The Italian Grand Prix produced the race of the season so far as safety cars, red flags and a shock first-time winner shook up the order in one of the most unexpected results in recent Formula One history.
Pierre Gasly took a famous and popular victory at Monza, the first time he has stood on the top step of the podium since his F1 breakthrough in 2018, with AlphaTauri recording their second ever victory 12 years on from their first at the same track.
The Frenchman took full advantage of a full safety car following Kevin Magnussen’s retirement to jettison himself up the order, before a red flag for Charles Leclerc’s high-impact crash at the Parabolica temporarily paused proceedings and changed the state of the race.
Suddenly, those driver who had either already pitted before the first safety car or were yet to pit were able to change their tyres and put themselves right in the mix at the front of the field, while a penalty infringement committed by Lewis Hamilton earned the clear race favourite a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, which ruled him out of the running for overall victory.
With Max Verstappen forced to retire with a power unit problem and Valtteri Bottas well off the pace, a first time winner looked set to be crowned – with Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel already out of the running due to a double-retirement to cap another miserable weekend – and Kimi Raikkonen not having the pace to stay at the front of the field when the action resumed.
Instead, it fell to Gasly to build a gap over the chasing McLaren of Carlos Sainz, who ended up running out of time as he came within a lap of challenging the former Red Bull driver for victory, only to see Gasly cross the line and take the chequered flag just 0.415s in front of Sainz, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll making up the youngest podium in F1 history.
The victory sparked wild celebrations from Gasly over his radio and on the AlphaTauri pit wall, and the continued long after the race finished as the 24-year-old even received a call of congratulations from French president Emmanuel Macron.
But more importantly, the surprise result has completely shaken up The Independent’s driver power rankings, with some major climbs joined by big falls for those who did not enjoy a strong outing at Monza.
With the eighth round of the Formula One season in the bag, here’s how the 2020 driver power rankings have been affected.
Giovinazzi could not match the pace of his Alfa Romeo teammate all weekend and failed to make it out of Q1 where Kimi Raikkonen managed to, and his race did not fare much better as he was one of the two drivers to pick up a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for entering the pits while they were shut. The punishment meant that in the struggling Alfa Romeo, he could not recatch the pack and had to make do with coming home last.
An emotional weekend for Williams at one stage looked like it would end produce the fairy tale finish as Latifi found himself inside the points at the restart, but the Williams was at the mercy of the recovering Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton and had to make do with an agonising yet impressive 11th-placed finish – his second of the season – in what proved a mature and calm drive.
It was another difficult weekend for Russell, who was not able to leave an imprint on qualifying as Williams struggled for raw speed and got caught out by the safety car that meant he was left fighting from the back of the field. Though Russell’s talent is unquestionable, the young Briton needs luck to fall on his side as he is having to endure something of a rough patch of late.
Yet another disappointing weekend for Magnussen saw an improvement in qualifying unravel massively in the race, with an early pit stop after the first lap followed by full retirement when the Haas failed on him coming out of the Parabolica. Though it wasn’t what he wanted in the slightest, it proved the catalyst to one of the most extraordinary races ever witnessed.
Overtakes his Haas teammate after another weekend where he outperformed Magnussen on race day. Grosjean still isn’t where Haas want to be, but he is showing a more conservative and calm approach that is paying off in the form of results. He did well to keep his composure after Alex Albon squeezed him off the track at Turn One, and went on to beat the Red Bull as a result.
Can it get much worse for Ferrari? An exploding brake line for Vettel ended his race in one of the scariest ways possible, with the German reaching Turn One with no brakes to slow him down from a speed in excess of 200mph. Had it been at the Parabolica or Variante della Roggia chicane, this could have been a very different story, but Vettel’s faith in the Ferrari team that has dumped him for 2021 must be close to non-existent. His 17th place in qualifying didn’t even come as a shock, which tells you everything you need to know about the car this year.
The old-stager tried his hardest to remain in the hunt at the front of the field as he found himself running in second once Hamilton served his penalty, but Alfa Romeo gambled the wrong way with the soft tyres after the red flag and the car’s lack of pace allowed a stream of cars to pass on the straights, culminating in the Finn missing out on the points as he dropped all the way to 13th. That said, he still remains out in front in the battle between the three slowest teams.
This was a real disappointment for Perez, who looked neatly placed to challenge for a strong haul of points. Perez got a poor getaway from the grid that cost him fourth place until he forced his way past Valtteri Bottas, before a slow stop dropped him well down the order after the first safety car and wrecked his race. Had Perez been at the sharp end, he would have been in the podium mix and a potential race win, so to take just one point away from that with 10th place is well short of what was expected.
The main thing is that Leclerc escaped from his horror crash bruised, winded but largely unhurt. In trying to wrestle the pig of a car that is this year’s Ferrari around the high-speed Monza circuit, the potential for a major accident increased and sadly landed at the door of Leclerc, who went off as he got on the power coming out of the Parabolica. That will leave him on the back foot heading to Mugello as a full car rebuild is required, though it is unlikely to cost them too much as they can’t really get much worse.
Kvyat is going calmly about his business of late that would gain more attention if it wasn’t for his teammate going out and winning his maiden grand prix victory. As a result, it looks as though Kvyat is underperforming when the true potential of the car is taken into account, and what should have been a solid ninth-place finish to take points away with him is suddenly a poor result. Kvyat stayed out of trouble and drove his own race to impressively stave off Perez in the Racing Point, but with change on the cards at AlphaTauri at the end of the season, Kvyat may need to pull a rabbit out of the bag.
A big drop in the rankings comes after one of Albon’s worst performances of the season, which probably couldn’t come at a worse time. He only crept into the top-10 shootout in qualifying by the slimmest of margins, and with Red Bull struggling for pace he had to make do with a ninth-place start that left him exactly where you don’t want to be at Monza. The midfield battle caught him out as he made contact at Turn One with eventual race-winner Gasly, and a five-second penalty for forcing Grosjean off the road cost him dearly as he dropped from 11th to 15th. With Gasly taking victory, Albon finds his seat under growing pressure.
A quietly strong race day saw Ocon make up for a disappointing qualifying, moving up the order four positions to take eighth and add to a record that now shows four points finishes in five races. He kept his nose clean and reaped the rewards from it.
This was a much deserved performance from Sainz, who has undoubtedly been the unluckiest driver on the grid in 2020 after having a series of points finishes taken away from him for one reason or another. Sainz was quite right to be disappointed with missing out on victory, largely because he looked to be the outright second-fastest car behind Hamilton on race pace once Bottas dropped into the pack. On one hand, it was the result they deserved, but on the other, Sainz really wanted that victory with Hamilton out of the picture.
Consistent throughout the weekend as he timed his qualifying run alongside Sainz to perfection, giving them a strong platform to build on with third and sixth on the grid respectively. That ensured that his lightning start helped push him up to third as he showed just the right level of aggression to force his way past Bottas, and had it not been for the safety car intervening it could have been a double McLaren podium.
Stroll was disappointed that he wasn’t the one standing where Gasly was as he restarted the race behind Hamilton in second, only for wheelspin off the line to plummet him down the order. However, a third-place finish is always welcome at Racing Point that puts Stroll into fourth in the world championship alongside Norris, and keeps McLaren within touching distance in the constructors’ battle.
Ricciardo’s form in practice promised a bit more than what he achieved in the race, but he still takes the plaudits for a lovely move on Bottas on the opening lap into the Ascari Chicane as he pulled off a trademark ‘send it’ to take fifth away from the Mercedes. Had you offered him fourth and sixth from the next two races before Spa, Ricciardo would’ve undoubtedly taken it, but in hindsight the Australian will have wanted a little bit more in Monza.
Bottas has been teetering on the verge of a drop down the rankings for some time, and Gasly’s rise was just what was needed to make it a reality. Bottas has been crying out for an opportunity to capitalise on some misfortune for Lewis Hamilton, yet when it arrived he was nowhere to be seen as he could not overtake those in front of him to get back into the battle at the front of the field. For Hamilton to leave Monza with the same points advantage as he arrived with despite finishing seventh, that could be Bottas’s golden opportunity done and dusted.
Gasly has been performing out of his skin this season and looks to be back full of confidence that he is cut out for this level, following last year’s experience with Red Bull. The victory was a much-deserved one as he made a strong start off the line and built an insurmountable gap to see him to the chequered flag, but do not take the win as a fluke – Gasly has been one of the form drivers since the opening round of the season who is outperforming the AlphaTauri.
A real disappointing weekend for Verstappen and Red Bull as they proved well off the pace all weekend, only qualifying fifth and falling down the order before retirement arrived after a power unit failure. Verstappen will take solace in seeing that his rivals could not utilise the opportunity as best they could, but it felt like a setback for Red Bull following the engine mapping changes introduced at the weekend.
Hamilton will be rather surprised to see his 47-point advantage in the drivers’ championship intact despite a testing Grand Prix, with the error for pitting in a closed pit lane saw him plummet from first to last after the restart. Still, his recovery drive was something to behold as he charged his way back through the field, and had there been a few more laps left to run, he could and would have caught teammate Valtteri Bottas, such was the difference in their performances.
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