MONZA has always been unpredictable, but who would have thought the Gran Premio Heineken D’italia, aka the Italian Grand Prix, would have been such a wild affair — with such an unlikely outcome?
Taking the chequered flag a scant 0.4 seconds ahead of the McLaren of Carlos Sainz, was Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri.
It was the 24-year-old Frenchman’s maiden Formula 1 win and the first time in seven years that a car other than a Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari has won a Formula 1 race.
Indeed, there wasn’t a Merc, Red Bull or Ferrari among the top three.
That in itself was refreshing, in that the monotony of a Merc 1-2 finish had finally been broken — but the circumstances were astonishing.
Lewis Hamilton shot away into the distance at the start, but teammate Valtteri Bottas botched his start and was quickly swamped by the McLarens of Sainz and Lando Norris, Sergio Perez in the Racing Point and Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault.
Then, when it seemed Hamilton was well on his way for his 6th win of the year, it all went wrong for the reigning world champion.
At close to the halfway stage of the 53-lap race, on the super fast 5.8km circuit, Kevin Magnussen’s Haas suffered terminal failure and the Dane parked it in a dangerous position, resulting in the safety car being deployed.
Hamilton immediately dived into the pits for fresh rubber, as did Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, but both missed the red crosses showing that the pit lane was still closed, and bot got 10-second stop-and-go penalties.
Next, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had a huge crash at some 290km/h at the notorious Parabolica, which led to the race being red flagged while the track was cleared of debris.
Thankfully, Leclerc managed to clamber out unharmed.
“I just lost the car,” he said.
“It’s my fault. It was a very difficult race.
“With the hard tyres I struggled massively, I tried to push, but lost it in Parabolica and crashed.”
It was a dreadful day for Ferrari, with neither car finishing.
Sebastien Vettel had total brake failure on lap 6.
Leclerc started from 13th on the grid, Vettel from 17th, the worst qualifying times at Ferrari’s home circuit in 36 years.
However, it was a wonderful day for Gasly and the Honda-powered Alpha Tauri team, with Carlos Sainz and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll completing the unlikely podium at Monza.
Fourth was McLaren’s Lando Norris, followed by Bottas in the Merc, Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault and Hamilton finished 7th.
The final three points places went to Esteban Ocon (Renault), Alpha Tuari’s Daniil Kvyat and Sergio Perez in the Racing Point.
The champagne corks would have been flying in France.
Gasly is the first Frenchman to win in Formula 1 since Olivier Panis in a Ligier Monaco in 24 years ago.
Gasly started 10th but he was up to third at the restart after luckily stopping for fresh tyres a lap before the safety car was released.
He then got past Stroll when the race resumed on lap 28.
“I pushed so hard at the start because I wanted to break the tow to the guys behind,” Gasly said.
“The last five laps were really hard because my tyres were completely gone,
“I was sideways in every corner, and I could see Carlos (Sainz) slowly closing the gap.”
An incredulous Carlos Sainz summed up what most fans and observers thought.
“Honestly, in a normal race we would have finished P2 behind Lewis, because we had good pace.
“We got what we deserved but Pierre there, in front, is like how could that happen?”
Of his penalty, Hamilton at first claimed there was no red light to show the pits were closed.
The stewards then showed him the on-board video.
“I didn’t see them (the lights) because I was looking elsewhere,” he said.
“I accept it and move forwards. I hold myself accountable.”
An emotional Gasly was in tears when he crossed the line.
“Oh my God,” he screeched over the radio. “What did we do!? We won the f***ing race! Oh, my God.
“Honestly, it is unbelievable.
“I struggle to realise what has happened. I have no words.”
Gasly was promoted to Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo left to join Renault, but was dumped after some less than wonderful performances and was sent back to Red Bull’s junior team, now known as Alpha Tauri.
His seat at Red Bull was taken by Alexander Albon, who finished 15th at Monza.
Teammate Max Verstappen retired on lap 34.
McLaren had a fine day with both cars in the big points zone, and Renault and Racing Point also had both cars in the top 10.
Despite Hamilton’s faux pas, his championship lead remains intact and he got a bonus point for the fastest lap following his penalty.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, who started from P7, described it as a “crazy race.”
“It reminded me of Baku in 2017 with a similar, tense feeling and it being very unpredictable.
“Congratulations to Pierre [Gasly] for his first win. I know the feeling from winning for the first time and it’s crazy.
“Sixth isn’t bad for us today, I felt I couldn’t have done anymore in the situation.
“We weren’t the only ones, but the safety car and red flag did not go our way today.
“After a good start and good pace, the timing wasn’t on our side, but that’s something we can’t change.
“I’m happy with how it went today, we had a great start, good pace and we move onto next weekend.”
Just before the race, the Renault DP World Formula 1 Team announced it would re-brand from next year and be known as the Alpine F1 Team.
Alpine has since 1954 been known for its stylish and successful sports cars, all based on Renault components.
“Alpine is a beautiful brand, powerful and vibrant, that brings a smile to the faces of its followers,” Groupe Renault chief executive, Luca de Meo, said.
“By introducing Alpine, a symbol of French excellence, to the most prestigious of the world’s automotive disciplines, we are continuing the adventure of manufacturers in a renewed sport.
“Alpine will also bring its values to the F1 paddock: elegance, ingenuity and audacity.”
The French name swap follows two other recent Formula team title changes.
Force India became Racing Point and Toro Rosso is now Alpha Tauri.
Next race is next Sunday, September 13 on the same circuit and it will be known as the Pirelli Gran Premio Della Toscana Ferrari 1000 2020.
Any bets on who will win?
|3||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||53||+3.358s||15|
|10||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||53||+23.224s||1|
|13||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||53||+36.312s||0|
|15||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||53||+37.533s||0|
|16||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||53||+55.199s||0|
|NC||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||30||DNF||0|
Note – Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
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