Max Verstappen won the 2022 Italian Grand Prix under the Safety Car as pole-sitter and home favourite Charles Leclerc was denied victory at Ferrari’s home race.
After the paddock paid respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II, the mixed-up grid lined up behind Leclerc and fellow front-row starter George Russell in the Mercedes. As many eyes as we had on the usual attractions of Mercedes, RedBull and Ferrari, people also had eyes on Williams debutant Nyck DeVries who didn’t disappoint by scoring points for Williams in his first race finishing ahead of Nicholas Latifi.
Verstappen made it into the top three from P7 by Lap 4 and took P2 off Russell a lap later. The Dutchman then led the race as Leclerc pitted for softs from mediums during a VSC caused by Sebastian Vettel on Lap 12.
Verstappen extended his first stint and swapped for mediums on Lap 26, relinquishing the lead to Leclerc, who then pitted a second time for soft tyres on Lap 33. The Monegasque had a tyre advantage over Verstappen, but a 20-second deficit to claw back by Lap 53. That’s a second per lap against the defending champion in a championship worthy RedBull.
The Dutchman must be almost assured of a comfortable victory until a Safety Car on Lap 48, for the stationary McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo. This allowed the top five to pit for softs anticipating a restart.
Ricciardo’s car seemed immovable, however, and the ticker reached Lap 53. The chequered flag was waved with the field finishing behind the Safety Car – giving Verstappen a slim but altogether comfortable victory over Leclerc also allowing Russell to retain the final podium place. If this year hasn’t been an example of luck playing its part in Formula 1, I don’t know what will. Russell has had some pretty decent rewards owing to fate but that does not take away his consistency and his struggles at Williams as he continues to challenge his 7-time world champion teammate.
From P18, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz made it to the podium spots with a lengthy first stint on medium tyres, but fell to P4 after pitting, and ended up behind Russell. Lewis Hamilton declined to pit under the late Safety Car and finished fifth for Mercedes ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who pitted early for hard tyres and ended up settling for sixth and the fastest lap, having started 13th. Hamilton’s race against time was probably the only interesting part to watch since P8 seemed to be the max that he could get to.
Lando Norris finished seventh for McLaren, having started on the second row, with Pierre Gasly taking eighth for AlphaTauri. That left Williams’ Nyck de Vries ninth for Williams on his first-ever Grand Prix appearance, this Dutchman also taking Driver of the Day honours. Very well deserved.
Rounding out the top 10 was Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, with Ocon missing out on points. Mick Schumacher made late gains for P12 for Haas ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo, with Yuki Tsunoda finishing 14th having pitted under caution in the AlphaTauri. Nicholas Latifi lagged on hard tyres and finished 15th for Williams ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who picked up a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage on Lap 1 in the Haas.
Ricciardo retired late on to bring out the Safety Car, while both Aston Martins – Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel – failed to finish the race with suspected power unit issues. Fernando Alonso also retired, ending a run of points scores for the Alpine driver.