Verstappen’s perfect 10: Red Bull dominates Monza with historic victory

| Sports Editor

Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix. (Photo | Getty Images)

In the realm of Formula 1’s historic circuits, where the echoes of racing legends still reverberate, Monza stood on sacred ground, where Max Verstappen and Red Bull faced the pinnacle of vulnerability.

With its iconic past etched in the annals of Formula 1 history, Monza had witnessed the shattering of dreams before. In 1988, an all-conquering McLaren team’s pursuit of the sport’s first-ever perfect season met an abrupt end on its hallowed asphalt. The architect of that triumph? None other than the Prancing Horse, Ferrari.    

So, when Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. translated the impressive pace he had demonstrated throughout the practice sessions into a pole position after a captivating Saturday qualifying session at the sun-bathed Cathedral of Speed, it was understandable that seas of passionate Ferrari supporters dared to dream that Verstappen’s remarkable streak might just meet its end at the hands of Ferrari, at the circuit that beats with the heart of the Scuderia like no other.

In this historic setting, with the roar of engines harmonizing with the passionate cries of the fans, the very soul of Monza seemed to awaken. It was where history beckoned, where Verstappen’s awe-inspiring streak, an unbroken chain of 10 victories, hung in the balance.

On Sunday, as the clock struck 3 p.m., Carlos Sainz Jr. stood on the grid, his gaze locked onto the lights suspended above him on the towering gantry. However, as the cars approached the final corner of Alboreto on the initial formation lap, Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri billowed with ominous smoke, a trail of disappointment that prematurely ended his race before it had even begun. After some brief confusion and a few more formation laps, the race was underway. 

Sainz surged ahead as the starting lights blinked out, holding the coveted lead while Verstappen trailed closely behind. In their wake, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc maintained his grip on third place, with Mercedes’ George Russell in hot pursuit in fourth. During these early laps, a strategic battle unfolded, with Verstappen displaying patience, even as the Drag Reduction System (DRS) came into play when he was within the required one-second gap to utilize it.

A decisive moment came during lap six at the Rettifilo chicane, where Verstappen attempted an overtaking maneuver on Sainz. However, Sainz defended his position tenaciously, forcing Verstappen to reconsider his approach. The tension mounted, culminating in a dramatic shift on Lap 15 when Sainz momentarily faltered at the Rettifilo chicane. Verstappen seized the opportunity, making a decisive move through Curva Grande and ultimately securing the lead as they charged into the challenging Della Roggia chicane. 

After his overtake, Verstappen’s race followed a route similar to his nine previous ones, distancing himself from Sainz by pulling out of DRS range and building a lead of over four seconds by Lap 19. Sainz was the first among the leaders to pit at the end of that lap, followed by Russell, both opting for the hard compound tires, so as to finish the race without having to pit again. Verstappen and Leclerc made their pit stops at the end of the subsequent lap. Verstappen re-emerged in sixth, just behind Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. At the same time, Leclerc rejoined the race immediately behind his teammate Sainz, applying pressure as they navigated towards the Della Roggia chicane.

Verstappen’s charge continued as he closed in on Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who, yet to pit, was still on his starting hard tires. Verstappen eventually overtook Hamilton, reclaiming the lead, while Sainz settled into third, trailing by under five seconds. Hamilton made his pit stop at the end of Lap 27, allowing the Ferraris to climb back to second and third positions, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez now closely tailing Leclerc in fourth.

Soon after, Perez launched a daring attack on Leclerc at the Della Roggia chicane, but found himself squeezed by the Ferrari driver on the outside and unable to overtake. However, Perez got his redemption at the start of the following lap, utilizing the DRS along the main straight to breeze past the Ferrari, securing third place.

In another incident, Hamilton, locked in a heated contest with McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri for eighth place, collided with Piastri’s rear, causing damage to the McLaren’s front wing and compelling Piastri to make an unscheduled pit stop, ultimately terminating his race. Hamilton continued but was penalized with a five-second time penalty for causing the collision.

As the checkered flag loomed on the horizon, Verstappen’s Red Bull machine roared like a lion stalking at the foothills of greatness. Marching alongside a wave of orange hailing the Dutchman as the soon-to-be undeniable three-time champion, Max Verstappen carved his name into the chronicles of history, clinching his remarkable 10th consecutive victory, beating a record nine wins previously held by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. 

After Verstappen’s win, Perez finally overtook Sainz for second place, while Sainz valiantly fended off his teammate’s relentless pressure to finish third. Leclerc settled for fourth, with George Russell and Hamilton maintaining their fifth and sixth positions despite both incurring five-second post-race time penalties. William’s Alexander Albon continued his impressive season by holding off a relentless Lando Norris for seventh place, with Alonso taking ninth and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas rounding out the final-point position. 

The upcoming race on the Formula 1 calendar brings us to Singapore in two weeks. Before the race, Max Verstappen holds a commanding lead, sitting comfortably at 145 points ahead of second place, held by his teammate Sergio Perez, with 232 points still up for grabs in the championship.

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