Verstappen leaves Ferraris in his wake at Italian GP to put F1 title in sight – The Guardian

Max Verstappen won the Italian Grand Prix in another dominant run for the Red Bull driver who came through the field from seventh on the grid. He beat the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc into second place at Monza, where the Scuderia tried an alternative strategy but once more were simply unable to match the pace of Verstappen. George Russell was third for Mercedes, Carlos Sainz fourth for Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton came back from 19th on the grid to take fifth. Sergio Pérez was sixth for Red Bull.

Verstappen was absolutely on top almost from the off in what was ultimately a rather pedestrian Italian GP. Such is the world champion’s composure and pace at the moment, once he had made the initial passes of the race cleanly the result never really seemed in doubt. Indeed after the Dutchman had the lead he was all but untroubled at the front for his first win at Monza.

Verstappen has now taken five wins in a row in an indomitable run that has ensured he has one hand on his second championship. His 31st career win is his 11th this season and in another remarkable display of dominance and controlled skill in coming through the field. It is the third time he has won from seventh or lower on the grid this year.

He now leads Leclerc, who is in second, by 116 points and with six meetings to go and 164 points available, he can potentially seal the title at the next round in Singapore or barring that almost certainly the following race in Japan. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel’s shared record of 13 wins in a season is also now well within his compass.

This was another masterclass from the world champion who is demonstrating a control and composure that has left his rivals reeling.

Leclerc had just held his lead from pole through the first chicane from Russell but Verstappen’s determination was immediately clear as he made up two places through the first corner. The Dutchman then took fourth, passing Pierre Gasly at Ascari, while Daniel Ricciardo promptly fell on the straight on lap two, taking him to third.

He had closed to within a tenth of Russell by lap four with the two front runners simply having no time to open a gap to Verstappen. A lap later he had a strong run down the start-finish straight to dive past the British driver up the inside at turn one.

Hamilton from 19th was unable to make such swift progress, making up one place by lap five. Sainz in the Ferrari was swiftly advancing however up from 18th to sixth by lap 12.

Verstappen was two seconds back from Leclerc and seemingly unstoppable. The Monegasque driver stuck at it however, with Verstappen taking only a tenth a lap out of his lead. His gains were, nonetheless, inexorable and the gap was down to a second by lap 12.

Charles Leclerc in the pits.
Charles Leclerc in the pits. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Formula 1/Getty Images

A VSC was called when Sebastian Vettel pulled over with an issue with his car. Ferrari pitted Leclerc under the VSC to go for a free stop and he emerged in third place in front of the traffic but Ferrari had committed to a long final stint and not quite enjoyed all the benefit of the VSC which ended midway through their stop. Verstappen stayed out, while Leclerc now had to complete the rest of the race on the medium tyres.

Verstappen led from Russell, with Leclerc 17 seconds back, while Hamilton was finally moving through the field, up to 11th by lap 18. Red Bull pitted Verstappen on lap 25 to take the medium rubber, with 28 laps to go. He emerged in second, 10 seconds back from Leclerc but with much fresher tyres. Hamilton stayed out having made it to seventh, where he vied with Fernando Alonso, finally making it stick on lap 27.

Verstappen was now setting the pace however, taking up to half a second a lap from Leclerc’s lead and Ferrari had no option but to try to two-stop their man. They duly pitted Leclerc on lap 33 to take the soft tyres to hunt down the Dutchman. He emerged 18 seconds back with 20 laps to go, a tall order of almost a second a lap. Which became clear it was indeed too much when Leclerc could not match let alone surpass Verstappen’s pace.

However while Verstappen continued to what seemed an inevitable win, a late safety car was called on lap 48 when Ricciardo came to a halt on track. Red Bull pitted Verstappen and Leclerc had to match them but there was to be no late drama. Ricciardo’s car could not be moved in time and the race came to a conclusion behind the safety car. A far from spectacular finish but one with which Verstappen was entirely happy as his second title looms large on the horizon.

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Lando Norris was in seventh for McLaren, Pierre Gasly in eighth for AlphaTauri, Nyck de Vries scored his first points in F1 in his debut race with ninth for Williams, sitting in for Alex Albon. Guanyu Zhou was in tenth for Alfa Romeo.

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