Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Simran Kanthi
The famous Autodromo Nazionale Monza has seen many teams taste glory on more than one occasion, with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams, Lotus, and Brabham triumphing at Monza through the decades. However, the same can’t be said for the current championship leaders Red Bull.
While Red Bull have been victorious twice at Monza, in 2011 and 2013, Sebastian Vettel triumphing on both occasions, they haven’t been able to match those performances for the next eight seasons. The Austrian team hasn’t been able to get a single podium finish at the mighty Italian circuit since the dawn of the turbo-hybrid era. This is highly unusual for a team that has been competitive and capable of winning races during the same era.
How has Red Bull's podium drought at Monza stretched on for so many seasons? We take a look at their races at Monza from 2014 to the most recent one in 2021 and look forward to their upcoming race at Monza.
2014 Italian Grand Prix
The dawn of a new era in Formula One saw Red Bull come crashing down from the highs of their utterly dominant 2013 season. Mercedes rose to the top and stamped their authority, winning race after race, as Red Bull struggled with a general lack of pace, coupled with reliability issues.
Red Bull’s engine struggles would be further exaggerated at the Temple of Speed, during the Italian Grand Prix. Qualifying saw Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo qualify only eighth and ninth for the race, behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, and the top six consisting of Mercedes-powered cars. Both drivers would proceed to finish fifth and sixth, with Ricciardo ahead of Vettel. Both drivers had contrasting races; Vettel gained three positions on the opening lap, whereas Ricciardo lost four after being pushed into the run-off area at the first chicane. While Vettel was up in fourth towards the end of the race, he was overtaken by Bottas into the first chicane. Ricciardo put in a commendable late-race charge, coming through to finish fifth, making a brilliant overtake on his teammate Vettel into the Della Roggia chicane to finish in the top five.
Watch Ricciardo’s battle with his teammate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWuphQCvNuM - Credit - F1Gameplay
2015 Italian Grand Prix
The 2015 season was proving to be a tough one for Red Bull. Sebastian Vettel left the team at the end of the 2014 season, and the team promoted Daniil Kvyat to take the seat next to Ricciardo. At this point in the preceding season, the team had taken three race wins and several podium finishes. However, 2015 saw them win no races and struggle to take podiums regularly, due to an unreliable and slower car.
The 2015 Italian Grand Prix proved to be more of the same for Red Bull. Kvyat and Ricciardo were eliminated in Qualifying Two (Q2) itself, with Ricciardo having not set a time at all in the session. Both drivers had massive grid penalties for the race due to taking many new power unit components. They were set to start the race in 18th and 19th positions for the race, respectively.
Race day, however, would see both drivers make comeback drives to finish in the points-paying positions. They made their way towards the fringes of the top ten in the early stages of the race, winning out in a battle with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. Rosberg’s late-race retirement promoted Kvyat into the final points-paying position and Ricciardo up to eighth, despite both drivers finishing the race a lap behind race-winner Lewis Hamilton.
2016 Italian Grand Prix
2016 was proving to be a much better year for Red Bull. While it did start on a low note, their fortunes quickly turned after promoting Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso, in place of Kvyat, from the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. Both drivers picked up a series of podium finishes since then.
Unfortunately, their barren run at Monza continued. Both drivers managed to qualify a commendable sixth and seventh for the race, Ricciardo ahead of Verstappen. The race saw Ricciardo finish fifth and Verstappen seventh. Ricciardo initially gained a place due to pole-sitter Hamilton's slow start, but couldn't hold off the Briton on the next lap. Verstappen had a poor start, dropping out of the top ten. He put in a comeback drive to finish in his starting position. The team couldn't mount a challenge to the Mercedes or Ferrari cars and their main race was with Williams driver Valtteri Bottas. On lap 47, Ricciardo made a splendid move on Bottas into the first chicane, moving up into the top five. He still finished 45 seconds behind race-winner Rosberg, highlighting the team's lack of pace around the Temple of Speed.
Watch Ricciardo’s overtake on Bottas here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLLjIs95O7w - Credit - Official F1 Channel
2017 Italian Grand Prix
The 2017 season saw Red Bull come into the Italian Grand Prix weekend in the same position as the preceding season, with one win up until that point. With rain showers around the corner for the race weekend, the Austrian team fancied their chances of a great weekend.
However, both drivers headed into a wet qualifying session with grid penalties hanging over their heads. This wouldn’t dampen their spirits though, as Verstappen had initially set the quickest time in the dying moments of the final Q3 session, a 1:36.702. Ricciardo set the second quickest time, but Verstappen’s lap time was usurped by a mega lap from Hamilton, which was over a second quicker.
Verstappen and Ricciardo started 13th and 16th respectively for the race. Verstappen made a great start to move into eighth by the end of lap one. Lap three saw the Dutch driver make contact with Felipe Massa’s Williams as he attempted to overtake the Brazilian driver into the first chicane. He suffered a puncture and limped back to the pits, rejoining in last place.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo steadily made his way up into the top ten by the first round of pit stops. He made one of his brilliant overtakes on Sergio Perez to move up into sixth place on lap 17. Red Bull kept him out for a long first stint, until lap 37, being the last driver to make a pit stop. He then put on the soft compound tyres for a late-race charge, which included another outstanding overtake on Kimi Raikkonen into the first chicane, a replica of the one he had made on Bottas a season prior. He couldn’t catch Vettel for third, finishing four seconds behind his former teammate and 40 seconds behind race-winner Hamilton. He managed to achieve Red Bull’s best finish at Monza during the turbo-hybrid era in this race. Verstappen managed to recover to take the final points-paying position, in tenth.
Watch Ricciardo’s brilliant overtake on Raikkonen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAJohFQZgLg - Credit - Official F1 Channel
2018 Italian Grand Prix
2018 would prove to be a much better season for Red Bull. Both drivers had taken a combined three race wins up to that point but had experienced their fair share of reliability struggles.
The Italian Grand Prix weekend would prove to be a tough one for Ricciardo, as he was set to take a grid penalty for the second year running at Monza. He didn’t set a time in Q2 and would start the race in 19th place. Verstappen managed to qualify fifth for the race, almost a second behind Bottas, who would start fourth.
Verstappen managed to make his way up into third in an eventful race start, which saw Vettel have a spin at the Della Roggia chicane. He managed to keep Bottas at bay and received a reprimand for cutting the first chicane on lap 19. Meanwhile, Ricciardo's race went up in smoke on lap 24, the Australian once again retiring due to a reliability issue.
Lap 43 saw a major talking point in Verstappen's race. As Bottas attempted to overtake the Dutchman into the first chicane, Verstappen moved to the left and squeezed Bottas, who had to go into the run-off area. The stewards handed a five-second penalty to the Red Bull driver, which demoted him from third to fifth at the chequered flag, behind a recovering Vettel. Thus, Red Bull's podium-less run at Monza continued despite achieving third place on the track.
2019 Italian Grand Prix
The 2019 season proved to be a chaotic season for Red Bull. A mid-season swap saw rookie Alex Albon promoted to Red Bull from Toro Rosso, with Pierre Gasly moving in the other direction. Verstappen had taken both race wins for the team in 2019, up to this point.
For the third year in a row, it would be a Red Bull driver taking a grid penalty at Monza. This time it was none other than Verstappen himself. While he hadn’t set a time in qualifying at Monza, he wouldn’t have been able to do so due to a gearbox issue in the first session. He would start the Grand Prix from the 19th position. Albon made it to Q3 for the first time as a Red Bull driver but was unable to set a time in a controversial session. He would start eighth for the race.
Come race day, both Red Bulls finished in the lower points positions. Verstappen put in a fine recovery drive from 19th to finish in eighth, after being held up by the Racing Point of Sergio Perez towards the end of the race. Albon had to make a comeback too, after an off-track excursion on lap three while battling the McLaren of Carlos Sainz. He dropped to 12th but eventually made his way up to sixth at the chequered flag.
2020 Italian Grand Prix
After a long Covid-19-induced break, the 2020 Formula One season finally got underway in July with a double-header in Austria. As the season progressed, Red Bull’s pace paled out in comparison to that of Mercedes. Verstappen was technically in no man’s land, rarely challenging the two Mercedes drivers, but ahead of the rest of the grid.
The Honda engine proved to be less powerful compared to that of the Mercedes and this deficit was visible at the Temple of Speed. Both Mercedes drivers locked out the front row, with Hamilton on pole after having set the fastest lap in the history of the sport. Verstappen put in a time that was only good enough for fifth on the grid. Albon would start down in ninth, just ahead of Pierre Gasly.
Race day proved to be tough for both drivers. Into the first chicane, Albon bumped into Gasly and had to take to the run-off area next to the chicane. He dropped to 14th behind Charles Leclerc. Verstappen had a poor start too, falling from fifth on the grid to seventh. He, along with many others, dropped outside the top ten during the Safety Car period caused by Kevin Magnussen stopping near the pit lane entry. Albon too dropped to 18th and was the last running car. Things didn’t change even after a stoppage due to a red flag. On lap 31, Verstappen pulled into the pits with a mechanical issue and retired from the race. Unfortunately, the contact with Gasly on lap one had damaged the floor of Albon’s car, thus hampering his race. He finished well outside the points, in a disastrous race for the team.
2021 Italian Grand Prix
Red Bull were on a roll in 2021. With a far more competitive car, Verstappen was able to challenge Hamilton in the Mercedes for the Championship. Coming into the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Verstappen had just retaken the lead of the standings from Hamilton, having won at the preceding round at Zandvoort. Many believed that 2021 would be the year when Red Bull would finally get a podium finish at the mighty Italian circuit.
However, the weekend would turn out to be another big flashpoint in the championship. In a sprint race weekend, qualifying was held on Friday evening. Verstappen couldn’t match the 1:19.555 set by Bottas in the final session. He narrowly stayed ahead of the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. His teammate Perez managed to qualify only ninth for the sprint race, after having given a tow to his teammate.
Verstappen managed to make up a position in the sprint race, at the expense of his championship rival, Hamilton. Perez had a poor start, dropping to tenth, despite gaining a place from Pierre Gasly’s crash. He had to give up a position to Lance Stroll having cut the first chicane while attempting to overtake the Canadian. He would make a legal overtake on the next lap and finish the sprint in ninth place.
Verstappen started the race from pole position as a result of Bottas’ grid penalty for the race. This promoted Perez up to eighth on the grid. Verstappen didn’t have the best of starts as he was passed by Ricciardo into the first chicane. Perez gained a position on the first lap after Giovinazzi’s incident at the second chicane. Perez made his way past Carlos Sainz during the first stint, while Ricciardo kept Verstappen at bay. Verstappen attempted to overcut Ricciardo at the first round of pit stops, coming into the pits on lap 23 but fell behind Ricciardo after a very slow pit stop.
The major flashpoint of the race came on lap 26. Hamilton also had a slow pit stop onto the medium compound tyres, coming out of the pits behind Norris and alongside Verstappen. In an attempt to stay ahead, the Red Bull driver tried to go around the outside of the first chicane. However, he hit a sausage kerb on the left, which deflected him into the path of Hamilton and sent the Red Bull over the roll-over hoop on Hamilton’s Mercedes, narrowly missing the Briton’s crash helmet. Both drivers were out of the race after another big incident between the championship contenders.
The Safety Car had been deployed after the incident. After the restart, Perez found himself ahead of Bottas. On lap 32, he caught up to the Ferrari of Leclerc and attempted an overtake into the Della Roggia chicane, but cut the chicane while doing so. He moved up into third but received a five-second time penalty for overtaking off the track. Once again, a Red Bull driver would be penalised at Monza when in third place on the track. Perez dropped from third to fifth after the chequered flag, with Bottas once again being the beneficiary of a Red Bull driver’s penalty, taking third.
What can we expect from Red Bull at the upcoming Italian Grand Prix?
Red Bull’s strengths have traditionally been on the aero and downforce aspects during the turbo-hybrid era. Their Renault engines have been on the weaker side compared to Mercedes and Ferrari, which saw them usually struggle at Monza. Even in the initial years of their partnership with Honda, they couldn’t compete with the grunt of the Mercedes engine. The 2021 race should’ve seen them get more points if not for the crash between the championship contenders.
However, they could do very well at Monza this season. Their engine is the strongest of the four Power Unit suppliers on the grid, even with some downforce on the car. Being a high speed track with a plethora of straights, this could play very well into Red Bull’s strengths. And with a dominant display at the other high speed track on the calendar, Spa Francorchamps, the stage is set for Verstappen to break Red Bull’s barren run at Monza and add to his tally of race wins in the 2022 Formula One Season.