Max Verstappen wins Italian Grand Prix after late safety car

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen handed Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc a home defeat in the Italian Grand Prix as he continued his unstoppable charge toward a second world championship.

Leclerc lost to the Dutchman after the Italian squad tried a questionable two-stop strategy, giving up the lead to the reigning champion twice on track.

Verstappen’s 11th victory this season has put him 116 points ahead of Leclerc, meaning that he could mathematically secure the title at the next round in Singapore.

George Russell’s Mercedes finished third, ahead of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, both of whom started from the back of the field.

Another win for Verstappen

Verstappen started from 7th in the grid and had a fine start to the race as he raced to second after five laps. He managed to close the gap to Leclerc but a virtual safety was deployed on lap 12 due to Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin breaking down on the track.

Ferrari decided to take a chance on a stop, hoping to benefit from the time saved, but they stopped at the end of the VSC so they did not get any advantage.

However, Verstappen ran his complete race and did not stop for tyres until lap 25. Verstappen trailed Leclerc by 10 seconds at the start and soon began to catch up with the Ferrari. Within seven laps, he was only five seconds behind Leclerc and looked set to overtake him.

Ferrari wanted Leclerc to close the gap on Verstappen by making a late soft tyre switch on lap 33, but he came out 20 seconds behind and made little progress before a full safety car phase was called with five laps remaining, due to Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren which broke down with an engine issue and stopped at the Lesmo corners.

Hamilton was the only driver that didn’t pit for fresh tyres but officials that have any time left to restart the race and so it finished under the safety car.

Team boss Mattia Binotto defended Ferrari’s strategy after the race, claiming that Verstappen would have won regardless. Christian Horner of Red Bull said they would have pitted under the virtual safety car if Leclerc hadn’t.

Officials are faced with the task of explaining why the safety car first collected Russell rather than Verstappen, why it took so long to finish the procedures required to restart the race, and why they could not have red-flagged the event and concluded with a quick sprint to the finish line.

What is needed to win the Championship?

Verstappen must leave Singapore in three weeks’ time with at least 138 points lead in order to clinch the title. In that circumstance, Leclerc would have to retire in order for Verstappen to become champion.

Verstappen has taken complete control of this season, and the Red Bull team seem almost unbeatable.

Ferrari should be favourites to finish on the podium, provided that technical issues don’t prevent Leclerc from doing so.

Rest of the track

Sainz and Hamilton both drove well to move up after receiving penalties for using too many engine parts. Sainz made the most eye-catching advancement, but while Hamilton took it slow initially, he soon began driving up the field positions.

Sainz and Hamilton occupied the fourth and fifth slots as the rest of the field made pit stops, as the two were expected to before the race began.

During the race, Hamilton pulled off a double passing move on McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly as they approached the first corner.

Despite an early pit stop because of a damaged tyre and a brake fire caused by debris in his brake duct, Sergio Perez finished sixth, from 13th on the grid.

McLaren’s Norris finished in the points in seventh place, with Gasly benefiting from Fernando Alonso’s Alpine retiring with engine issues to finish in eighth.

There was also a great drive from Dyck De Vries who made his debut for Williams.

On Saturday morning after Alex Albon was diagnosed with appendicitis, Dyck De Vries was drafted in to drive for Williams. Due to the numerous engine penalties, he moved up the grid from 13th to eighth and drove a controlled and effective race to finish ninth behind Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo.

Williams Racing Performance

On Saturday morning after Alex Albon was diagnosed with appendicitis, Dyck De Vries was drafted in to drive for Williams. Due to the numerous engine penalties, he moved up the grid from 13th to eighth and drove a controlled and effective race to finish ninth behind Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo.

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance:

Nyck drove an excellent race today and was able to defend when required as well as keeping constant pressure on the cars ahead.

We gave him an ambitious strategy which would push his Soft and Medium tyres to the limit.

The late safety car offered some protection in the final laps and also helped him manage a hot front brake disc.

However, he got himself into that position by driving extremely well, managing the start and the pit stop expertly and by fighting hard using a car and setup that he had only driven for 34 laps yesterday.

He did no high fuel running prior to the laps to the grid and had never driven a full stint on these tyres in racing conditions.

The work that he and his team put in overnight was excellent and he deserved this result.

Nicholas had a tricky start to the race, losing out at the first chicane before mounting a good recovery showing decent pace on the Hard tyre to get back into the fight with Stroll and Tsunoda, Schumacher and Bottas.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t recover all the loss from the opening laps and finished in 15th.

It was good to complete this triple header with another points finish and we can now enjoy some rest before we head to Singapore for the first of the flyaway races that will end the 2022 season.

Nyck de Vries:

I’m feeling really good about today and think it was crucial to get the start right and a clean run into lap one.

I got into a DRS train which helped to stick with the pack, however I think the pace was really good and we made a good call on strategy and tyre management.

Driver of the day makes me so happy and I’m very pleased and thankful that I got given the opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands.

It was a great day for the team and whilst grid penalties played in our favour, ultimately, we did a great race so I’m very happy for everyone in the team and for myself.

Hopefully I will get a shot next year, but this is definitely a dream come true and I’m very impressed with what we’ve done in short notice, so I’ll go enjoy it now.

Nicholas Latifi:

A very tough race. I was compromised at the start being sandwiched between a few cars and trying to avoid damage. A lot of cars cut the first corner without any penalties.

Unfortunately, we had a slow pit-stop which left us with very little to play for in the race. The aim was to maintain the position we started in and we had a fighting chance, but it wasn’t meant to be.

We were fast in a straight line, but we struggled with braking and carrying speed through the corners. We’ll look to bounce back in Singapore in a few weeks.

Italian Grand Prix Results

1M. VerstappenOracle Red Bull Racing1:20:27:511
3G. RussellMercedes+3.405s
2 VriesWilliams Racing+7.122s
15N. LatifiWilliams Racing+ 1 LAP

2022 FIA Formula One World Championship Schedule

120-Mar-22Bahrain Grand PrixBahrain IC, Sakhir
227-Mar-22Saudi Arabia Grand PrixJeddah Street Circuit, Jeddah
310-Apr-22Australian Grand PrixMelbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne
424-Apr-22Emilia Romagna Grand PrixImola
508-May-22Miami Grand PrixMiami International Autodrome, Miami
622-May-22Spanish Grand PrixCircuit de Catalunya, Barcelona
729-May-22Monaco Grand PrixMonte Carlo, Monaco
812-Jun-22Azerbaijan Grand PrixBaku City Circuit, Baku
919-Jun-22Canadian Grand PrixGilles Villeneuve, Montreal
1003-Jul-22British Grand PrixSilverstone
1110-Jul-22Austrian Grand PrixRed Bull Ring, Spielberg
1224-Jul-22French Grand PrixCircuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet
1331-Jul-22Hungarian Grand PrixHungaroring, Mogyorod
1428-Aug-22Belgian Grand PrixSpa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps
1504-Sep-22Dutch Grand PrixZandvoort
1611-Sep-22Italian Grand PrixMonza
1702-Oct-22Singapore Grand PrixMarina Bay, Singapore
1809-Oct-22Japanese Grand PrixSuzuka
1923-Oct-22United States Grand PrixCircuit of the Americas, Austin
2030-Oct-22Mexican Grand PrixAutodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City
2113-Nov-22Brazilian Grand PrixInterlagos, Sao Paulo
2220-Nov-22Abu Dhabi Grand PrixYas Marina, Abu Dhabi