Formula One returned this weekend for the eighth race of the season at the high-speed Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit.
It was an eerily quiet day at the Italian Grand Prix, with coronavirus restrictions ensuring the exclusion of the usual Tifosi filling the stands, and after a disastrous day for the prancing horses, it may have been just as well that they weren’t there to witness another disappointing chapter in the story of their 2020 season.
On the other hand, there was still a home win granted in the more unlikely form of Alpha Tauri.
Pierre Gasly fought for an incredible first career win ahead of Carlos Sainz in the McLaren and Lance Stroll in the Racing Point.
With four retirements, two safety cars, one crash, multiple penalties, and a red flag temporarily stopping today’s race, the 2020 Italian Grand Prix will remain an unforgettable race in the minds of drivers and fans alike.
At the first of two lights out today, Hamilton shot ahead of the pack, while McLaren had a brilliant start that saw Sainz find his way into P2 closely followed by his British teammate Norris in P3.
Valteri Bottas found himself in an unusual P6 after Daniel Ricciardo quickly squeezed past him at Ascari.
Following the overtake, Bottas complained of a potential puncture on the team radio, but engineers gave the all-clear to continue racing.
Meanwhile, Hamilton had a healthy lead by Lap 2 of 1.882s, while Verstappen made use of some late braking to get around the Racing Point in the hands of Lance Stroll.
It was another horrendous day for Ferrari, with Vettel in P17 behind Leclerc in P13 by Lap 6.
Then Vettel was forced into retirement with a brake failure that saw him send styrofoam blocks skywards as Ferrari’s fortunes took another Nordics once again.
By lap 17, Hamilton held a lead of 10.909s ahead of the two McLaren’s with 4.282s between Sainz and Norris in P2 and P3 respectively.
Kevin Magnussen in his Haas, became the second retirement of today’s race, after driving off the track and announcing on the team radio that “something broke” on the exit at Parabolica, summoning the first safety car of the day to the track.
Hamilton and Giovanazzi found themselves under investigation for entering the pits when the lane was closed during the safety car period, which saw the pair receive 10-second penalties – a fate contested by Hamilton after he insisted there was no red light on the pit entry.
By lap 23, the safety car exited the track, and racing resumed, with Hamilton ahead of Stroll by just 1.032s and Leclerc finding himself back up into 5th place ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovanazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.
Disaster struck shortly after for the second Ferrari when Leclerc spun off the track at Parabolica in a horrific crash on lap 25, which brought about the first red flag since 1995 in Monza.
Racing resumed at 4:10 pm local time, with a second lights out seeing Hamilton make another great start holding the lead on the run-up to the second chicane.
His position in first place was short-lived in the second part of today’s race after he served his 10-second penalty in the pits, rejoining the track in last place.
Meanwhile, Gasly took the lead out in front of the two Alfa Romeo’s of Raikkonen and Giovanazzi in P2 and P3 respectively.
Verstappen became the fourth retirement of the day, making it his 2nd retirement of the season after a mechanical issue saw him summoned to the pits and out of the race on lap 31.
It was another difficult day for Alex Albon in the second Red Bull, after the stewards gave him a five-second penalty for not leaving a car’s width to the edge of the track, and after being overtaken by Hamilton towards the end of today’s race, the Thai driver finished in a disappointing P15.
By lap 32, Pierre Gasly was continuing to lead the race for the first time in his Formula One career, and while Giovanazzi served his time penalty in the pits, Sainz found his way around the second Alfa Romeo of Raikkonen and into P2.
Seconds later, Lance Stroll in the Racing Point also overtook Raikkonen, pushing him out of a podium place at the second chicane, while Norris in his McLaren made his way into P4.
With just 10 laps to go, the battle for victory was between Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz. t continued all the way to the chequered flag, and as just 1s separated the pair, Sainz entered a DRS zone ready.
With a couple of laps to go, the Spaniard hoped to claim the first McLaren win since 2012, but the laps ran out too quickly as Gasly stayed ahead to take the win.
It was the first victory of the French driver’s Formula One career. He was followed closely in second by the McLaren in the hands of Carlos Sainz, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll rounding out the unexpected podium finishes of today’s race.
The second McLaren of Lando Norris finished in fourth today, followed by Valteri Bottas in an unfamiliar fifth position, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in sixth, and Hamilton in his lowest finish of the season in seventh.
The second Renault of Esteban Ocon finished in eighth, followed by Danil Kvyat and Sergio Perez rounding out the top ten in P9 and P10 respectively.
Despite a disappointing finish for the Mercedes team, Hamilton remains in first place in the driver’s standings with 164 points, followed by his teammate Bottas with 117 and Verstappen with 110.
Pierre Gasly is now eighth in the driver’s standings with 43 points.
Racing returns next weekend at the Mugello Circuit for the Tuscan Grand Prix, where fans no doubt hope to see more action and drama as Mercedes fight their way back up to the top of the grid.