2021 Italian Grand Prix Blog
Firstly, we’d like to say a huge congratulations to Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris and everyone who is involved at McLaren. Going into this weekend, if you had offered the Woking based outfit a place on the podium, they would have snapped your hand off. To achieve a P1 and P2 finish is simply unbelievable. It’s the stuff of dreams!
How did McLaren achieve such lofty heights? Well, it was in no small part due to a nasty collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Max’s car was flipped into the air when he left the track at the first chicane, with the rear of the Red Bull landing on top of the Mercedes. This was a horrible moment. Verstappen’s rear wheel was still spinning, and Lewis was crouching low in his cockpit with the tyre bouncing off his helmet. Thank goodness he was able to walk away unscathed.
Hamilton has been a critic of the halo in the past and once described it as the “worst-looking modification in F1 history”. On Sunday it may well have saved his life, and the Briton was quick to admit he was “very, very fortunate” to walk away from the crash before adding: “Thank God for the halo which saved me, and saved my neck.”
Let’s rewind a bit and examine what happened in the build up to the crash on lap 26 – Max had been running in second place, with a healthy four second lead over Lewis who was down in fourth place. When Verstappen pitted on Lap 23 he was reacting to race leader, Daniel Ricciardo’s, tyre change the lap before. But a disastrous 11.1 pit stop which Red Bull said was caused by “human error” meant the Dutchman re-joined the race down in ninth place. An expletive ridden rant over the radio let us all know exactly how he felt.
Lewis Hamilton in the meantime decided to change tyres on Lap 26 and should have been able to re-join well clear of his title rival, but a slow (4 second) stop, meant the Mercedes emerged from the pit lane just as Lando Norris and Max Verstappen were charging down the home straight. The McLaren scooted ahead of Hamilton as he merged back onto track but, crucially, the Red Bull was slightly behind the Mercedes. There is no love lost between either driver, so we shouldn’t have been surprised that neither gave an inch as they battled into the first chicane, but what happened next though was frightening.
When asked for his version of events, Verstappen said: “I don’t know why he kept pushing wider and wider… You need two people to work together to make the corner work but unfortunately, we touched. If one guy is not willing to work, it is not going to happen… It’s very unfortunate what happened today”.
Both drivers were interviewed post-race by the stewards, and it was Verstappen who they deemed to have caused the incident. The Red Bull driver has handed a three-place grid penalty at the next Grand Prix.
For what it’s worth, we don’t think Max deserved a penalty. This was a highly unfortunate set of circumstances, but both drivers had a 50/50 share of the blame in our opinion. What is certain though is that the halo has proved its worth once again!
The atmosphere inside Monza this weekend was superb. Local fans would have been hoping for a strong race from Ferrari and they were not left disappointed with a P4 (Leclerc) and P6 (Sainz) finish. The Monegasque driver deserves special credit, and he said afterwards: “I put my whole heart into it today. In terms of my personal performance, I would rank this as one of my top drives since joining Formula 1.”
On any other weekend, Leclerc may have done enough to be awarded ‘Driver of the Day’. But, with Australians voting in their thousands, that honour goes to Daniel Ricciardo. The McLaren driver said afterwards: “A big thanks to the team. Not only winning, but a one-two’s incredible. A lot of hard work went into this and we really earned it out there. I’m really, really happy.”
Valtteri Bottas is another driver who deserves a special mention. He officially won Saturday’s Sprint race, earning a valuable 3-points for his team in the process, but took an engine penalty and so started at the back of the grid on Sunday. Despite this setback, Bottas kept a cool head during the Grand Prix and it was a remarkable drive to finish third and claim a spot on the podium. Well done him.
After a triple-header the F1 teams and drivers deserve a weekend off but they will be back in Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
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