In a weekend that has indicated both- flashes of blazing speed and incidents as well as Mercedes’ authority but good fortune for Red Bull- who’ll come out on top at Monza is the big question. The sprint race is over, but the anticipation for the 53-lap contest isn’t. The sight of Hamilton being beaten by Norris in the sprint, doesn’t seem all too pleasant.
But again, depends on whose side you are on and whom are you backing. For at the Temple of Speed as there are twenty worshippers persisting for glory, but only one shall emerge as the blessed winner.
In an exciting albeit incident-marred sprint race, only the second of the year, Valtteri Bottas didn’t put a foot wrong as he led every single lap from the starting line to race past the checkered flag to take the sprint win.
In doing so, he might have won his first sprint race but due to a change in his turbocharger, engine, MGU-H and MGU-K, will begin from the back of the pack, i.e., twentieth. That being said, second on the grid, Max Verstappen who finished just behind Bottas, after collecting additional points having set the fastest-lap will, effectively begin as Sunday’s pole-sitter at Monza.
Third on the grid, and much to the respite of tens of thousands of his fans, is Daniel Ricciardo, who claimed fourth at the conclusion of the sprint race, his best-possible (qualifying) start for the 2021 F1 season.
Behind the Australian, whose smile as for all to see, was his teammate Lando Norris, who finished fifth, but due to the alteration in Valtteri’s car, is slated to begin fourth on the grid.
Though it was Norris and his fighting drive against the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton that became the headlining material of Monza’s high-pace sprint race. Hamilton, a five-time winner at Monza, suffered what many would call a ‘horror start’ seconds from the opening lap.
Slightly slow to begin from the right-hand side, both McLaren’s immediately after Max Verstappen sneaked up from behind to catch the defending world champion napping.
Not that Lewis’ troubles ended there as Alpha Tauri’s Gasly too, would make up a move on the outside running into turn 1 in the approach to Ascari Chicane, but in the Frenchman’s bid to attack the McLarens, his front end clipped with the rear of the McLaren resulting in massive damage to his AT02.
Resultantly, Gasly would skid to the side of the track and go into the gravel, his front wing under the front axle of the car, thus prompting an early and sad race-retirement.
Meanwhile, Perez slipped a couple of places, Alonso, soon after being passed by Vettel’s Aston Martin, retook the track position as Stroll kept himself in the clean from the fighting trio.
Alonso’s lunge ahead of Vettel proving yet again that the Spaniard has lost not an ounce of enthusiasm and speed for proper racing.
The way Fernando Alonso stormed ahead inside the opening lap at Zandvoort demonstrating great grip on the banked corners was a sight to behold in itself, first taking the outside line only to dive on the insides at the very last minute, last weekend (inside lap 1).
Meanwhile, further down the grid at the far end of the pack, Tsunoda barely clipped the right rear and rearwing of Robert Kubica’s Alfa Romeo, the Pole standing in for Kimi Raikkonen this weekend. Though the move would spin Kubica on the track with Tsunoda offering not the nicest of words to an F1 veteran.
Full credit, though, to Antonio Giovinazzi, it ought to be said. The man in the other Alfa Romeo, driving at Monza, his home track, kept up the ante of attack for a car that’s effectively a backmarker, though pushing it well enough to derive the performance one would expect from a midfielder.
The driver of car#99, one touted fondly as the “Italian Jesus,” continued his blessed run until the checkered flag to finish a strong P8, which effectively means, a seventh-place start for Sunday owing to Valtteri Bottas’ demotion to P20 for tomorrow’s main Grand Prix.
That being said, the only low point, if any, besides Gasly’s crash and Hamilton’s lowly sprint result, was what the two Ferraris bagged. Starting their home race event from sixth (Charles Leclerc) and seventh (Carlos Sainz), respectively surely doesn’t indicate a stellar run for the boys of the Maranello-based outfit.
Can the horse prance come race day? Caan Max Verstappen succeed in maintaining the lead, now that he begins from the front and then manage tyre pressure and race management well enough to take his third consecutive win, of late, will form the key highlights in just a few hours now at Monza.
It’s all to play out for at the fastest track on the current calendar.