Much of the narrative of 2020 has been simply that Formula 1 is fast turning into a predictable sport where it’s only one team that dominates. And more often than not, it’s been Mercedes and its star driver Lewis Hamilton.
Not much could also be argued against the popular ruling with Mercedes winning five in eight races held so far.
But Monza, the home of the Italian Grand Prix withstood none of that rising rancor in giving millions of fans a race that was not only thrilling but hard to forget, apart from also being one that was hard to conceive, panning out in an unprecedented, untellable manner.
A 53-lap contest that saw not one but four retirements, including both Ferraris, with an Alpha Tauri winning much to everyone’s surprise (and joy) with both McLarens finishing inside top five, including Sainz’ second career podium, Monza might have begun in the most conventional manner but ended with a result that was as unpredictable as any we’ve seen all season. Not just that, the temple of speed also produced what none could’ve predicted; a red-flagged race, whose eventual conclusion saw the sport’s youngest and perhaps finest talents on the top three steps.
Another win here for Lewis Hamilton might have only produced the most regular outing, given the Briton’s outstanding dominance but for the sake of the fans and the demand of millions in wanting a race that none could predict, Monza delivered an equalizer none saw coming.
That’s possibly among the reasons why the contest in the Italian heartland may never be forgotten in times to come.
That said, what were the key talking points from the Italian Grand Prix?
Before hopping on to Monza, the only podium in young Gasly’s career was the thrilling finish to second at Interlagos in 2019, home to the Brazilian Grand Prix. Never had Gasly in the races hence, tasted what it meant to occupy the top step of the podium.
But in the second session, all thanks to the drivers diving into the pits with the race red-flagged, Gasly was a different driver altogether.
He was then, holding on third, with Hamilton out in the lead and Stroll, in second. It was going to be his podium to lose.
And immediately after the remainder of the contest began, with 26 more laps to go, there was a change in the pecking order.
Lewis, having to serve that 10-second time penalty for boxing despite the pit window being closed found himself at the back of the grid with Stroll out in front and Gasly in second.
Soon, the young Frenchman would take the lead and would hold onto it brilliantly. Make no mistake. It didn’t mean that Pierre’s task was going to be any easy with a faster McLaren of Sainz doing all it could to bring down the gap to the race-leader but Gasly was on a different level in the closing stages.
For someone who, in the space of 18 months, suffered so much as to have been dumped by Red Bull (and demoted to Alpha Tauri), losing out on his best friend in Anthoine Hubert at Spa (in 2019 crash), and also having his house burgled of precious belongings, Monza signaled a day of redemption for a driver who, thus far, has single-handedly led the Italian team’s charge this season.
And what a worthy winner he was in the end- right?
Great podium for Carlos Sainz Jr. in McLaren 2 and 4
One of the brightest talents on the grid and also one of the most consistent young names, Carlos Sainz enjoyed his career-best outing at the home of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in collecting a richly-deserved second.
But was it any easy for the Spaniard?
Not really as before the session restarted, having been red-flagged due to Leclerc’s accident wherein the Ferrari driver slid away to the gravel trap in a major crash around Turn 11, Sainz was hanging on sixth, followed by Norris, in seventh.
But upon re-start, the McLaren driver was a different driver altogether; a man on a mission.
He would immediately pass Stroll on the straights, after which, the two Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi were on his radar.
But when the Italian driver Giovinazzi shunted into the pits to serve his time-penalty, Sainz would benefit and jump up into fourth.
Hamilton, pitting soon after to serve exactly the same penalty as the Italian would further boost Sainz’ grid position.
But make no mistake; Sainz did well to pass Kimi immediately after, the McLaren much stronger in race-pace versus the struggling Alfa Romeo of the Finn.
From thereon in, Sainz got busy in catching Gasly for the lead but had to settle for an incredible second, a result that was richly-deserved by a driver who never gave up.
Brilliant recovery drive for Lewis Hamilton
The man who, weekend after weekend, finishes right on top, it was in a way strange to find Lewis Hamilton not the race-winner at Monza. But one of the talking points from the Italian Grand Prix was the stellar recovery driver that Hamilton demonstrated after he fell further at the back of the grid and yet, managed to collect a respectable seventh in the end.
While his teammate was found clearly struggling in the other Mercedes, Bottas failing to pass Lando Norris’ McLaren, Lewis Hamilton spent the latter half of the Monza weekend in exhibiting commanding overtakes from the rear-end of the grid.
Hamilton, though race-leader until lap 26, was to serve a 10-second time penalty, a decision that one may feel was slightly harsh on the Briton. Resultantly, his lead snatched away, all Hamilton had to do was to find a way to fight back from P17 into a point’s finish.
And he did just that as he made not one but several striking moves on drivers in the midfield, including Alexander Albon of Red Bull, Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, Sergio Perez of Racing Point, Nicholas Latifi of Williams, to quote just some of the men who found themselves defenseless against ‘Hammertime!’
Not only that, Hamilton, in the process of setting a new lap record during qualifying, wherein he bagged his seventh pole at Monza, also set the fastest-ever lap of the sport’s history in going ballistic at 1:18:887.
In so doing, he broke Raikkonen’s record of 1:19:119, also set at the famous track, two years back in 2018.
No luck yet for Kimi
Kimi Raikkonen, in the latter half of the race, seemed in an ethereally good position from which to score some points and finally get his season off to a start. Upon the re-start, the Alfa Romeo driver down on fourth made a stellar move on his teammate- local favorite- Antonio Giovnazzi to go up into third.
Later, with Lewis pitting, it was Raikkonen holding onto second, and thus, only a position away from Pierre Gasly, the race-leader.
But Raikkonen holding on P2 was always going to be a bit of a mega-challenge, especially since it would require him to defend vigorously from more superior machines, including the two McLarens of Sainz and Norris, and the rest of the packed midfield.
It was a task that Kimi didn’t seem comfortable doing, especially on the softer compounds which his team perhaps falteringly opted for. Could Raikkonen have defended and driven better had he been on the hard compounds instead?
Nonetheless, what transpired in the last twelve to thirteen laps was the Alfa Romeo sliding backward, having once been in the mighty second to being lapped by Sainz, Norris, Bottas, Ricciardo, and the likes.
Eventually, Kimi, struggling everywhere for grip was even passed by the Williams of Latifi before Haas driver Grosjean caught Raikkonen. Resultantly, the Finn finally ended ahead of George Russell, to take thirteenth.
Not quite the finish the Iceman was hoping for.
Poor outing for Ferrari
The home race for a true titan of the sport could not have panned out any poorer. With both Ferrari drivers race-retiring, Leclerc having a crash, and Vettel suffering from a brake failure, one of the key talking points from the Italian Grand Prix 2020 saw Ferraris woes exacerbated after a poor qualifying a day earlier.
On Saturday, Leclerc managing a P13 and Vettel, P17, made for an awful sight. Not since 1984 had the two Ferraris begun outside of top-10 in their home race.
Many saying that it was good fortune for the team with no fans out in attendance, weren’t too off the mark, truth be told.
But on race-day, the 53-lap challenge proved to be a bit for exasperating for the home side, even as Leclerc did brilliantly to break into the top ten.
Eventually, both cars had to retire- never a pleasing sight if you are a fan of the red. Hopefully, Mugello can see a bit of a recovery.
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