Australian bags first victory for McLaren; Hamilton and Verstappen crash out after collision
Daniel Ricciardo emerged as the shock winner at Monza, securing the first Formula 1 victory for McLaren since Jenson Button triumphed at Interlagos in 2012. Even better, team-mate Lando Norris was second, ahead of the Mercedes-AMG of Valtteri Bottas.
As he crossed the line, the sense of joy was clear as Ricciardo screamed: “Yes! For anyone who thought I left, I never left. Thanks, guys.” Ricciardo’s words reflected the pressure he has been under this season, with younger team-mate Norris generally outperforming him.
The Australian got the jump on Max Verstappen at the start of the race and looked comfortable from there on. Despite the performances of Verstappen and Red Bull so far this season, the Dutchman never really threatened, and wasn’t helped by an uncharacteristically slow pit stop.
In terms of the overall championship, Verstappen remains five points ahead of Sir Lewis Hamilton after the two clashed heavily just over halfway through the race. The two title protagonists were duelling from the start, Hamilton trying a move on Verstappen into the second chicane that didn’t work out, dropping him back behind Norris to fourth.
Hamilton eventually found his way past the McLaren and it was looking good for his 100th victory, but a slow stop for the seven-time champion meant he emerged only just ahead of Verstappen. As the two diced into the first chicane, neither was willing to concede and the Red Bull bounced off the kerbs and onto the top of the Mercedes, pitching both cars into the gravel and immediately out of the race.
Both drivers were summoned to the race stewards afterwards, with Verstappen incurring a three-place grid penalty for the next GP in Russia.
Amid all that drama, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fourth, Sergio Pérez fifth, the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz sixth, Lance Stroll and his Aston Martin seventh, and the Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon eighth and 10th, sandwiching George Russell’s Williams.
Ricciardo comes good
It’s not been an easy season for Ricciardo, only qualifying ahead of Norris on six occasions and, until Monza, scoring just 56 points compared with his British team-mate’s 114. But a superb drive in Italy was a rich reward for his efforts to get on terms with his car, with the popular Australian celebrating with one of his trademark ‘shoeys’ on the podium.
A special mention should go to Norris. The move he pulled on Leclerc, overtaking the Ferrari driver up the inside of the Curva Grande with one wheel on the grass, was a real sit-up-and-take-notice moment. There’s minimal run-off there, so it was a brave effort.
Halo does its job again
Some superb slo-mo camera footage showed how much the Halo device saved Hamilton in his clash with Verstappen. The underside of the Red Bull crushed Hamilton’s camera and airbox, before Verstappen’s right rear tyre slid further down over the top of Hamilton’s cockpit.
If the Halo hadn’t been there, the full weight of Verstappen’s rear tyre would have landed on Hamilton’s helmet. The consequences of that don’t bear thinking about.
Bottas dropped but outperforms Hamilton
In the same week that Bottas was dumped by Mercedes-Benz and his move to Alfa Romeo was confirmed, the Finn outperformed his illustrious team-mate. Bottas qualified on pole for Saturday’s sprint race ahead of Hamilton, won that event, took a 20-place grid penalty for an engine change and then stormed through the field to end up third (albeit thanks to a penalty for Pérez).
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