NASCAR Race Weekend Central

F1 Review: Daniel Ricciardo’s Victory at the Italian Grand Prix Ends McLaren Drought

For the second straight year, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza (Sept. 12) provided an upset winner.  Last year, Pierre Gasly benefitted from an unusual set of circumstances that placed him in second on a restart after a red flag – a position from which he jumped to the lead and then held on for the win.

This year, Daniel Ricciardo also leapt from second to first and then held his spot to take the victory, the eighth of his career and first since joining McLaren this year.  Ricciardo sped off the line brilliantly at lights out, made his way around Max Verstappen, the presumed favorite, and then drove a masterful race to secure McLaren’s first victory since 2012.

Verstappen may have been feeling the pressure from the onset of the race.  Starting P1, and with Lewis Hamilton in fourth, he could have seen the opportunity of distancing himself in the driver’s championship.  But two miscues brought his downfall.

The first came when Verstappen could not hold the lead at the start.  Ricciardo and McLaren have been fast all year but have been infrequent in putting together performances that showcase their ability. This time, Ricciardo showed why McLaren signed him.  He blasted into the lead and took control of the race.

As Ricciardo drove away, Verstappen attempted to settle into the second-place position, but before he could, Hamilton made a bold move on lap 1 to challenge him for the spot.  Even though Verstappen scooted away, maintaining second and watching Hamilton fall to fourth behind Lando Norris, Hamilton had shown he was going to be coming for Verstappen.

The second error for Verstappen came when his pit crew gave him a stunningly long stop of 11 seconds.  He dropped from second to 10th on the grid.  Such a slow stop is downright perplexing for the Red Bull team and there is every reason to believe such a disappointing performance would agitate Verstappen even further.  Verstappen turning his Red Bull into a harpoon to kill Hamilton’s drive seems all too fitting and very Moby Dick seeing as how Captain Ahab ended his life in pursuit of his whale, much like Verstappen ended his day in a disastrous pursuit.

More on the Verstappen – Hamilton get together below because the story of the day should still be Ricciardo and McLaren.

Consider this fun fact: McLaren led more laps today than the team had led in the past nine years!  At the beginning of the season, McLaren looked to be a trendy pick to place third in the constructor’s championship and also likely to steal a win at some point.  Most people thought Norris would be the one to nab that victory; instead, it is the splashy hire that has underperformed all year.

The one-two points finish also set McLaren 13.5 points ahead of Ferrari in the standings in a battle for third that has been just as tight as the one for the lead.

The Race

Full Recap: Ricciardo Triumphs

See also
Daniel Ricciardo Wins Italian Grand Prix as Title Contenders Crash Out

The Good

– The return of the Shoey!  Ricciardo last won at the Canadian Grand Prix in May 2018.  In 2019, he earned no wins and failed to make the podium while driving for Renault.  The following year, he managed to score two podiums in what seemed like shocking performances.  For both podium appearances, he engaged in the Shoey, drinking the celebratory champagne from his shoe.  With McLaren this year, he has struggled to come close to a podium but made his stellar starting position work and enjoyed the spoils accordingly.

As a sidenote, Norris supported his teammate and his second-place finish by also engaging in a Shoey.

Ricciardo has still endured a rough year.  Norris has consistently outperformed him and is sitting in fourth in the standings while Ricciardo is in eighth. The points discrepancy is still rather substantial for F1 teammates, 132–83.  Norris has also accumulated four podiums at this point, while Ricciardo has just earned his first.

But this win is exactly what Ricciardo needs.  While he stated not long ago he was uncomfortable with the McLaren, now that he has taken it to victory, he can move forward with a sense of confidence, recognizing the car is able to hold its place at the front if things fall the right way.  There is every reason to believe this win is the catalyst toward improved results for the rest of the season.

– Ricciardo may have won the Driver of the Day award but Valtteri Bottas is the one who deserved it.  Bottas started in the back and delivered one of his best performances in a long time.  Perhaps he felt liberated from all the discussion about his future and what he would be doing after this year.  Perhaps the fresh engine gave him a boost.  Or perhaps, at this point, he just didn’t give ____.

Whatever may have motivated Bottas, seeing him drive through the field is what most fans have wanted to see from the Finn during his stint with Mercedes.  He cruised to the front like it was an easy task rather than the arduous grind it has often been.  He deserves credit for taking third on a track where passing is minimal.

The Bad

– Verstappen and his 11-second stop, dropping from second to 10th.  Red Bull is known for their amazing pit work, typically averaging 2.1 seconds, and perform solid stops on the regular.  Hence, when the team botched their stop for Verstappen and dropped him through the field, it came as a surprise to everyone, and most assuredly so, Verstappen.

Verstappen then took his frustrations out on the track.

Lap 26, the lap that will live in infamy for this race at Monza.

Here’s another look at what transpired.

Frontstretch’s Adam Cheek has more on the wreck and the Steward’s eventual decision to post a three-place grid penalty for Verstappen two weeks from now in the Russian Grand Prix.

See also
Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton Crash at Monza; Verstappen Penalized

The Questionable

Sergio Perez earned a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage by driving off the track – or, simply stated, cutting a corner and moving up a spot.  Had Perez given the position back, he would likely have avoided any penalty.  Instead, he drove on, crossing the line third but with Bottas on his heels, and then found himself dropped to fifth with the sanction.

Why Red Bull did not order Perez to give the spot back is a mystery.  It would have been the smartest thing to do.  Give the position back and then try for the pass again, right?  The strategy seems so obvious and smart that it must have been stupid. It seems Red Bull may have been off their game in all kinds of ways on Sunday.

– The second iteration of the Sprint Race qualifying method.  For Pierre Gasly, the result could be described as disastrous as he went from fifth to crashing out and starting from the rear. For Hamilton, the race offered a sense of disappointment as he dropped from starting second (but really first, with Bottas dropping to the rear) to starting fourth, a position that doomed him.

The question that comes with the Sprint Race format is whether it is providing the so-called bang for the buck.  If half the field wrecks in the qualifying race and Nikita Mazepin then starts the Grand Prix on pole, are people going to be happy?  Is that the desired result for hosting a qualifying race?  Is that the changeup people want to see?  In some ways, it would be fabulous entertainment to watch all the frontrunners storm from the back of the field but it calls into the concept of qualifying at all.

The Quotables

Daniel Ricciardo was feeling something all weekend, stating, “To lead literally from start to finish, I don’t think any of us expected that… there was something in me on Friday, I knew something good was to come, so let’s just say that.”

Verstappen summarized his day: “Today, a lot of things went wrong. The start went wrong, the strategy went wrong, the pit stops went wrong. So a lot of things to analyze. I think overall, we were always quite strong in a lot of things, but today a few weaknesses which we’ll try to analyze and do better.”

Finally, Hamilton took to Twitter to give his take on Sunday.

The Results – Italian Grand Prix; Monza, Italy (Sept. 12): Ricciardo Wins

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 53 1:21:54.365 26
2 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 53 +1.747s 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 +4.921s 15
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53 +7.309s 12
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda 53 +8.723s 10
6 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 53 +10.535s 8
7 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 53 +15.804s 6
8 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 53 +17.201s 4
9 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 53 +19.742s 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 53 +20.868s 1
11 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 53 +23.743s 0
12 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 53 +24.621s 0
13 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 53 +27.216s 0
14 88 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 53 +29.769s 0
15 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 53 +51.088s 0
NC 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari 41 DNF 0
NC 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 25 DNF 0
NC 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 25 DNF 0
NC 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 3 DNF 0
NC 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 0 DNS 0

Note: Ricciardo scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Perez received a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

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