Image: Wikimedia Commons / Lukas Raich
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Lukas Raich

Daniel Ricciardo leads McLaren one-two at Italian Grand Prix

It was a triumphant weekend for McLaren at Monza, as Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris delivered the team’s first one-two since the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix. It was also an impressive race for Valtteri Bottas, and one that saw the championship rivalry result in another crash.

Ricciardo made a strong start, taking the lead from Verstappen, and his experience shone through, while Norris duelled Hamilton for third place. The McLaren driver was effectively in the lead for the entire race while, after a safety car period caused by Hamilton-Verstappen, it was only Charles Leclerc who stood between Norris and second place. And Norris excelled, chasing down the Ferrari driver and passing him on the inside. Ricciardo hasn’t won a race since 2018, and McLaren since 2012, and he was clearly thrilled to be back on top of the podium – the bonus point for fastest lap was just the icing on the cake.

On lap 25, the rivalry hit breaking point again. Hamilton pitted, and emerged wheel-to-wheel with Verstappen. Hamilton held the inside line, refusing to yield on the outside. They entered turn two, and Verstappen’s car bounced on the kerbs, launching it into the air and landing on his rival’s Mercedes. They both ground to a halt in the gravel – Verstappen walked off, and later told his team “that’s what you get when you don’t leave me space”. Hamilton got out of his car about a minute later – fortunately, the halo protection device helped prevent any serious injury. After the race, stewards ruled that Verstappen was “predominantly to blame for the collision”, awarding him a three-place grid penalty.

With Hamilton out, Bottas was Mercedes’ only hope of points, and he delivered. He came first in the sprint qualifying, but was forced to start in last because of a power unit change. In his first drive since the announcement that he is leaving the team, Bottas was nearly flawless. He advanced through the field with ease, picking off car after car, and he eventually crossed the finish line in fourth place. This was elevated to a podium finish of third after Sergio Perez was hit with a five-second penalty after failing to give a place back after an illegal overtake. That meant the top five was rounded out by Leclerc and then Perez.

To lead, literally, from start to finish, I don’t think any of us expected that

– Daniel Ricciardo

After the race, Ricciardo said: “Can I swear? I want to swear! about… time. It worked well for me yesterday but it was never a guarantee we would lead the whole race. I was able to hold firm out front. I don’t think we had mega speed but it was enough to keep Max behind.

“To lead, literally, from start to finish, I don’t think any of us expected that. There was something in me on Friday. I knew something good was going to come. I have just been sandbagging the whole year! Third, fourth, fifth – you might as well just win! That’s what I did. The August break was good just to reset. For McLaren to be on the podium is good but a one-two? This is for team papaya.”

Norris said: “First of all a big thanks to all the fans and to all the team, we’ve had a pretty awesome weekend. It’s been four years since I joined the team, we’ve been working towards this and we got a one-two finally. I’m so happy! I know you’ve been in the position before where you want to go for [the race win] but I’m all for playing the long game and for doing it for the team.”

Bottas said: “Starting from the back is never easy. I told the team I was going to be on the podium today. I’m glad we got more points than Red Bull today. We maximised from where we started and it was a shame the crash between Max and Lewis. It was fine today. It has been a strong weekend from my side and the pace has been good. It will be nice to have one week of rest and go again.”

On 26 September, we’ll head to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix. The rivalry is truly heating up, and I honestly don’t know what to expect moving ahead (although fingers crossed for no more crashes – two is more than enough).

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