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Another weekend of Formula 1 races is behind us and again it was Max Verstappen who emerged victorious during the Italian Grand Prix.
The Dutchman started the race seventh after taking a five-place grid penalty, but quickly shot through the field to secure his fifth consecutive win.
Charles Leclerc tried to chase him, but a late safety car ruined his chances and he had to settle for second, while George Russell ensured that Mercedes took the last place on the podium.
Max Verstappen (center) finished on the podium again, with Charles Leclerc (left) second and George Russell (right) third
It’s now only a matter of time before Verstappen takes home his second consecutive world title, but the weekend’s action at Monza has sparked a lot of conversation.
Sports post picked out six things we learned from the Italian Grand Prix…
Verstappen is in a class of its own
Verstappen started in 14th place at Spa last month and still managed to win, so it was not a complete shock that he won from seventh place this time.
But it was still quite spectacular how easily he passed his rivals and into first place.
It seemed there was always a chance he could be held up by traffic at the front at the start, while the Ferrari looked good in qualifying, indicating Leclerc could take his fourth race win of the season.
Verstappen won again in Monza and is approaching his second consecutive world title
Indeed, Verstappen admitted before the race that he was aiming for a top two finish, such was his uncertainty as to whether a win was really possible.
Still, he moved up to third within two laps and soon set his sights on Leclerc. From then on, it was only a matter of time before he caught and passed to take his 11th win of the campaign.
After last year’s close battle with Lewis Hamilton, this season has been a procession for Verstappen, and his 116-point lead at the top of the standings shows how far he is ahead of the rest of the field.
Ferrari strategy backfires again
Ferrari has made a habit of making some really bizarre strategic decisions this season that have cost them valuable points.
It would be hard to be too critical of them for what happened this weekend, but in the end the one gamble they took didn’t pay off.
When Sebastian Vettel shut down his car on lap 12, Ferrari chose to pit Leclerc while the race took place under virtual safety car conditions.
Ferrari tried to pit Charles Leclerc early, but their strategy didn’t pay off
This meant they didn’t lose too much ground to Verstappen, but it also ruled out using a one-stop strategy.
Sure enough, Leclerc had to pit again later in the race, and by the time he returned to the track he was 20 seconds behind the championship leader.
Ferrari was in constant contact with Leclerc throughout the race and he seemed pleased with the calls they made as they mentioned ‘Plan B’ and ‘Plan C’ but whatever they ended up using it didn’t work, and it was a known outcome for Leclerc, as he finished second behind Verstappen.
Hamilton bounces back
Hamilton should have cursed his luck after the previous two races for Monza.
At Spa he collided with Fernando Alonso on the opening lap and crashed out of the race. The following week, it looked like he could take his first win of 2022 at the Dutch Grand Prix, but Mercedes’ decision to leave him on the track on old tires while his rivals were in the doldrums backfired when he got into the race. final phase slipped from first to fourth place laps.
He had to get back on track in Italy, but his task was complicated when he was given a grid penalty that forced him to start 19th.
Lewis Hamilton recovered from some difficult weekends and finished fifth
In reality, he didn’t get a particularly impressive start to the race and it looked like he would be battling for small points early on at his best.
Still, he slowly but surely made his way through the field, making one move overtaking Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly at the same time.
He finished fifth, which was realistically the best he could hope for, given where he started on the grid. Maybe he could get that elusive win before the end of the season.
De Vries makes an immediate impression
Nyck De Vries only found out on Saturday morning that he was driving for Williams.
Because Alex Albon had appendicitis, De Vries was brought in to replace him and he seized his chance.
The Dutchman has a pedigree after his win in Formula 2 in 2019 and Formula E last year, but Formula 1 is a completely different matter.
Nyck De Vries looked good as a Formula 1 driver for Williams this weekend
His performance at Monza could earn him a permanent place on the team next season
Still, he made the step up without a hitch and managed to finish ninth to earn two points on his debut as a Williams driver.
To put that into context, Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi has driven 16 races this season and hasn’t registered a point yet.
There has been speculation that Latifi could be replaced next year, and De Vries has certainly put himself in the mix to secure a regular spot following his weekend appearance.
Ricciardo’s miserable season continues
Daniel Ricciardo cannot take a break this season.
After nine grid penalties were handed out for Sunday’s race, he was pushed to fourth on the starting grid. The opportunity to earn important points lay before him.
As the race went on people like Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Hamilton passed him but he was still comfortably in the top 10 with only five laps to go.
Daniel Ricciardo seemed on track to earn some points but had to stop his car late
Then his car gave up on him. Ricciardo seemed confident he would get some points, but he had to stop his car on the side of the track with nothing to show for his efforts.
He is still 19 points from 16 races this season, 69 points behind teammate Norris, and it has undoubtedly been a campaign to forget for the Australian.
He will still hope to finish on a high before leaving McLaren at the end of the year, but he will need a change in fortune to achieve this.
Finishing behind the safety car is boring
When Ricciardo retired with five laps to go, it looked like his accident could make the race even more exciting.
Before that, Verstappen had opened up a lead of more than 15 seconds over Leclerc, but the prospect of a safety car coming out for a few laps to collect the field before a sprint finish came to the end seemed a clear possibility.
What actually happened was that the race marshals couldn’t move Ricciardo’s car because it was stuck in gear, which resulted in the remaining cars driving at a snail’s pace for the last five laps behind the safety car. It was a dull end to the race and the Italian crowd, hoping for a Ferrari victory, made their feelings clear when they booed Verstappen afterwards.
It was hardly his fault, but Verstappen must also have known that this could have easily been the same scenario for him last year in Abu Dhabi, only he would have stayed behind Hamilton and the Briton would have taken his eighth world title.
Sunday’s race ended behind the safety car, which was boring for spectators
What this race showed is that finishing behind the safety car is boring and should be avoided as much as possible.
Marking the race in red and resuming from a standing start would have been much more exciting, but the stewards instead let the race drift to an unsatisfactory end.
If they want to attract more fans to the sport, this was not the way to do it.