Round 8 of the 2020 F1 season comes from the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy, the ‘Temple of Speed’. New rules came into play this weekend but they were overshadowed by a thrilling race.
Firstly, the news for this week is that the Williams family are leaving F1 after 43 years. For more information on this, read my tribute to the Williams family later this week.
Two new rules were brought in this weekend. Firstly, cars will now have to use the same engine mode from the start of qualifying to the end of the race, meaning there is no ‘party mode’ for the Mercedes to turn up at the end of qualifying. This rule didn’t affect the grid positions this weekend but may have changed the starting tyre compound used by the top teams as they couldn’t use a slower tyre for their flying lap and compensate with a turned up engine.
Secondly, complaints about huge closing speeds during free practice has lead the F1 race director, Michael Masi, to remind the drivers about Article 27.4 of the Sporting Regulations. The cars cannot weave across the track to prevent overtaking without risk of being referred to the stewards. Additionally, a flying lap time from FP2 on Friday will be posted as the minimum lap time for FP3 and Qualifying on Saturday. A driver lapping slower than this during an out lap or warm up lap will be seen to be driving unnecessarily slowly, and therefore dangerously.
Hamilton set a new track record and the fastest lap time in F1 history to claim pole position with Bottas getting second, his first front row start in Monza. Sainz and Perez start on the second row, a good mix up compared to the usual two-by-two grid. The Ferraris started 13th and 17th at their home Grand Prix, the first time neither car has started in the top 10 since 1984.
The beginning of the race was nail-biting as twenty cars packed into a tight first and second corner chicane. Norris got off to an amazing start to gain three places while Verstappen dropped from 4th to 8th. Albon and Gasly battled at turn 1 and Albon had to run wide over the speed bumps, dropping from 9th to 15th. To add insult to his injury, Albon then received a 5-second time penalty for failing to leave a car width to the edge of the track when battling with Grosjean at turn 1 on lap 2.
The first retirement of the race came on lap 6 when Vettel ran straight on at turn 1 and barrelled through the polystyrene bollards due to brake failure – one Ferrari out at their home Grand Prix.
Retirement number 2 came on lap 20 when Magnussen pulled over just before the pit entry. The safety car was called out and Hamilton and Giovinazzi pit. Many other teams had their pit crew ready and waiting with tyres but the cars never turn up! It was then revealed that the pit lane was closed when the safety car was deployed – Hamilton’s and Giovinazzi’s stops were against the rules.
On lap 22, the pit lane opens and everyone else, except Stroll, pits. The McLaren’s double stack their cars beautifully but Perez has a slow stop.
The third retirement comes on 25 when Leclerc loses the backend around turn 11 and slams into the tyre barrier. He emerges unharmed and jogs back to the pit lane. Ferrari number two out at their home Grand Prix.
Hamilton and Giovinazzi are handed 10-second stop/go penalties during the red flag period, losing them at least 35 seconds and dropping them to last. Stroll, questionably, is allowed to change his tyres during the red flag period, so maintained his second position.
Hamilton climbed the grid having taken his penalty, emerging 30 seconds behind Gasly in the lead. He showed off his smooth overtaking skills and laps 1.5 seconds quicker than any other car to finish 7th with an extra point for fastest lap.
Sainz was catching Gasly but didn’t quite get close enough to gain DRS into the last lap. Gasly crosses the line to win the Italian Grand Prix in an Italian car. Sainz finished second, disappointed he didn’t win. Stroll finishes third, his second podium in F1. Williams, Alfa Romeo, Haas, Red Bull and Ferrari did not score a single point this weekend.
Well, where do I start?! That was the best race I can remember watching. Monza never fails to entertain with its long straights and tight chicanes. 86% of the track is done at full throttle, making it the fastest track on the calendar, and would’ve been the shortest race (time-wise) had a red flag not been issued.
The Ferrari cars were unlucky at this race to have a double DNF. At least the emotive Italian audience wasn’t present for this disappointment.
Closing the pit lane to move Magnussen’s car was a sensible decision but clearly wasn’t communicated to the teams very well. Replays show a red cross through the ‘SC’ LED display on turns 10 and 11 but there is no signage on entry to the pit lane. I think this will be changed for any future races.
Gasly’s win clearly means so much to him after a tough 18 months personally and he becomes the 109th different F1 Grand Prix winner and the first French winner since 1996. AlphaTauri will celebrate well; their first win since 2008 with Sebastian Vettel.
Holly’s driver of the day…and loser
Gasly is my driver of the day. His early pit stop could have hindered the rest of his race but the safety car call and red flag meant his could keep his top spot. He’s driven well since being demoted from Red Bull last year.
Bottas is my loser of the day. He had a poor start and struggled with engine temperatures so had to move out of the slipstream, which allowed the cars behind to close in. On the restart he failed to jump the McLaren’s and Alfa Romeo’s as fast as his teammate in an equally powered car would have. With Hamilton restarting the race from last after his penalty, this really was Bottas’ chance to rein in the championship but he pottered around remaining in 5th.