Max Verstappen won the 2023 Italian Grand Prix, overcoming the spirited if futile resistance of Ferrari to claim a record 10th consecutive victory in Formula 1.
Having been narrowly beaten to pole position by Carlos Sainz at Monza, Verstappen had to either fight his way past or wait patiently for a strategic move in the pits, in what was widely anticipated to be a one-stop race.
Having failed to beat Sainz away from the start line, Verstappen slotted into second place and plotted his next move.
Ferrari’s low-drag set-up for this track, helping it claim pole for only the second time this season, was expected to carry a penalty of rear tyre degradation in the race – and so it proved.
Having held Verstappen off into Turn 1, Sainz was unable to drop the Red Bull in the early laps. “He’s already sliding a bit,” Verstappen reported gleefully to his team. Red Bull simply told its driver to “keep it sensible”.
With DRS enabled, Verstappen decided he could wait no longer and launched an attack into the first chicane at the start of lap six of 51.
Sainz defended the inside line then gently choked off Verstappen’s space in the middle of the first chicane as Verstappen tried to hang on around the outside of the Ferrari.
Verstappen complained Sainz’s defence was “naughty” but in truth Verstappen was never far enough alongside the Ferrari to warrant kinder treatment.
Sainz settled down for a spell and Verstappen appeared to become frustrated, telling his team “they have a lot of top speed for f*** sake” as Ferrari’s prodigious straightline speed looked potentially capable of repelling Red Bull even without the aid of DRS for Sainz.
But Red Bull insisted “he’s struggling with the rear Max – a lot…” and that proved to be Sainz’s undoing.
Visibly struggling for grip as the stint wore on, Sainz snatched a brake defending the inside line into the first chicane at the start of lap 15, which allowed Verstappen a run through the Curva Grande.
Ferrari’s straightline speed allowed Sainz to edge ahead slightly as they approached the second chicane but Verstappen had superior track position on the inside line.
Once into the lead, Verstappen scampered away while Sainz soon headed to the pits to get rid of his “finished” medium compound Pirelli tyres.
That triggered pitstops for the rest of the leading group, Red Bull covering that move by bringing Verstappen in but electing to leave fourth placed Sergio Perez out for an extra lap rather than risk a double-stack.
Verstappen held onto his lead through the pitstop phase then cruised to a 6s win while the Ferraris came under pressure from Perez during the second half of the race.
The second Red Bull spent the first part of this race fighting to get past George Russell’s Mercedes. After a couple of half-hearted looks into the first chicane, both cars went off the track as Perez tried again to pass around the outside – the Red Bull finally emerging ahead.
“He pushed me off!” Perez complained, but Perez had outbraked himself in truth so had to hand the position back. However, by lap 16 Perez was ahead for good, passing Russell easily down the inside into the first chicane with the aid of DRS.
After the pitstops, Perez launched several similar attacks on Leclerc’s Ferrari. At one point, Perez almost rear-ended Leclerc into the second chicane as Leclerc’s defence of third place looked increasingly desperate and futile.
Heading towards the first chicane at the start of lap 32, Perez managed to motor easily around the Ferrari before setting off in pursuit of Sainz, bringing Leclerc with him.
Sainz put up another spirited defence – against Perez’s Red Bull this time. On a couple of occasions Perez got ahead by cutting the first chicane, so was forced to hand the position back. Perez complained Sainz was “moving really late under braking” and “not leaving any room” in the corner.
But with six laps to go Perez managed to get ahead of the Ferrari before the braking zone into Turn 1, allowing Red Bull to complete a 1-2 finish.
The two Ferraris then battled hard for the final podium spot in the closing laps, almost colliding as Leclerc briefly got ahead going into the Curva Grande only for Sainz to come back past on the inside at the second chicane.
Sainz pleaded with Ferrari to let its drivers “bring this home” by calling off Leclerc, but the team decided (pleasingly) to let them have at it – asking only for “no risk” (ie race to the end but don’t hit each other).
Leclerc had a few good goes but Sainz clung on desperately. Leclerc almost rear-ended Sainz into the first chicane on the final lap as an attempted feint to the outside, dive to the inside then switch back to the outside line almost went catastrophically wrong – but disaster averted, Leclerc had to settle for fourth, less than two tenths behind his team-mate at the flag.
Russell finished fifth for Mercedes, despite a five-second penalty for forcing Esteban Ocon’s Alpine off the circuit at Turn 1 after Russell misjudged his own car’s deceleration coming into the chicane out of the pits.
Ocon later retired while Zandvoort podium finisher Pierre Gasly finished a lowly 15th on a disastrously off the pace weekend for the Alpine team.
Lewis Hamilton was also penalised five seconds for needlessly clouting Oscar Piastri’s McLaren while overtaking it into the second chicane, but after running an alternative hard/medium tyre strategy on his Mercedes Hamilton had sufficient pace in the closing laps to negate the penalty.
Alex Albon drove another impressive defensive race to claim seventh place for Williams, ahead of Lando Norris – who was lucky to survive his right-rear wheel being clouted heavily by his McLaren team-mate Piastri at the first chicane, after Piastri exited the pits and the two came together in the middle of the corner.
Fernando Alonso recovered from a difficult start, falling behind Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas and out of the top 10 for seven laps before picking up two points for Aston Martin in ninth, while Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10 for Alfa Romeo after taking the benefit of the Hamilton/Piastri incident forcing Piastri into the pits for a new front wing and then escaping a clash with Logan Sargeant.
Piastri was also penalised five seconds for leaving the track while passing Liam Lawson’s AlphaTauri during Piastri’s late recovery drive. Piastri finished 12th (with fastest lap) after his extra pitstop, behind the second Williams of Sargeant which finished 11th on the road but was penalised five seconds for causing the collision with Bottas so dropped to 13th in the final classification.
That promoted Lawson to 11th. His was the only AlphaTauri in the race after Yuki Tsunoda’s car suffered engine failure on the formation lap, leading to an aborted start and a one-lap reduction in the race distance.
|Pos||Name||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||51||0||1h12m13.618s||1m25.24s||1||25|
|2||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||51||0||+1m33.589s||1m25.522s||1||18|
|9||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||51||0||+2m13.819s||1m26.105s||1||2|
|10||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||51||0||+2m31.581s||1m25.988s||1||1|
|11||Liam Lawson||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||51||0||+2m38.163s||1m25.842s||2||0|
|14||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||51||0||+2m47.689s||1m25.983s||2||0|
|16||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||51||0||+2m54.791s||1m26.617s||1||0|
|17||Nico Hülkenberg||Haas-Ferrari||50||0||+1 lap||1m25.894s||2||0|
|18||Kevin Magnussen||Haas-Ferrari||50||0||+1 lap||1m26.278s||2||0|
|Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||0||0||DNS||0s||0||0|