Verstappen powers through to maiden Monza victory as Ferrari blunder again

·3-min read

Max Verstappen took advantage of another Ferrari tactical blunder to score a maiden Italian Grand Prix victory and extend his championship lead to 116 points.

The reigning Formula One champion edged closer to securing his second consecutive world drivers' crown in glorious sunshine at Monza, after brushing aside a pre-race five-place grid penalty.

But the Dutchman's success came once again with the helping hand of a failed gamble from Ferrari, who lost their home race after opting to throw Charles Leclerc onto long-distance medium tyres early on.

Leclerc, foiled in his bid for a taut title race with Verstappen this year, was pitted with a dozen laps on the board during a virtual safety car brought on by a mechanical failure for Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin.

Having blasted through the pack from seventh at lights out to emerge near the front again, the decision pushed Verstappen to the front and from there he seldom looked troubled by his rival.

Leclerc went onto softs to try and trim a near-twenty second gap, but it was to be in vain, leaving Ferrari to ruminate on another weekend where they lost the advantage.

Carlos Sainz at the very least impressed after a sweeping slate of grid penalties saw him cut through from the back to challenge for a podium, ultimately coming home in fourth behind the Mercedes of George Russell.

The latter's team-mate Lewis Hamilton likewise impressed with a fine drive from the rear of the grid to finish fifth, in another affirmation of the seven-time world champion's talents amid a tough season.

A late breakdown for Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren meant any chance for late drama was neutered under a safety car, and with three weeks to Singapore, Verstappen might start clearing his trophy cabinet for the big one again.

De Vries stakes claim for 2023

Further down the field, Mercedes test driver Nyck de Vries made his race debut on loan to Williams after Alexander Albon was forced out through appendicitis, and the Dutchman firmly seized his chance.

A ninth-place finish saw him earn points on his maiden drive, which is likely to bring further scrutiny to Nicholas Latifi's position, with the Canadian the only full-time driver yet to score this term.

Ferrari outgunned and outclassed

Verstappen could now theoretically wrap up the title at the next race in Singapore, though Japan appears a likelier destination for his triumph. Ferrari will be forced to wonder how they let him do so.

The world champion has been head and shoulders above the rest of the field this year, but another Scuderia gamble – dropping Leclerc onto an early strategy change that saw him stuck behind Verstappen – cost them, particularly as they struggled to match him for pace. It is another in a long line of mistakes made by the team this season.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +2.446
3. George Russell (Mercedes) +3.405
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +5.061
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +5.380
6. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +6.091
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +6.207
8. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) +6.396
9. Nyck de Vries (Williams) +7.122
10. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) +7.910

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 335
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 219
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 210
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 203
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 187

Constructors

1. Red Bull 545
2. Ferrari 406
3. Mercedes 371
4. Alpine 125
5. McLaren 107