Max eighth at the Italian GP: 'Race pace was good, but we were unlucky'

Published on 08 September 2019 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen finished eighth fastest at the Italian Grand Prix, which the Dutchman had to start from the back because of an engine change. An additional pit stop, due to a damaged front wing, immediately after the start, dropped the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-driver further down the field. Charles Leclerc managed to convert his pole into a victory; a reason for great joy for the tifosi in Ferrari-territory. Lewis Hamilton was forced to acknowledge defeat after a fierce battle with Leclerc and dropped back after a small mistake even behind team mate Valtteri Bottas, who thus took the flag in second.

Max explains what happened in the opening stages of the race: “After the start the field bunched up quite suddenly. I steered to the left, but unfortunately clipped Perez’ rear tyre. That’s the reason I had to pit on the first lap.” The youngster was pretty happy about his race pace, he says: “After that, it went pretty well. I was able to move up through the traffic, but got stuck behind of Perez. It was also unlucky that after my pit stop the virtual safety car was engaged. I lost about twelve seconds with that, which was a pity. It wasn’t really our race. But regarding the race pace, we were quite well.”

“This wasn’t our best result, but when you are starting from the back of the track, where other teams are actually quicker, it’s quite difficult. Even more so when you get stuck behind a car that is very fast on the straight.” Looking ahead to the coming races, Max says: “I hope to have a decent start at the front, so I won’t get bunched up again.”

Max starts the Monza race on the medium tyres, while the top-eleven gets underway on the softs. When the lights are out, Max opts for a more mild start for the first couple of meters on the track. As the rest of the field hit the brakes very hard in front of him, Max clips Perez’ rear tyre. A broken front wing forces the Dutchman to his first pit stop, after which he continues on; 41 second off the pace of the leader.

Having maintained his lead, polesitter Leclerc is ahead of Hamilton and Bottas. Nico Hulkenberg has gotten well off the line and has overtaken both Renault team mate Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel. But Vettel comes back a lap later and takes back P4 from Hulkenberg. Not much later, Ricciardo also overtakes the German. Alexander Albon is fighting Carlos Sainz and overtakes the Spaniard, but is forced on to the gravel and drops back to P11.

On lap six, Vettel spins and rejoins very dangerously. In doing so he hits Lance Stroll and damages his own front wing. This also causes Stroll to spin, while he himself also impedes Pierre Gasly when trying to get back in the race. Apart from a pit stop and a new front wing, the result of Vettel’s action is also a ten-second stop & go-penalty. Stroll is slapped with a drive through-penalty.

Max’ push forward is not going as desired due to the issues he had on the first lap. After ten laps the Dutchman overtakes Robert Kubica for P17. Five laps later, he overtakes Kimi Raikkonen and is fifteenth fastest. Three laps later, he makes little work of Gasly and Max is now running in P13.

After twenty laps, Hamilton is the first one to pit from the front runners. He switches to the mediums and forces Leclerc to stop one lap later. But the Monegasque opts for the harder compound, white-striped tyres. Aften then, a beautiful battle unfolds between Hamilton and Leclerc. The latter is forced to defend heavily as Hamilton misses the apex and the Ferrari-driver is given a black and white flag.

The duo overtake both Renaults while still engaged a fierce battle. When Bottas has done his pit stop, the order of the drivers is as follows: Leclerc, Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. Max has overtaken Lando Norris on lap 22 and is now running in tenth. Six laps later he does his second pit stop and heads back out on the mediums, he drops back from P9 to P13.

We see Daniil Kvyat pull over trackside with mechanical issues and Max gain another position at the cost of Gasly. Even Norris is not spared and Max is, with twenty laps remaining, running in ninth. The fight for the lead is in full swing again when Leclerc misses the apex on lap 36. The Ferrari-driver however, manages to fend off Hamilton’s onslaught.

On lap 41, Verstappen overtakes Giovinazzis Alfa Romeo for P8. We also see Hamilton lock up at the first chicane, causing the Briton to drop back to third place, behind of Bottas. With that, every bit of feistiness has been taken away from the battle for the win.

Max has, by then, running for quite some time in Sergio Perez’s wake, but the race pace is way too high for him to overtake the Mercedes driven Racing Point. With still three laps to go, Hamilton pits for a new set of softs, aiming to claim the extra point for the fastest lap. In which he succeeds.

Leclerc wins the Italian race in front of his Ferrari-home crowd, ahead of both Mercedes’ (Bottas and Hamilton). Renault has done well with Ricciardo and Hulkenberg in fourth and fith. Albon takes the sixth spot in his Red Bull, ahead of Perez and Verstappen (P8).

Results Grand Prix Italy:

1Charles LeclercLECFerrari531:15:26.66525
2Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes53+0.835s18
3Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes53+35.199s16
4Daniel RicciardoRICRenault53+45.515s12
5Nico HulkenbergHULRenault53+58.165s10
6Alexander AlbonALBRed Bull Racing Honda53+59.315s8
7Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes53+73.802s6
8Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda53+74.492s4
9Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari52+1 lap2
10Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault52+1 lap1
11Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda52+1 lap0
12Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes52+1 lap0
13Sebastian VettelVETFerrari52+1 lap0
14George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes52+1 lap0
15Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari52+1 lap0
16Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari52+1 lap0
17Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes51+2 laps0
0Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari43DNF0
0Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda29DNF0
0Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault27DNF0