Max Verstappen, the “raging bull” of Red Bull, has just won the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, making it his fifth win in a row this season. This is the first time Red Bull has won at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza since 2013, and is also the team’s 12th win this season.
Verstappen was able to win the Grand Prix by taking advantage of Charles Leclerc’s pit stop early on in the race. Ferrari instructed Leclerc to make a pit stop after a Virtual Safety Car appeared to help Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel pull out of the race. The Virtual Safety Car (VSC) is an instruction for drivers to slow down to 40% racing speed so marshals can remove a car or debris away from the track. This creates a good opportunity for other drivers to make pit stops as rivals cannot drive at full speed.
Ferrari hoped that the pit stop would give Leclerc fresh tyres in order to gain a consistent advantage over Verstappen. However, Max chose to stay out to claim track position, with Red Bull technology allowing him to preserve his tyre life more efficiently than Ferrari’s “prancing horses”. As such, he was able to secure a lead of over 15 seconds.
But the race was not over just yet. Another opportunity came alive for Ferrari when McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo suffered an engine failure in Lap 48. To deal with Ricciardo’s car safely, a Safety Car entered the track which forced all drivers to slow down to 20% maximum speed, then to make a lap to catch up with the safety car, and finally to wait until the race director allowed the race to resume.
But this time round, the racing never resumed as the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the organisation in charge of F1, deemed it too unsafe to continue quickly. As Ricciardo’s car was still in gear, it became a challenge for the marshals to remove the car from the track. But the FIA’s badly-timed releasing of the safety car meant that even after Ricciardo was removed from the track, it would have been meaningless to continue.
Verstappen’s win created considerable disappointment amongst Ferrari supporters, as they were competing on home terrain. Indeed, Ferrari had celebrated their 75-year racing anniversary that weekend. Additionally, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc had created high hopes on Saturday by winning pole position – the most favourable position to start in – after he displayed the fastest race time in the qualifying round. Furthermore, Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz raced surpisingly well at the Monza, as he climbed from 18th to 4th place.
However, Red Bull upgraded the floor of their car, making it lighter and thus increasing the car’s agility and tyre endurance. This shows that Red Bull has maintained an edge over Ferrari via both driver excellency and constructor craftsmanship.
After five consecutive wins, 116 points now separate the second-place Leclerc from Verstappen at the top. For Max to claim his second championship in a row before the end of the season, he will need to outscore the Monegasque driver by nine points in the next race in Singapore on 2 October.
Verstappen’s achievement has also solidified Red Bull’s aspiration for the Constructor’s Championship, which is awarded to the team – not the driver – with the most points by the end of the season. This Grand Prix has extended Red Bull’s lead over Ferrari by 139 points.
Though we will have to wait another three weeks until the Singapore Grand Prix, the dramatic Italian Grand Prix has definitely proved that Verstappen and Red Bull can clinch both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championship before the season finale in Abu Dhabi on 20 November.
Image Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing
Edited by Aaron Teasdale
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