entrance to the pitlane. Grosjean was able to pass Raikkonen who at one point was running second after the red flag restart, ultimately falling to a disappointing 13th placed finish, Giovinazzi finishing 16th and last of runners after his 10second stop go penalty.
Ferrari’s season has gone from bad to worse, and they will be glad for empty grandstands today at their home race which saw neither car make it past lap 24. A brake failure for Sebastian Vettel saw him retire on lap 6 following a close battle with the Williams of George Russell on legitimate pace. Unable to stop at the end of the straight, Vettel ploughed off the track and through the foam marker boards at the chicane, coasting the car back to the garage and lucky not to find himself in a nasty collision. The same could not be said for Charles LeClerc, who suffered a huge crash at the end of lap 24 which triggered the red flag. Accelerating out of the Parabolica and on to the straight, LeClerc lost the back end and found himself trying unsuccessfully to collect a big oversteer slide, instead crashing into the barriers at over 150mph. Fortunately, the young driver was unharmed and able to walk away from the impact injury free – a testament to how far car safety has come on the anniversary of Jochen Rindt tragic death here at Monza 50 years ago this weekend.
Whilst Ferraris woes this season have been well documented, Red Bull have more often than not been the only challenger to Mercedes this year in the form of Max Verstappen. But that was not the case here in Monza, Verstappen only managing to qualify 5th and his team mate Alex Albon struggling through all 3 qualifying sessions to ultimately start 9th. It was a race to forget for Red Bull too as both cars fell back through the grid, Verstappen retiring from 14th place after a fault with the engine was identified. Meanwhile Albon was running at the back of the field for most of the race after picking up a 5 second penalty for squeezing Romain Grosjean and ultimately finished 15th, only ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi. Verstappen drops to 3rd in the championship behind Bottas, with Albon slipping to 6th behind both Norris and Stroll. The official line coming from Red Bull is that they are fully in support of Albon, who needs time to overcome his qualifying woes which are often the cause of his less than impressive race results, and we all hope he is given time to demonstrate the pace he has, which earned him his seat in Red Bull. The concern is Red Bull have a cut-throat history – the junior team of AlphaTauri currently filled with 2 drivers that were previously cut from Red Bull – and with Gasly now consistently outperforming the car he is in and junior drivers in the lower formulas seeking progression to F1, Albon must quickly improve on his performances if he wants to retain his Red Bull drive next year.
Lastly, to Williams, and an end of an era. After 739 races, 114 wins, and 16 World Championships, the Williams family are stepping away from the team following its sale to Dorilton Capital – a US investment company. Founded in 1977 by Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head, the eponymous team have been family owned and run ever since, dominating the sport through the 80s and 90s, and so often the destination and proving ground for many world champion drivers, and whose history deserves an entire article of its own. Results in recent years have been tough with the teams last victory coming in 2013, and this year is no exception. Despite significant progress over last year, Williams are yet to score themselves a point this year, although came close today with an 11th place finish for Nicholas Latifi who unusually found himself finishing ahead of George Russell, who came home in 14th. With fresh investment and an exciting young driver in Russell, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who does not want to see Williams return to the front of the grid. We send our thanks to Sir Frank and his daughter Claire for all they have given to the sport, and wish them a happy retirement away from F1.
In a race that no one could have predicted, the midfield battle was blown wide open. A fantastic first win for Gasly, and only the 2nd podium finishes for all of our top 3, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza gave this season a shot in the arm that was so desperately needed, and it is not long to wait for the next episode with the 2nd race in Italy next weekend, and for the first time ever, F1 heads to Mugello! With a condensed weekend schedule and just 2 days out on track, all teams will need to work quickly to get themselves set up for what is set to be another exciting Grand Prix.
Winner: Pierre Gasly
Driver of the Day: Pierre Gasly
Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton
Pos Driver Team Time Pts
1 P. Gasly AlphaTauri 1:47:06.056 25
2 C. Sainz Jr. McLaren +0.415s 18
3 L. Stroll Racing Point +3.358s 15
4 L. Norris McLaren +6.000s 12
5 V. Bottas Mercedes +7.108s 10
6 D. Ricciardo Renault +8.391s 8
7 L. Hamilton Mercedes +17.245s 7
8 E. Ocon Renault +18.691s 4
9 D. Kvyat AlphaTauri +22.208s 2
10 S. Pérez Racing Point +23.224s 1
11 N. Latifi Williams +32.876s 0
12 R. Grosjean Haas +35.164s 0
13 K. Räikkönen Alfa Romeo +36.312s 0
14 G. Russell Williams +36.593s 0
15 A. Albon Red Bull +37.533s 0
16 A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +55.199s 0
17 M. Verstappen Red Bull DNF 0
18 C. Leclerc Ferrari DNF 0
19 K. Magnussen Haas DNF 0
20 S. Vettel Ferrari DNF 0