MONZA: Max Verstappen won the Formula One Max Verstappen won the Formula One Italian Grand Prix on Sunday to leave himself in touching distance of his second straight Formula One title.
Championship leader Verstappen claimed his first win at Monza and his fifth GP in a row after fighting from seventh on the grid to beat Charles Leclerc over the line on another difficult day for Ferrari.
The Red Bull driver is 116 points ahead of Leclerc in the drivers’ standings after winning a race whose final six laps were run with the safety car after Daniel Ricciardo lost his engine and ended up at the side of the track.
“We had a great race, we were quickest on every compound,” said Verstappen, who had never even made the podium at Monza and started Sunday’s race with a grid penalty.
With six races left, the Dutchman can win the driver’s crown at next month’s Singapore GP.
The Monza crowd booed and whistled loudly as the cars came over the line as they were denied the chance to see their man Leclerc try to overtake dominant Verstappen, who won his 11th race of the season.
“The end was frustrating, I wish could have had a bit of racing at the end, unfortunately we were second because of what happened before,” said Leclerc.
The Monegasque appeared frustrated after Ferrari’s plan of pitting early to change from soft to medium tyres backfired.
“Obviously we finished P2 so I’m not extremely happy with the race but we will work on that,” added Leclerc.
“I think the pace was quite strong today, we will have to look into it as we were quite strong but it was not enough.”
George Russell of Mercedes rounded off the podium, while Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz surged from 18th on the starting grid to fourth.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton also raced from the back of the Mercedes to finish an impressive fifth while a delighted Nyck de Vries scored points on his F1 debut by finishing ninth as a stand-in for Williams’ Alex Albon.
Leclerc started on pole and held off an early overtake attempt from Russell to keep first place while Verstappen was already bursting through the pack.
Having started in seventh, Verstappen shifted up four places by the end of the first lap. He moved ahead of Russell on lap five to put Leclerc in his sights.
Verstappen took the lead on lap 13 when a virtual safety car was introduced after Sebastian Vettel crashed out and Leclerc pitted.
Leclerc re-entered the track with no major mishaps unlike at last week’s Dutch GP but Ferrari’s tactical move would eventually cost them the race.
Verstappen pitted on lap 26 to change from his softs to mediums and rejoined the fray just behind Leclerc with the same compound in which his Ferrari rival had already driven around the track 13 times.
That tyre wear made the difference when Leclerc handed Verstappen the win by pitting again to go back to softs seven laps later.
“It was really good on the tyres, it was really enjoyable to drive today,” Verstappen said. “A great day for us. It took a bit of time, but finally we won it.”
Daniel Ricciardo’s race ended with six laps remaining and with his car stuck beside the track that allowed everyone to pit knowing a safety car would come out.
What they didn’t know was that the car would remain on the track until the end of the race, meaning Verstappen strolled over the line for a victory which would likely have come regardless.