Words by Tony Robertson (Twitter: @TonyRob84).
Welcome back to Overtime Online’s F1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
This week was a showcase of what F1 as a motorsport can bring to it’s audience as a captivating Italian Grand Prix saw the most unlikely of race results. This was of course paired with some big news off track that marks the end of an era in F1 racing.
Now lets get into the action.
Monza qualifying didn’t see too many surprises. Well saying that, if you had said Ferrari would fail to get a car into the top 10 on their home circuit at the start of the season then perhaps it would have been surprising then. But not now. Not this season. Not with this car.
With Sebastian Vettel being knocked out in Q1 achieving only P17 and Charles Leclerc only making P13 in Q2 it is the first time since 1984 that Ferrari have failed to get a car into the top 10 at the ‘Temple of Speed’.
Q1 ended with madness as several cars were bunched together going into the Parabolica leading to lots of squabbling into turn one and two. This was epitomised when Kimi Raikkonen had a tow off of Esteban Ocon’s Renault and could not find a way past the Frenchman, compromising his lap before he later pulled over to the side.
In Q2 Kevin Magnussen spun at the second Lesmo corner and went into the gravel ending his hopes of getting into the top 10. Valtteri Bottas set a new track record of 1:18.952 to eclipse Raikkonen from 2018 who clocked a 1:19:119 when he was still at Ferrari. However, that would not be the extent of Mercedes record-breaking.
Six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton decided to get in on the record-breaking action, achieving his seventh pole at Monza and 94th in his career and doing so in a record breaking 1:18.887. Next best was the ever-dependable number two Bottas and following him was the McLaren of Carlos Sainz who put his disappointing non-start at Spa behind him.
Sergio Perez joined him on the second row of the grid while Max Verstappen could only muster fifth, to give him a seat next to the other McLaren of Lando Norris who is now four all in terms of qualifying versus his teammate.
Hamilton pips team mate Bottas to pole by just 0.069s 😱
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 5, 2020
Can I be forgiven for not knowing where to start with this one?
Two Safety cars, a red flag, time penalties, crashes (which all the drivers walked thankfully away from unharmed) and daring racing. This is what F1 is all about, a race for the ages and one that will go down in history as one of the most surprising, suspenseful and exciting races.
Where else can I start except for the at the top of the grid when the chequered flag was waved.
Pierre Gasly who had driven another solid race to back up his driver of the day accolade at Spa a week ago came through to take the most unlikeliest of race wins to make himself the 109th winner of a Grand Prix. In addition, this was the first time a non-Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari driver had been on the top step of the podium since 2013 when Raikkonen drove for Lotus at the Australian Grand Prix a quite staggering statistic.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 6, 2020
Was Gasly a little fortuitous with the win? Perhaps a little but once he gained the lead he coped brilliantly with pressure from Sainz who was hot on his tail and who for me probably most deserved the win based on this weekends driving.
Lance Stroll made up the final podium spot on the Williams families last F1 race as they step aside from the Williams racing team who coincidentally had their last podium through Stroll at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017.
Going back to the start of the race, Hamilton continued his record of not being overtaken on the first lap of any race this season, whereas his teammate had dropped down to sixth by the end of the Ascari chicane with Sainz, Norris, Perez and Daniel Ricciardo all taking advantage of the Finns slip up.
Lap six saw the first retirement of the day as Vettel suffered from a brake failure leading to him going straight through the polystyrene blocks. Luckily he was able to coast the car safely back to the pit lane. The next retirement of the race saw Magnussen retire his car next to the pit lane entry and saw the deployment of the safety car.
However, due to where the Haas driver had parked his car, the pit lane entry was closed unbeknownst to the Mercedes pit wall who called Hamilton into the pit under false pretences. Everyone else except for Antonio Giovinazzi stayed out until the pit lane entry was opened and steered themselves clear of the resulting 10 second stop and go penalty which both drivers later received.
⚠️ PENALTIES ⚠️
Lewis Hamilton and Antonio Giovinazzi both receive a 10-second stop-go penalty for entering the pit lane when closed
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 6, 2020
With racing back underway Stroll, Gasly and both Alfa Romeos put themselves in a good position for the second half of the race, making up the top five behind Hamilton before Leclerc lost the back end of his car around the Parabolica before crashing into the tyre wall at high speed. Luckily Leclerc was unharmed as the session was red-flagged to repair the barrier.
Under the red flag, the FIA has said that teams are allowed to change the car’s tyres and Stroll gained the biggest advantage from this seeing as he had not yet made his stop during the race.
Lap two of the restart saw Hamilton serve his penalty which dropped him back into last and 20 seconds behind the rest of the pack, giving Gasly the race lead with his biggest challengers realistically being Stroll or Sainz.
Lap 35 saw the three challengers move into the podium positions as Kimi Raikkonen dropped down the order as faster cars managed to overtake and sift through to a more genuine race pack. By this point, Hamilton had cut the gap to Albon to just five seconds and needed to do what his teammate had struggled with all day, overtaking.
Bottas had struggled to keep his car cool enough when in the tow of the cars ahead of him (mostly Norris who defended brilliantly all day) and as a result failed to move back up the order. Hamilton proved to have no such problems as he cut his way through the field and up into seventh place by the end of the race with the bonus of an added point through having the fastest lap of the race.
As the laps reduced Sainz was reducing the gap to Gasly and edging ever closer to being within striking distance of the AlphaTauri until on the final lap he got within three tenths and was hot on Gasly’s tail all throughout the lap but couldn’t quite find enough pace to make up the gap between them but had there been one more lap Sainz would have claimed first.
That meant that Pierre Gasly, who in the last 18 months has been on one hell of an emotional rollercoaster after being promoted to Red Bull, demoted from it due to poor performances and then gaining his first podium at Brazil, took the chequered flag at Monza 2020.Embed from Getty Images
While this hasn’t been officially put forward yet, with Sundays race result, people are calling for reverse grid races to be seriously considered for future races to help the sport become more exciting. Only time will tell if there are any more developments into this but there is currently a swell of support for it from the fanbase.
In some sad news for F1, the Williams family will be stepping aside from their duties at the Williams F1 team as part of a new direction Dorilton capital want to take the team.
After being founded in 1977 by Frank Williams and Patrick Head and after 739 races, 114 victories, 128 poles and 16 World Championships the Williams story, at least with the family’s involvement, is coming to an end.
We are Williams. Always. pic.twitter.com/BmVXu1DJkt
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) September 6, 2020
Other news with has come unexpectedly is the announcement that Renault will be rebranded next season to become Alpine F1 team adding to the growing list of F1 teams starting with the letter A. This change comes due to the wider Renault company wanting to increase the brand of Alpine, one of the key brands under the Renault name.
Renault and Williams have already both confirmed their involvement in future F1 seasons, signing a new Concorde agreement last month but how they will continue is far from certain, especially considering a brand new generation of cars and rules are set to sweep across F1 over the next couple of years.
Driver of the day once again went to Pierre Gasly and since he won it should go to him. However, Carlos Sainz will be disappointed with P2 after driving well all weekend and arguably being the second best overall behind only Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull and Ferrari will not look back at Monza 2020 with any fond memories. Both need to do better at Imola next week or face being overtaken and left behind by the other midfield teams.
Don’t forget to check out last weeks Spa Grand Prix and all of the other events of last week here.