Updated: Jan 27
The 2021 season of Formula one goes down as one of the best seasons in history. But the Italian GP, held in Monza, was one that particularly stood out to me. With drama ion and off the track, close racing and a surprising result, it is definitely on top of my list.
Written by Thomas Bergamo, edited by Harshi Vashee
We were in for a treat with thrilling news about the 2022 driver line-up days before the Grand Prix! On the Monday preceding the race, it was announced that Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas would be leaving at the end of the season to join Alfa Romeo, replacing the retiring Kimi Räikkönen. This left two excellent candidates, George Russell and Nyck de Vries, for the second seat at Mercedes to pair with Sir Lewis Hamilton. The following day, exciting news dropped that George Russell indeed would be joining the German manufacturer for the 2022 season.
The weekend ahead would be even more special in 2021 as it would host the second ever Sprint Qualifying on Saturday morning.
Bottas snatched an important pole position on traditional Friday qualifying with Hamilton behind for a Merc 1-2, ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Lewis Hamilton was off to a bumpy start in the grid-setting sprint race on Saturday, dropping down to 6th place. Gasly ran wide in turn 3 and he the barriers in dramatic fashion which lead to the stewards deploying the Safety Car to repair the barrier. Bottas took advantage and he took the second pole thanks to the Safety Car. After him (in order) Verstappen, Ricciardo, Norris and Hamilton. But the pole man couldn’t celebrate too early however as he would be relegated to the back of Sunday’s grid following his 4th engine change of the season!
So Verstappen lined up on pole, alongside Daniel Ricciardo. Behind them was Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton, who started on the hardest tyre compound. Ricciardo had a superb start, and snatched the lead from Max’s hands. Hamilton too got a good start and jumped up to P3. Then on the Roggia chicane the two championship rivals almost collided, with Hamilton having to go wide allowing Norris to re-take P3. On the same turn, Antonio Giovinazzi and Carlos Sainz made contact leading to a virtual safety car. Once the VSC ended, Ricciardo got a perfect start and built a 1.2 second gap to Verstappen behind.
Verstappen continued to complain about Ricciardo’s speed claiming he couldn’t even try to overtake him. Meanwhile, even Lewis had problems with Lando Norris. He was struggling to overtake the speedy McLaren as both papaya cars seemed to be rocket ships on the straights. On lap 15, Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel made contact in the Roggia chicane. This cost the Frenchman a five second penalty. On lap 22 the leader Daniel Ricciardo came into the pits. It’s a perfect stop. On the next lap Max Verstappen pits, but the Red Bull pit crew make a disappointingly slow pit stop (11 seconds). Here comes an opportunity either for Lando Norris or for Lewis Hamilton. Lando’s pit crew made a perfect pit but the same cannot be said for Hamilton’s pit, which was a little bit slower albeit not as slow as Verstappens.
Lando Norris came out ahead of Verstappen who had had to push hard in order to stay ahead of Lewis as he made his way out of the pitlane. Suddenly the Mercedes emerges out the pitlane side by side with the Red Bull of Verstappen as the pair battled into turn 1. Suddenly Max clips the inside curb of turn 2 and launches across the top of the Mercedes in what looked to be a very scary incident. Once again the halo had likely saved a life with slow motion footage later releasing showing Hamilton’s head being hit by the Red Bull’s wheel with a great deal of force!
With the safety car deployed emerged a great chance either for Leclerc, who is currently first, or Sergio Perez, who is second to pit. By doing so, they would gain on the others. After their stops, Charles was second and Sergio was fourth.
Another surprise of the day was Valtteri Bottas, who on the restart was in running in sixth place despite starting at the back of the grid. The race restarted with an amazing overtake by Lando Norris on Charles Leclerc: he ran with two tyres onto the grass through the “curva grande”. Even Perez tried to overtake the Monegasque, but he cut the Roggia chicane which cost him a five seconds time penalty. Afterwards Bottas overtook Leclerc propping himself onto the podium. Meanwhile Norris complained about Ricciardo’s pace, but the team told him they will not swap positions. And finally Daniel Ricciardo gets his redemption by winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, followed by Lando Norris, Valterri Bottas, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez (third on the track but fifth with the penalty).
It doesn’t matter who you supported, this was undeniably one of the best races in the 2021 season!