McLaren take the first 1-2 of the 2021 season with a superb drive at Monza. A collision between Hamilton and Verstappen has caused controversy in yet another unforgettable Italian Grand Prix.
Just minutes before the lights went out, Tsunoda’s car was wheeled back to the garage. An issue with the brakes ended his race early. There had been issues for his team-mate Gasly, who reported an issue during his lap to the grid. However, the Frenchman would at least take the start of the race, albeit from the pitlane.
Mercedes surprised, placing Hamilton on the hard tyre for the start of the race. After a poor start on the mediums yesterday, a huge risk was placed on the Briton. All other cars started on the Medium compound and were expecting a one-stop race.
Ricciardo had a supreme launch and was able to take his car alongside Verstappen immediately. Hamilton behind also had a great start and was looking for a move around the outside of Verstappen through turn 3. Similarly to Imola, Hamilton was pushed out wide by the Red Bull and dropped a place to Norris.
Behind, Giovinazzi was sighted making contact with the barriers. The Italian ruined his fantastic qualifying session by rejoining the track dangerously and getting a tap from Leclerc. He would later receive a time penalty. The VSC was out briefly to collect the front wing debris. Up front, Ricciardo had a 1s lead from Verstappen, while Norris was going to have to repeat his feat from the sprint, holding a 7x world champion at bay. The VSC ended after less than a full lap.
After the issues suffered from the crash yesterday, Gasly was soon back in the pits, meaning Alpha Tauri only completed 5 laps of the Grand Prix.
Verstappen was soon in DRS territory of Ricciardo and was all over his gearbox by the end of the straights, but this wasn’t enough for the Red Bull driver to try and make a move. Behind, Hamilton was suffering similar issues with Norris. By lap 7 Hamilton was 5s adrift from 1st.
Perez and Sainz were battling away for 6th, both drivers side by side throughout the entire 1st sector. Perez eventually won out, which was crucial as Bottas had already climbed to 12th.
Hamilton found himself in a superb position on lap 12, pulling alongside Norris through turn 1. The McLaren had a strong defense and the cars were side by side towards turn 3. Another strong defensive performance still left Hamilton in 4th. But, just behind, the Ferrari of Leclerc was now catching, only 1.5s behind the battling Britons.
With the cars remaining relatively in formation, the thought of pit-stops became a tense issue. Numerous coded radio messages were discussing the best options.
As the tyres were getting worn, Verstappen had a mildly scary moment, bumping over the kerbs in turn 1. He didn’t loose too much time, but the floor took a significant hit.
Ricciardo blinked first with a pitstop on lap 23. The pitstop was supreme and McLaren got Ricciardo back out as quickly as possible. Verstappen was now released into clear air, but his tyres were punished. Tensions were high as he pitted a lap later. He suffered an incredibly a slow stop, giving Ricciardo a colossal advantage.
During the chaos, Hamilton finally made it past Norris with an overtake into turn 3. Norris later ducked into the pits and enjoyed a quick pitstop as well, this placed him infront of Verstappen.
Hamilton took a suprisingly early stop and came out of the pits side by side with Verstappen. As the two went throught turn 1, there was huge contact. Verstappen’s car was launched into the air and Hamilton’s Mercedes became wedged under the Red Bull as the two went into the gravel. The rear left wheel bounced off Hamilton’s halo, yet another life threatening incident had been prevented. Both cars were now out of the race.
After some quick pit-stops, Ricciardo remained in the lead, Leclerc had jumped to a surprising 2nd, while Norris remained 3rd.
Back to the race
Ricciardo bolted on the restart and behind, Norris immediately started hassling the Ferrari. Two side by side moments by turn 3 put promoted Norris to 2nd, making a legitimate McLaren 1-2.
A lap later, Perez made his way past the Ferrari as well. Part of the Red Bull was off the track when he overtook, which placed the Mexican under investigation. Behind, Leclerc and Bottas were now battling for 4th. It took 2 laps, but Bottas finally found a way past. In clear air, the Finn was storming round, setting laps over a second quicker than Ricciardo in front. McLaren’s victory was now looking in danger.
Within a few laps, Bottas made it into the DRS territory of Perez. During this stint, Perez was given a 5s penalty for the previous overtake on Leclerc. But, it was still all for Bottas to do as the time penalty would be served after the race. During the close racing, Leclerc was able to get himself back into the mix.
In front, Ricciardo was now able to pull out a gap from Norris. Despite this, there were only 4s separating the top 4 drivers. Norris was told to hold station, in order to try and protect a 1-2 victory. With 12 laps to go, Bottas’ initial pace looked to have quelled and he wasn’t able to find a way past Perez.
Tense final 10
Tensions were high with 10 laps to go. The McLarens were still in front, but not by much, Just behind, Perez locked up and gave Bottas a sniff of an overtake. Bottas made his way past by turn 3, but went too deep and gave Perez the opportunity to take the place back.
A VSC was thrown for Mazepin’s car, which ground to a halt at the Ascari chicane. A bad end to a bad race, as the driver would have faced a 5s penalty for spinning his team-mate round earlier in the race.
Away from the action at the front, Russell managed to find himself in 9th place, hassling Alonso for 8th. Stroll was also having a strong performance, maintaining 7th place. Appropriate, given the 007 branding for this weekend.
A late surge from the McLarens gave them a useful buffer against the battle for 3rd. Norris broke out of DRS territory and the two attempted to capitalise on the late pace.
The laps ticked down and both McLarens were maintaining their positions in front. Bottas was still unable to get past Perez and the two Ferrari’s in 5th and 6th were not able to make any progress.
However, a measured drive from both Ricciardo and Norris gave McLaren their first win in 9 years and their first 1-2 since Canada in 2010. The scenes were of complete jubilation at the Papaya team. Both drivers were ecstatic and the crowd was appreciative of this popular podium. Perez finished 3rd on the road, but handed the podium to Bottas after his penalty was applied. Ferrari were ever so close to a home podium but will have to settle for 4th and 6th. A useful recovery after their rivals took maximum points. Stroll quietly race to 7th, another strong result for him at this track. Alonso finished 8th while Russell snuck into the points for the 3rd time this season. Ocon rounded out the top 10 making a double point finish for Alpine.
While the scenes of Papaya happiness will be the main story, yet again Hamilton and Verstappen had a major championship moment. This afternoon will certainly go down as one of the most pivotal of the season. Both for the title protagonsists and the battle for 3rd.
Full Race Standings
- Norris +1.747
- Bottas +4.921
- Leclerc +7.309
- Perez +8.723
- Sainz +10.535
- Stroll +15.804
- Alonso +17.201
- Russell +19.742
- Ocon +20.868
- Latifi +23.743
- Vettel +24.621
- Giovinazzi +27.216
- Kubica +29.769
- Schumacher +51.088
- Mazepin RET
- Hamilton RET
- Verstappen RET
- Gasly RET
- Tsunoda RET
Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter