Dhe Formula 1 as a listening experience: On Sunday in Monza it began with a dignified silence. During the line-up for the Italian Grand Prix, the huge convoy and thousands of spectators commemorated the late Queen Elizabeth II. Only generators hummed. About 90 minutes later, most of the estimated 100,000 spectators celebrated Charles Leclerc, if only out of defiance. A mighty chorus carried the Monegasque, although he finished second in the national Ferrari model ahead of George Russell (Mercedes).
Leclerc had to admit defeat to Max Verstappen again. The Dutchman won for the fifth time in a row, eleventh time this season. His lead in the drivers’ standings grew to 116 points over Leclerc. At the next race in Singapore he can become world champion for the second time after the sovereign tour in Lombardy. There was also an unmistakable comment on this performance from the stands: whistles and boos. Losing is an art.
The Ferraristi went much too fast at the beginning of the afternoon: Verstappen needed five laps to circle with tremendous momentum where he had been on Saturday after qualifying: in second place behind pole winner Leclerc. In no time at all, the Dutchman compensated for his relegation to seventh place on the grid.
Like eight other colleagues, he accepted this disadvantage in order to be able to have a new drive installed. If the quota of three per season is exhausted, there are dismissals. No problem for Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes, who sped off penultimate and finished fifth. Carlos Sainz made it from 18th to fourth in the second Ferrari. But the world champion didn’t have it that far.
So the few fans along the Autodromo in the Royal Park who didn’t wave their flag for Ferrari saw a duel ahead after a few fixed tours by the Red Bull chief driver: racing cars after racing cars at full throttle down the home straight down to the first chicane, where at 330 km/h whoever can brake last without losing the ideal line wins. Beautiful views. Had it not been for Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin. Poor Hessian. First things didn’t go well in practice and qualifying (17th), then the company car rolled out. Closing time at lunchtime. Not a worthy farewell for the four-time world champion from the speed temple of Formula 1, where he won his first Grand Prix in 2008. Tempi passati.
Formula 1 didn’t look long to the right at the shoulder, the Germans leaving at the end of the year, but at their strategists: Who would go to the pit lane in the phase of the virtual safety car until the car was recovered? Leclerc. An interesting move by Ferrari. The Scuderia strategists knew that Verstappen could not be kept behind their strongest driver. Once the champion was over, the race would be over.
So Ferrari wanted to delay the decision. With Leclerc in a car that produces more tire wear than the Red Bull. Especially since Ferrari did without downforce in the vote in order to be able to win pole position. The top speed on the straights paid for the reds with less grip in the corners, which increases tire wear. That’s why Verstappen was so sure he could catch up and overtake Leclerc.
His opponent’s idea: to regain the lead after the world champion’s only pit stop and consider a second service, although in Monza a stop is the quickest way to the finish. So it was. Verstappen switched from soft tires to the medium compound on lap 26. One act at top speed: 2.4 seconds. Quickly back on the track, the old and probably new world champion found himself ten seconds behind the first Ferrari. And accelerated. In six laps he reduced the gap to five seconds.
Ferrari had meanwhile decided all cases on the radio with Leclerc, came to variant C via calculation A and B: second pit stop with a change to the fastest tires. That happened about 20 laps before the end of the race. Leclerc shot back onto the track twenty seconds behind Verstappen. He should have caught up a second per tour. Impossible. “He was too fast,” said Ferrari’s team boss Mattia Binotto. Basta. Whatever the Scuderia tried, the result was a testament to their desperate attempt to slow down Red Bull on Italian soil. “We didn’t know,” said Leclerc, “what we should do.”
In such cases only luck or competition can help. With six laps to go, Daniel Ricciardo parked his McLaren on the hard shoulder. The safety car quickly deployed. The leading group with Verstappen, Leclerc, Russell and Sainz had fresh tires missed and lined up close together for the flying restart.
The pulse rose, the tension grew, Ferrari’s hope was awakened: Leclerc has the faster car on the straights, he could suck, overtake, refine the celebration of Ferrari’s 75th anniversary. But Formula 1 is – too slow. Within five laps it is not possible to get the McLaren out of the danger zone, one gear is stuck. And so the field rolls behind the safety car, obeying the regulations, to the finish. The fans whistle. “The ending was frustrating. I would have liked to have driven another race, ”says Leclerc with a bitter expression.
Mick Schumacher smiled. Twelfth, there are no points for that in the drivers’ classification, but for the fight for a contract next year. The Haas driver raced forward from 17th place, skilfully overtook and left his teammate Kevin Magnussen (16th) behind again. That happened in the slipstream of the great race, almost in silence.