MONZA, Italy – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dashed Ferrari’s home hopes and won the Italian Grand Prix behind the safety car on Sunday, September 11, to move within reach of his second Formula One world championship.
The Dutch 24-year-old’s victory at the “Temple of Speed” in a race that ended disappointingly and to boos from the crowd, was Verstappen’s fifth in a row and 11th from 16 races this season.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Verstappen’s closest rival and now 116 points adrift with six races remaining, took second after starting on pole position but twice surrendering the lead in the pits.
George Russell finished third for Mercedes.
If Verstappen scores 22 points more than Leclerc in the next race under floodlights in Singapore on October 2, the title battle will be over.
Otherwise, it goes on to Japan a week later.
“You deserve that victory. It’s a shame it didn’t get going at the end there but you were the fastest car all weekend,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Verstappen over the radio after the checkered flag.
“Great job guys, we had a great race car,” he replied, before stepping out onto the Monza podium for the first time.
The win was Verstappen’s 31st, lifting him level with Britain’s 1992 champion Nigel Mansell in the all-time list.
Verstappen started seventh on the grid but was third after the opening lap and 19.5 seconds clear of Leclerc with 20 laps remaining when the Ferrari pitted from the lead to go from medium tires to softs.
Leclerc had made his first stop at the end of lap 11 when the virtual safety car was triggered by Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin stopping on track, also handing the lead to Verstappen who pitted on lap 25.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto explained they had to do something different to Red Bull because it was the only hope of winning.
The safety car, deployed six laps from the end when last year’s winner Daniel Ricciardo stopped his McLaren on track with an engine failure, raised the home fans’ hopes.
In the end it took too long to move the car for racing to resume.
The race, at a super-fast circuit celebrating its 100th anniversary, finished with the safety car peeling off into the pits and no opportunity for the order to change in the short run to the flag.
“The end was frustrating, I wish we could have ended up racing,” said Leclerc.
“It’s a shame. Overall I gave it all today. I wish I could have won in front of the amazing tifosi (fans) but I just couldn’t today.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fourth, after starting 18th and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton went from the back row of the grid to fifth for Mercedes.
“This morning, the team said anywhere between sixth and fourth was possible. That always feels like a stretch…but I had a lot of fun working my way to P5,” said Hamilton.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was sixth, and took a bonus point for fastest lap, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.
Dutch debutant Nyck de Vries was ninth for Williams, a stellar achievement that earned him the Driver of the Day accolade, and China’s Guanyu Zhou was 10th for Alfa Romeo in their home race.
“Hopefully I will get a shot next year, but this is definitely a dream come true,” said De Vries, who was standing in for regular driver Alex Albon after the Thai suffered an appendicitis.
A minute’s silence was observed before the start for Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest reigning monarch who died aged 96 on Thursday. – Rappler.com