By Michael Butterworth
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen inflicted a home defeat on Ferrari and Charles Leclerc, passing the Monegasque to take his 11th win of the 2022 F1 season in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
Starting from pole position, Leclerc led the opening stages of the race, as Verstappen swiftly moved up from a penalty-enforced seventh on the grid to sit second behind Leclerc by Lap 5.
Leclerc was around two seconds ahead of Verstappen when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed on Lap 12 to clear Sebastian Vettel’s stricken Aston Martin.
While Leclerc elected to use the neutralized race to make a pit stop, Verstappen and George Russell did not, with both vaulting the Monegasque.
Leclerc retook the lead on Lap 25 when Verstappen made his stop, but having stopped so much earlier in the race, it became clear that Leclerc would not have the pace to keep a charging Verstappen behind for the remainder of the Grand Prix, with the Dutchman now on fresher rubber.
Sure enough, on Lap 33 of 53, Leclerc dived into the pits for a set of soft tyres, rejoining the race some 20 seconds behind Verstappen.
But despite having older tyres, Verstappen was largely able to keep Leclerc at bay, with the Monegasque not closing on the Dutchman at nearly the pace required to challenge him for the lead.
Just as it looked as if the race had settled into its race-ending pattern, a spanner was thrown in the works with the deployment of the Safety Car on Lap 48 to clear Daniel Ricciardo’s broken-down McLaren.
Sensing a mad dash to the finish, all the leading runners came in for new tyres, but the order remained unchanged, and with removing Ricciardo’s car taking longer than anticipated, the race ultimately ended behind the Safety Car, with the leading runners in the same positions they had held before its deployment.
“We had a great race,” said Verstappen, who had never previously finished on the podium at Monza.
“On every compound we were good. Unfortunately we didn’t get a restart at the end but overall we had a really good day.
“It was really enjoyable to drive today. A great day for us. It took a bit of time to be on a great podium like this.”
Behind the top two, Mercedes’ Russell rounded out the podium, ahead of Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz.
Lewis Hamilton took fifth for Mercedes, ahead of Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, who also took home the bonus point for Fastest Lap.
Lando Norris finished seventh for McLaren, ahead of the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
In ninth place was impressive F1 debutant Nyck de Vries, who only found out on Saturday morning that he would be racing at Monza after Alex Albon was laid low with appendicitis, and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top 10.
Verstappen’s win puts him on 335 points, and the Dutchman can mathematically seal the 2022 Drivers’ Championship at the next round in Singapore.
Leclerc is second on 219 points, ahead of Perez on 210.
In the Constructors’ standings, Red Bull’s tally now stands at 545 points, ahead of Ferrari on 406 and Mercedes on 371.
The 17th round of the 2022 F1 season is the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on October 2.