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Italian Grand Prix: Gasly wins after Hamilton penalized

Formula 1 Gran Premio Heineken d’Italia at Monza Autodrome
• Two Safety Car sessions scramble the field; Gasly wins; Stroll third

Monza, Italy, Sept 6/20 (GRW): After Lewis Hamilton qualified for the pole in the Italian GP with a record-breaking fastest-ever F1 qualifying lap, and with only his teammate Valtteri Bottas even close, the result of the race seemed to be a foregone conclusion – and it like being another snoozer like the recent race at Silverstone. But that was not the way it turned out. When the race was over none of the ‘Big Three’ teams had a driver on the podium. Taking up position there were Pierre Gasly (who had qualified 10th in his AlphaTauri), Carlos Sainz (who had started third in his Mclaren) and Lance Stroll (having started in eighth in his Racing Point). A completely unexpected result after a race that was fraught with incidents.

By the way, let me mention that this was a second podium visit for the Canadian driver Stroll. In 2017 he drove his Williams to a third-place finish in Baku, Azerbaijan after a similarly fraught race.

Unexpected things started to happen right from the start. On the first lap, Bottas fell to sixth place, setting up the order as Sainz, Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo behind Hamilton. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen, who had qualified fifth quickest was falling to seventh place. It was looking even more like the makings of a runaway win for Hamilton.

On lap five of the 53-lap race, Sebastian Vettel, who had qualified way back in 17th place suffered complete brake failure and he shot straight on at the first chicane, his race finished.

By lap 16, Hamilton had a 12-second lead over Sainz. Next, on lap 17, Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) stopped at the entrance to pit lane. Given the dangerous position the car ended up in, Race Control called for the Safety Car – and closed the pit entrance. Closing the pits like this is an unusual procedure in F1 and the signal (two illuminated panels) are on the opposite side of the track from the pit lane. Two drivers, Hamilton and Antonio Giovinazzi failed to notice the red signals and came into the pits.

Naturally this triggered penalties – a ten-second stop-and-go for both of them. But it took a while for the word to reach Hamilton. Meanwhile, the car had been cleared away and the race restarted behind the Safety Car. Hamilton, who had yet to serve his penalty, was at the front and Stroll, who had not pitted when the pits opened, was second.

The race had only just gotten underway again when, on lap 17, Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc crashed headily into the barriers coming out of Parabolica across from the place Magnussen had stopped earlier. Given Vettel’s brake failure, the first assumption was that Leclerc had had a similar problem but that was not it – he had overcooked it though the Parabolica and lost control. Quite a lot of the tire barrier had been disrupted; they put out the red flag and the cars came back around and stopped in the pits.

By now, Hamilton was aware of his penalty and he was livid. He thought the penalty was unfair because he had not noticed the reds displayed somewhat out of his sight line on the left – and there was no repeat signal at the actual entrance to the pit lane itself (and he had been told from his team to ‘box’ on that lap). He jumped out of his car and made quite a long journey along and up to the Steward’s room. Normally a driver does not have the opportunity to confront the Stewards mid-race and I assume that he was told simply that the Stewards were not receiving visitors. As the repairs to the barriers went on, preparations were made for a standing-start restart from the grid. Hamilton had to hot-foot it back the same distance to get back to his car for the restart.

This left Hamilton lining up in the No. 1 position for the restart on lap 27 with Stroll next ahead of Gasly and Räikkönen. On the next lap around Hamilton came in to the pits to serve his penalty – as did Giovinazzi. Given that this was immediately after the restart when the cars were still bunched up he fell to the rear of the field – 17th given the retirements – and some 30 seconds behind Gasly who, along with Sainz and Räikkönen, had gotten past Stroll into the lead. Meanwhile, Verstappen stopped in the pits and retired.

The order at the front stabilized as Gasly, Sainz, Stroll, Norris and then Bottas ahead of Ricciardo – with Hamilton fighting his way up through the back markers. Up front, Sainz was making every effort to catch and pass Gasly. On the final lap he closed to within four-tenths of a second but it was not good enough. Afterwards Sainz speculated that, had he had one more lap, he might have taken the win.

Meanwhile Hamilton had kept working his way forward, passing Esteban Ocon for seventh on the final lap.

Afterwards, Gasly said, "Today it was a great day! When I was fighting the last few laps to keep P1, I knew how gutted I would have been if I had lost it, I wouldn’t have been happy with P2. I gave it everything I had - it was difficult - I pushed hard at the start of the stint to not give anyone the slipstream behind, then the last five laps were so intense, I almost shunted 10 times… I was pushing so hard! My tyres were gone but I wanted that win so much, it still feels weird to say I’m an F1 race winner."

F1 MONZA PODIUMPierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri, second placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and McLaren F1 and third placed Lance Stroll of Canada and Racing Point celebrate on the podium (Jenifer Lorenzini/Getty Images)

This all made for an unusual podium with Gasly, Sainz and Stroll one-two-three in place of the more familiar characters. Other than Hamilton (in seventh) and Bottas (in fifth) none of the other Big Three teams had cars in the top ten. Given the retirements of both Ferraris (which seem to have turned into a spent force now) and Verstappen, Hamilton does not seem to have much to worry about his misstep here hampering his almost inevitable run to the 2020 driver’s championship.

• Click HERE for the results + points for the Italian Grand Prix
• Click HERE for the race’s lap chart
• Click HERE for the tire usage history

• The next F1 race will be the so-called Grand Prix of Tuscany at the Mugello track (near Florence) next Sunday, September 13. This will be the first-ever time that a championship F1 race has been run at this track.

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