2021 Italian GP: Grazie A Tutti, Monza!

What a RESULT that was!

Monza has a penchant for giving us mixed-up results, and just like we saw last year with Pierre, we’ve seen one of the most unlikely wins of all- Ricciardo WINNING the race, followed by Norris and Bottas- in a race which gave us one of the craziest crashes, in which both championship rivals were out on the spot!

Image credits: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.ricciardo-leads-stunning-mclaren-1-2-at-monza-after-verstappen-and-hamilton.2BH4g9dpznux3HTK3SXj9B.html

Mclaren would’ve come into the weekend with hopes for a good points haul, possibly a lucky podium. I’m certain they weren’t expecting to achieve their first 1-2 since 2010, and their first win since 2012! Honestly, McLaren were the team of the weekend for me, without a doubt!

The sprint race wasn’t much fun, with all the drama taking place on Lap 1 only, with Gasly’s crash and Kubica being spun. In the main race, we saw Max and Lewis come together, Antonio and Carlos come together, and surprise surprise, Mazepin crashing into Mick. I’ll now brief up on both the sprint as well as the main race!

Sprint Race Rundown

At the start of the sprint, Lewis got away really slowly, and Valtteri sprinted away into the distance. Max had a great start, though the best start was Daniel’s, who shot up to P3 from P5, a start which wasn’t given the appreciation it should’ve been given.

Gasly tapped his front wing against the rear of Ricciardo, and while going through the Curva Grande his front wing failed, sending him into the barriers. Further at the Della Roggia chicane, Tsunoda and Kubica made contact, sending the Pole into a spin and leaving the Japanese driver with front wing damage.

The safety car was called out, and once it came back in, the racing resumed. Not a lot happened henceforth, and Valtteri took the “pole position” for the race, with Max second and Daniel third. It wasn’t a lot of fun hence, I’ll be honest. We saw very few overtakes, though the ones we had were quite good to say the least! and not a lot of action post Lap 1!

I think F1 needs to reconsider the sprint format. Even at Silverstone, after the first lap we barely saw much in the way of action, and honestly even the drivers found it boring. Let’s hope that some necessary revisions are made!

The happenings of the race

Valtteri had a grid penalty after taking a new engine, and hence started at the back of the grid. Both AlphaTauris had issues, with Gasly starting from the pitlane while Tsunoda couldn’t start at all, after car issues. At the start of the race, Daniel had a lightning start, just like on the day before. Max couldn’t do much, falling back to P2 and by Turn 4, almost falling to P3. Both Lando and Lewis also had great starts, which were great to see.

At the Della Roggia chicane (turns 4-5), Antonio was battling hard with Charles. In a bid to stay competitive he cut the chicane a bit, and rejoined, though made contact with Carlos, effectively ruining his race then and there. The Safety Car was called out, while the debris was cleared. Gasly retired after the Safety Car came back in, capping off a miserable weekend in all for AlphaTauri.

The restart was mostly uneventful, with the only thing of note being Perez making some overtakes. Daniel still led, from Max, Lando and Lewis. Lando and Lewis were very close at some points, though Lewis just couldn’t make his way past Lando early enough. While all this was going on, Valtteri was sneakily gnawing back places, overtaking many drivers after starting a lowly 19th, on a day when even the best of the best struggled to do so.

Ocon and Vettel had a moment at Della Roggia, when the Frenchman squeezed the German onto the grass, duly getting a 5-second penalty in the process as well. The stage of the race came when all the top drivers were struggling with their tyres. Daniel bit the bullet first, then on the next lap Max pitted, though an 11-second stop saw him come out well behind Lando, effectively losing him net P2. He was obviously hungry to make ground back up, so when he saw Lewis, who also had a slow stop at 4 seconds long, he wanted to ensure he came out ahead of him. Turn 1 saw them go side by side, and the next few frames had both the fans absolutely on edge, and Netflix smelling the cash they could possibly make from this incident!

The incident was a massive blow for both, as Lewis got INCREDIBLY lucky to come out unhurt after the Halo saved him, while Max was handed a 5-place grid penalty for the next race at Sochi. The Safety Car was obviously called out immediately, and both retired on the spot, the event seeing Lewis retire for the first time since way, way back in Austria 2018! Both had differing views on the incident, though despite all this, the race went on. The cars followed the Safety Car round the track for a while till both cars were cleared, and then racing resumed, with Daniel still in the lead.

Both Ferraris benefitted massively from the Safety Car, rocketing up to P2 and P5. At the restart though, both struggled to maintain pace due to an obvious engine deficit, and started falling down the order, car after car. Sergio was deemed to have overtaken Charles off-track while attempting an overtake, the Mexican getting a 5-second penalty in the process.

Mazepin had an issue, and retired from the race, bringing out a VSC in the process. Once the VSC ended, racing resumed again. With just a few laps left, it was nail-biting scenes all the way to the finish- who would triumph? Within a few laps, we got our answer- and boy was it a glorious one!

Daniel led home a McLaren 1-2 (also the first 1-2 for any team this season), and it’s safe to say that nearly all of F1 had a smile as wide as Daniel’s when we saw the end result! A result we’ve all been waiting dearly for, a return of a legendary constructor to winning ways for the first time in 9 years, the return of a much-loved driver to glory after a difficult season, and the return of the “Shoey”, just saying the result was beautiful isn’t going to do it justice- It was one of the greatest ever! Also, Daniel managed to steal the fastest lap on the very last lap-truly capping off a remarkable drive!

Lando finished a glorious second, his best finish ever. Valtteri benefitted from Sergio’s penalty to finish P3, a remarkable drive from last place, overtaking when even the best struggled to do so. Both Ferraris scored points, while Russell got some magnificent points with P9, proving his worth yet again! I’ll now rate every driver’s individual performance.

THE DRIVERS: WHO DID WHAT?

(P1) Daniel Ricciardo:

The absolute star of the weekend, Daniel just managed to click everything in place, and secure the dream result. With this, his mojo should be back, and such performances should follow! (9.5/10)

(P2) Lando Norris:

Yet another star, Lando played the sensible team game to ensure that he and Daniel didn’t end up like Max and Lewis, holding station to let the team achieve a dream result!(9/10)

(P3) Valtteri Bottas:

The Finn was well and truly flying, going from the back of the grid to P3, on the weekend his departure from Mercedes was announced- truly a power move! (9.5/10)

(P4) Charles Leclerc:

Brilliant drive by the Monegasque, driving very well to stay within 5 seconds of Perez and gain an extra position, finishing P4. (9/10)

(P5) Sergio Perez:

The Mexican had a good race, though was a bit scruffy at times. He did well, though he coul’ve done so much better. (8.5/10)

(P6) Carlos Sainz:

The Spainiard had a decent race, though fell out of range of Perez towards the end, finishing a quiet P6. (8.5/10)

(P7) Lance Stroll:

Stroll did well to score points, though he probably cost the team points with his shenanigans on Lap 1 with Seb. (8/10)

(P8) Fernando Alonso:

A great drive by Fernando saw him take P8, even troubling Stroll at certain points during the race, though eventually finishing behind the Canadian. (8/10)

(P9) George Russell:

A splendid drive by the Briton saw him finish in the points, making it 3 out of the past 4 races that both he and Williams scored points! (9/10)

(P10) Esteban Ocon:

A decent drive from the Frenchman, though scruffy moments and the incident with Seb tainted his race, and he couldn’t get past the Williams of Russell. (7.5/10)

(P11) Nicholas Latifi:

This drive went under the radar, though needs to be appreciated. Latifi drove a great race, finishing just outside the points with P11. (8/10)

(P12) Sebastian Vettel:

Seb had a decent recovery following Lance’s shenanigans on Lap 1, though couldn’t do much henceforth in the race, and this wasn’t helped when Esteban squeezed him, and further ruined his race.(7.5/10)

(P13) Antonio Giovinazzi:

On a crucial weekend for his future, failing to score points after a Q3 appearance won’t do Antonio any favours, and neither will the crash he was involved in. (6.5/10)

(P14) Robert Kubica:

The Pole did quite well, finishing just behind Antonio after a difficult race. With news that Kimi will be back at Sochi, this likely means that Robert’s return will end, and he did well overall. (7/10)

(P15) Mick Schumacher:

Mick likely wouldn’t have finished anywhere other than the rear of the field, though being spun by Nikita after the Safety Car restart didn’t help his chances at all, languishing in 15th and being the last car to finish, a full 22 seconds behind the next car. (6.5/10)

(DNF) Nikita Mazepin:

Nikita needs to have better races, and not crash into his teammate in the process! A car issue stopped him from finishing, though he wouldn’t have done any wonders even if he’d have finished. A good thing is that he did admit the crash was mostly his mistake, which shows progress by the Russian. (5/10)

(DNF) Lewis Hamilton:

Lewis had a decent race up until the crash, though he only just overtook Lando before going into the pits, struggling to make up ground quickly. He’ll hope for better results next time out at Sochi! (7/10)

(DNF) Max Verstappen:

The Dutchman’s prospects were ruined with his not-so-good start, his team botched his prospects further, and his future prospects were also ruined further with his 5-place penalty for Sochi, as he was deemed to be responsible for the crash. Way too many prospects were ruined for Max on Sunday! (6.5/10)

(DNF) Pierre Gasly:

Completing only 4 laps, Pierre had a disaster of a weekend overall, not even coming close to replicating his last year’s glory. I can’t rate him, as he managed to achieve nothing, thanks to no fault of his own! (Croissant/10)

(DNS) Yuki Tsunoda:

For me to rate a driver, he has to manage to do something in the race, and thanks to Yuki not even starting, he legitimately couldn’t do anything at all! I can’t rate him, either for obvious reasons then! (Sushi/10)

WHO SHONE, WHO SUNK?

Who Shone: Both McLaren drivers, Bottas and Russell were my stand-out drivers for the weekend. All drove superbly, and finished in great positions at the end! A special mention to Leclerc as well, who drove well in an inferior car to keep up somewhat with Bottas at times towards the end.

Who Sunk: Antonio Giovinazzi and Nikita Mazepin had quite shoddy races. Antonio’s future hangs in the balance, and this result will likely see him out for 2022. Nikita already gets a lot of hate, and spinning his own teammate out didn’t help this cause one bit!

The next race is at Sochi, which might well be a snoozefest, as the track isn’t exactly known for providing excellent racing, though with F1 we never know. I expected France to be a snoozefest, and it was incredibly exciting, so with that optimism, bring it on, Sochi!

(All picture rights belong to their respective owners.)

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