Monza is one of the oldest Grand Prix circuits, along with Monaco and Spa Francochamps, this tracks were in use before the Second World War, although of course all have been radically modified over the years. The circuit was first constructed in the Royal Park near Monza city in 1922, and has been on more or less continuous use since (excepting the war years.) In 1954 a high speed banked section was added, which was last used in the 1960s for Grand prix cars and a little later for sports cars. This section was abandoned due to the dangerous and bumpy nature of the banking, and today the crumbling structures still haunt the backdrop to the modern circuit.
Monza has always been a high speed track, and even the introduction of three chicanes has done little to change the flat out nature of the circuit. The track is also a temple for the tifosi – the passionate and noisy Italian Ferrari fans who turn the stands and tribunes red every September when Ferrari come to take on the challenge. This year, the tifosi were expecting success, with the 2022 Ferrari being fast – but could the red cars triumph over the so far dominant Red Bulls?
The short answer was no. The Italian Grand Prix became another in the long list of victories for Max Verstappen and his Red Bull, as they move ever closer to clinching the World Championship for both drivers and constructors.
There was drama before the race when Williams lead driver Alex Albon was rushed to hospital with appendicitis, and his place was taken by Nick De Vries – and this was to lead to yet another bout of rumour and speculation regarding drives for the next season! De Vries was on the pace from the word go, starting the Williams well inside the top 10, and in the race running well and finally finishing an excellent 9th – in the points on his debut. This triggered interest from various parties to sign him for next season.
It appeared that the attempts by Red Bull to sign American star Colton Herta for the Alpha Tauri team had failed due to him not been able to get a super-licence, so Red Bull switched their attention to De Vries. Alpine have also shown interest in the Dutchman, and of course Williams are also keen to hang on to him. De Vries is a Mercedes reserve driver (and current Formula E Champion), although it appears there is no place likely for him in the Mercedes F1 team at the moment. De Vries has reportedly had a meeting with Red Bull Driver Supremo Helmut Marko, so at the time of writing, he looks favourite to get the Alpha Tauri seat, if Gasly does indeed move to Alpine.
Meanwhile at Monza, Ferrari confirmed their one lap pace with Charles Leclerc taking pole, and with various people incurring penalties, including Verstappen who moved down to 7th, and Hamilton who started near the back, George Russell stated second, ahead of the two McLarens of Norris and last year’s winner Ricciardo.
To the delight of the tifosi, Leclerc led away and held off challenges from the McLarens into the first chicane. It only took 5 laps for Verstappen to move up to second, and when a Virtual Safety Car was deployed on lap 10 to remove the broken Aston Martin of Vettel, he took the lead as Leclerc pitted for new tyres. The Ferrari regained the lead on lap 26 when Max stopped for new tyres, and eventually Leclerc had to make a second stop, handing the lead back to the Red Bull. Towards the end of the race, Ricciardo’s McLaren ground to a halt with an oil leak on the start straight, leading to a full safety car, and unsatisfactorily the race ended under the safety car, which did not go down well with the crowd.
So Verstappen extended his lead in the Championship even further, Leclerc finished second ahead of the ever consistent Russell, who led home three drivers who fought their way from the back after grid penalties – Sainz, Hamilton and Perez.
Altogether not the most exciting of races, and even grid penalties are failing to stop Max Verstappen from cruising on towards an early World Championship. A short gap now before Singapore – a very different circuit and a night race – could this suit Ferrari, or even Mercedes ??