In an upset victory, Pierre Gasly took his maiden Formula 1 win at the Italian Grand Prix after an eventful race. Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll took second and third place respectively, in a race that many of the big names will be happy to forget and the first of the 2020 season to not see a Mercedes on the podium.
Lando Norris and Valteri Bottas made up the rest of the top five. Current championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished seventh, his worst result so far, after a pitstop penalty essentially ended his victory chances.
The race began in customary fashion. Hamilton, on pole, was easily leading the pack, his advantage growing every lap. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, suffered a brake failure in the middle of lap five and was forced to retire.
A pair of retirements turned the tables. On lap 20, Kevin Magnussen drove off the track to retire, leading to a safety car. Hamilton and Antonio Giovinazzi both pitted even though the pits were declared closed, and were both handed a 10-second stop-go penalty.
Hamilton led the restart, but a red flag was declared on lap 23. Charles Leclerc was fortunate to walk away from a high-speed impact into a wall, and the stop had a huge effect on the race. Gasly beat Stroll on the restart, and Sainz achieved a competitive second-placed finish despite the timing of the restart working against him. The Gasly-Sainz battle, the gap between them narrowing in the final laps, was a standout of the race.
I wanted that win so much I know the team is going to have a great night tonight
– Pierre Gasly
Max Verstappen was forced to retire on lap 30, and Bottas struggled with his car overheating. Hamilton served his penalty and fought back from last place to a credible seventh, still extending his championship lead despite the disappointing result.
After his win, Gasly said: “I was pushing so hard and my tyres were gone, but I wanted that win so much I know the team is going to have a great night tonight.” His previous best finish was a second place at last year’s Brazilian GP.
Sainz said: “My team did a tremendous job because I was determined to come in but they told me not to because the pitlane was shut. When I saw Lewis was going to have a stop-go penalty, I thought I could perhaps win. Then the red flag happened. I think I only needed one more lap to have overtaken Pierre – I was down to 0.4 seconds as we went over the start/finish line. I could have cruised past him with DRS.”
It was the first win for an Alpha Tauri since 2008. Then racing under the name Toro Rosso, Vettel offered a commanding win at an Italian Grand Prix impacted by heavy rain prior to the race. It also makes Gasly the first Frenchman to win a race since Olivier Panis’ success in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix.
2020 has not been the most exciting season of F1 by any measure, and this race was just what the fans needed. The chaos during qualifying indicated more excitement than we were used to, and Monza delivered. It was refreshing to see genuine racing at the front of the field, and to not see Lewis Hamilton just dominate.
Gasly’s win was a shock, but a good result for one of the most likeable talents on the track – a win was always on the horizon, and this was a well-deserved one. It’s entirely possible that Sainz could have claimed the top spot, and it’s true that fate wasn’t entirely on his side, but Gasly held his nerve and superior racing did help him edge past his faster competitor.
Hamilton’s domination was halted by his team’s own mistake
The other big story of the race was Hamilton’s result. Timing issues meant he missed the pre-race anti-racism demonstration, and perhaps that was a harbinger of things to come. His domination was halted by his team’s own mistake – one Hamilton believed was unfair, based on the fact he went to speak to the stewards during the red flag – and no-one wants to see results decided in that way.
Honestly, though, I’d be lying if I said that the lack of the Mercedes drivers out front, breezing to an easy first with a massive lead, was bad for the spectators. His car is so much better than anyone else’s, forcing him to the back of the pack actually resulted in competition for the lead for a change.
It was another desperately poor day for Ferrari
Of course, not everything was a surprise. It was another desperately poor day for Ferrari – they struggled in qualifying, and both of their drivers were out halfway through the GP. No-one expected Ferrari to win, but both mechanical and driver error prevented them from even racing, and it was bad. It was one of the team’s worst weekends in F1, and particularly embarrassing at their home grand prix.
Next week, we’ll head to Mugello for the Tuscany Grand Prix. It’s a new track for F1, and it’ll be Ferrari’s 1,000th race – hopefully they’ll be able to post some credible results. All of the drivers are looking forward to the track and, if it delivers a race on the standard of today, it’ll be a second essential GP in Italy.