ferrari flag


And so it was Monza that became the scene of the first real upset this season. It was business as usual for the first half of the race, Hamilton had led from pole and was dominating – until errors from team and driver placed Hamilton at the back.

Pierre Gasly, a well-liked, 24 year old Frenchman gave Red Bull’s Alpha Tauri (previously Toro Rosso) only their 2nd grand prix victory since Vettel won (also at Monza) in 2008. For those of you collecting facts - he is also the first Frenchman to win a race since Olivier Panis at Monaco in 1996.

Last year Gasly had been demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso - after failing to produce the desired results after 12 races.

“I’ve been through so much in the space of 18 months, my first podium last year and now the win in Monza.” (Gasly)

So, what happened?

Two safety cars in quick succession scrambled the order of things - in a marked contrast to the ordered ‘grid to finishing’ positions seen last week. And the World Champion received a hefty penalty.

The first safety car came out after Haas’ Kevin Magnussen broke down following an issue with the power unit. Hamilton was immediately called in to pit by Mercedes, however they didn’t seem to observe that Race Director Michael Masi had closed the pit lane because the clearance of Magnussen’s car was happening so close to the entry.

The next thing to go wrong was that Hamilton had failed to notice the two yellow crosses indicating that the pit was closed. Hamilton received a 10 second stop/go penalty which put him at the back of the grid and 8 penalty points on his licence.

the starting grid at monza full of racing cars waiting to go

But he did not blame Mercedes for the error “I didn’t see those boards so I take responsibility for that…it is something I will learn from.”

Alpha Romeo’s Giovinazzi also made the same error and received a penalty. Sainz Jr very nearly made the same mistake – but after noting what had happened to Hamilton and Giovinazzi - his engineers had warned him.

Good fortune meant that Gasly had pitted before the safety car on Lap 19 – mainly due to teammate Kvyat wanting him to ‘move out of the way.’ Then on Lap 20, with Hamilton 13 seconds ahead of Sainz Jr, who in turn was 3 seconds ahead of teammate Norris – out came the safety car.

The race was green-flagged on Lap 24. Moments after the restart, Ferrari’s Leclerc lost control at high speed and ploughed head-first into the tyre barriers - causing the Italian Grand Prix to be red-flagged for the first time since 1995.

Leclerc was quick to signal that he was ok, but it was an understandably worrying moment.

“Was a big crash – arghh! I’m sorry, but honestly I struggled so much with balance.” (Leclerc)

Leclerc had been running in 4th place at the time of the crash. Vettel had retired earlier in the race with brake failure. Another dire outcome for Ferrari.

After the pits Hamilton was back in 1st – but waiting to serve his penalty. The race restarted again on Lap 28 from a standing start, with Hamilton in ‘pole’ and Gasly speeding past Stroll to take 2nd.

Hamilton then stopped after the 1st lap - to drop 30 seconds behind the leaders and serve his penalty.

Now last, Hamilton started lapping three seconds faster than everyone else in order to catch up and drove well to finish in 7th place.

“I’m happy with how I have driven today… seventh was the best I could do considering I was 30 seconds behind the last car.” (Hamilton)

Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered another poor start after starting in 2nd – he was passed by several cars, pushing him down to 6th. Issues with the car overheating and difficulty handling right-hand corners hampered any further progress that he might have made. But his 5th position was enough to put him ahead of Verstappen in the championship – as the Dutchman failed to finish today.

Sainz Jr drove an excellent race – passing Stroll, then Raikkonen and very nearly catching up with Gasly.

But no one could begrudge Gasly’s maiden win here at Monza, while there was without doubt a degree of luck involved - as external events created the circumstances – Gasly certainly rose to the occasion.

So, Lewis Hamilton is still waiting for his 90th career win. He remains 47 points ahead in the championship, as he was before the race today.

We’re in Italy again next weekend for the Tuscany Grand Prix (also known as Ferrari’s 1000th race) in Mugello; a challenging, fast track that the drivers are said to be very much looking forward to.

Are you ready for some excitement?