2021 Italian GP Race Review – RICCIARDO WINS!!!

2021 Italian GP Race Review – RICCIARDO WINS!!!


I had to wait until I was calm enough before writing this race review. Otherwise, this post would be complete gibberish in all caps. I’m more than overjoyed that Daniel Ricciardo FINALLY returned to the top step of the podium. I’m so proud of McLaren for achieving a 1-2 finish, and that too purely on merit.

Even if Verstappen and Hamilton didn’t crash AGAIN and take each other out of the 2021 Italian GP, the McLaren drivers would’ve still achieved that 1-2. And by the way, this post would be EMPTY without my analysis and my opinion on that controversial clash between the 2 title rivals. That’s why there’s a proper segment of this post JUST for that.

Ferrari had an excellent home Grand Prix when compared to the absolute disasterclass for them at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. Although they seriously lacked pace, because Leclerc was running in P2 when the title rivals crashed. He fell to P5, which became P4 when Sergio Perez‘s 5-second time penalty was applied. We’ll look at why the Ferraris were flying high, and then they just dropped.

Valtteri Bottas pulled off a stunning race. He was showing promising pace in qualifying, he dominated Sprint Qualifying, and he made his way to the podium in the main race. For me, and for 28.6% of the voters, Bottas is the Driver of the Day. But 34.5% of voters for DOTD voted for Ricciardo, and I can understand why. He nailed that start and managed to handle the pressure of leading a race for the first time in 3 years.

Ricciardo Wins the 2021 Italian GP!

The last time McLaren won a race was when Jenson Button won the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. McLaren’s last 1-2 finish was at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton finished ahead of Jenson Button. It’s simply unbelievable how long McLaren have waited for this. The 2013 season was when McLaren’s painful downfall began. Since 2019, they’ve been rapidly rising through the ranks. And now here they are, with a 1-2 at the 2021 Italian GP.

Nobody even expected Ricciardo to take McLaren’s first victory in their new era. All eyes were on Lando Norris, who seemed to have taken more of a leadership role at McLaren. He was the driver who was consistently finishing in the Top 5 while Ricciardo struggled to get to grips with the McLaren F1 car. But at Monza, Ricciardo was simply flying, and that stellar performance is why this race is just so wholesome. And hopefully, it’s a sign of more wins to come soon.

If McLaren continues to show that they can handle high-pressure situations, and if Ricciardo has finally found his mojo in that McLaren, then things are looking bright for them. Things aren’t looking so good for Ferrari, however, and we’ll get into that later in this post. At Monza, McLaren just had so much pace, and they nailed their strategy too. Ferrari was lacking in the pace sector.

Things weren’t great for everyone, however. AlphaTauri had a dismal home race, which is hugely contrasting to their home race last year. Pierre Gasly retired on Lap 3 because of an unknown issue, and Yuki Tsunoda didn’t even make the start. Tsunoda had a brake issue that the AlphaTauri mechanics couldn’t resolve before the race start.

It was very unfortunate for the home team, especially after all of the joy and happiness that they experienced when Gasly won the 2020 Italian GP. Alfa Romeo‘s Antonio Giovinazzi also had an unfortunate home GP, as a spin on Lap 1 ruined his chances of scoring his first points in F1.

Haas, as usual, were dead last, although Nikita Mazepin retired from the race on Lap 42 because of a Power Unit issue. Their cars aren’t the only problem, however. The tension between Mick Schumacher and Mazepin had risen. It reached a serious boiling point at the 2021 Dutch GP. The two drivers nearly crashed on track in both qualifying and the race. At the 2021 Italian GP, the drivers did make contact.

On Lap 32, Mazepin was in dead last and was just behind his teammate. Down into the Della Roggia chicane, Mazepin tried to go for an overtake but ended up spinning his teammate around. Mazepin went for a massive divebomb and wasn’t really alongside Schumacher going into the chicane. Schumacher turned into the chicane, leaving some space to allow Mazepin to back out of the move.

But Mazepin didn’t back out, with his front-left tire tapping Schumacher’s rear-right and spinning Schumacher around. Mazepin later apologised for the mistake, and both drivers seemed more relaxed than they were in the Netherlands, showing that they’ve made progress in their relationship as teammates.

Before we get into Ferrari’s struggles, I want to take a moment to appreciate Williams Racing. George Russell‘s P9 finish was completely overshadowed by McLaren’s win and the championship leaders crashing. Nicholas Latifi finished in P11, which is also a great finish for the Canadian. Yes, other teams’ bad luck helped Williams, but Russell was sandwiched between the two Alpine drivers. The Alpine drivers were performing pretty well, and Russell could keep up with them. Now let’s take a look at why Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was running in 2nd place, but then fell down the order.

Ferrari’s Sweet-And-Sour Home Grand Prix

The 2021 Italian GP was a sweet-and-sour Home Grand Prix for Scuderia Ferrari

It was a bittersweet or sweet-and-sour home GP for Ferrari. The really sweet part is the fact that they finished 4th and 6th, which is MASSIVE progress. Last year, Ferrari faced a double-DNF. Vettel retired because of a brake failure, and Leclerc had a big crash a Parabolica. Ferrari wasn’t even in contention for points this time last year. And come to 2021, the Scuderia have made major improvements. The 2021 Italian GP was a real testament to the improvements that Ferrari have made.

But at the same time, this race was a fairly harsh reality check. Things worked out for Ferrari in the first half of the race, with Leclerc coming out of the pits in P2 because of the Safety Car. Norris and Ricciardo pit under normal racing conditions, but Leclerc pit under the Safety Car, which gained him a lot of time and a couple of positions. And what was even better was that when the Safety Car period ended, Leclerc would have fresher tires than the cars immediately ahead of him and behind him. PERFECT.

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there instead of uphill. Leclerc had already worked very hard to stick with Norris and Hamilton in the first stint, but he now had to use the opportunity that the Safety Car gave him. And that’s what he wasn’t able to do. Leclerc drove a very good race; he re-overtook Bottas before Bottas could properly get past him. Perez only got past Leclerc by cutting Turn 5. But the Ferrari that Leclerc was driving in just wasn’t good enough to achieve a podium at Monza.

Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz‘s race didn’t go as well as it could’ve gone. While Hamilton and Verstappen retiring should’ve given Sainz two positions. But Bottas and Perez’s charges up the order left Sainz back where he started. Sainz started in P6 and ended his race in P6. Still a great result, however, and he was able to maintain a good 5-second gap to Lance Stroll behind.

Now coming to the actual car, the SF21’s weaknesses and areas of improvement became clearer at the Italian GP. The Autodromo Internazionale Monza made these issues clearer and made the issues slightly worse. That’s why McLaren stormed to a 1-2, while Ferrari couldn’t make it on the podium. The first major issue is top speed. The Ferrari engine was a major weak point last year, and even though it’s much better this year, there’s still some ground to make up.

That explains why Charles Leclerc said that he struggled in the 3rd sector of the circuit and especially down into Turn 1. That 3rd sector is just the Ascari chicane going into the back straight, and then through Parabolica to the start/finish line. It’s all about engine power, and that’s why Leclerc struggled there. But there’s another aspect of that 3rd sector which is very important, and that’s traction.

Carlos Sainz elaborated about how in qualifying, he was more confident with the car since he was running on the soft tires. Those tires have a lot of grip, so he was able to get better traction understand the car better. But during the race runs, he was “sliding a lot” and “struggling with tire deg” in the end. Tire deg is tire degradation. This means the SF21 is lacking rear downforce because Sainz was complaining about the car sliding.

That must’ve worn out his tires, which is why he was struggling with tire degradation towards the end of the race. The lack of traction would’ve also ruined Leclerc’s run through Parabolica down into Turn 1, which explains his struggles into Turn 1. Surely Ferrari will take a detailed look at the data and use the drivers’ feedback to fix these issues. And hopefully, they can perform even better in the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

The Incident Between Verstappen And Hamilton – The Title Rivals Crash AGAIN

The 2021 F1 Season has truly been a gift from the F1 Gods because Verstappen and Hamilton have crashed into each other…AGAIN! We knew they were going to crash into each other at some point this season, and they already did that. At the 2021 British GP, Hamilton made contact with Verstappen which sent Verstappen into the barrier. Hamilton went on to win the race despite serving a 10-second time penalty, which further fueled the controversy of the incident.

But here at the 2021 Italian GP, Verstappen and Hamilton have taken each other out of the race. Both of them lost out, but in such a major incident, someone would have to be penalised. In the end, Verstappen received a 3-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix, which is the next race on the calendar. He also received 2 penalty points on his Super License. Before I get into why Verstappen was penalised and my opinion on who was at fault, we need to be clear on exactly what happened.

First of all, this incident wasn’t the first time they collided with each other during the 2021 Italian GP. On Lap 1, Lewis Hamilton got a flying start. He overtook Lando Norris around the outside at Turn 2. Through the Curva Grande, the Mercedes got a great run and he managed to pull alongside Max Verstappen. We were barely 30 seconds into the race, and we were at the edges of our seats. Into the Della Roggia chicane they went, with Ricciardo in the lead after overtaking Verstappen at the start.

Hamilton tried the move around the outside of Turn 4, but Verstappen gave him a good squeeze at the exit of Turn 4 leading into Turn 5. The Merc went off the track and cut Turn 5 legally since he hopped over the sausage kerbs and didn’t gain any advantage. Hamilton actually lost time, since Norris in the McLaren could get back past Hamilton. There was no investigation or penalty for that because Verstappen pretty much took the regular racing line. And Hamilton was locking up through Turn 4, so he wasn’t making the corner anyway. That Lap 1 battle was another reminder that the gloves are off.

After that, Hamilton and Verstappen didn’t really get near each other until Lap 26. On Lap 26, things weren’t going well for both Hamilton and Verstappen. Verstappen was ahead of Lando Norris before the pit window opened. On Lap 23, Verstappen pit off of his medium tires for a set of hard tires. Verstappen had an issue with one of his tires during the pitstop, which led to the pitstop lasting 11.1 seconds. It was a horrible stop, and it proved to be costly.

Norris pitted a lap after Verstappen, from a set of mediums onto a set of hards, but came out of the pits ahead of Verstappen. There’s your McLaren 1-2. It wasn’t a 1-2 yet, because a few drivers were yet to pit, so they were ahead of the actual leaders. But Verstappen had already lost out to Norris. On Lap 25, Hamilton had a 4.7-second stop, which cost him around 1.5 seconds or so. He was ahead of Norris before Norris pitted since Hamilton overtook Norris down into the Della Roggia chicane on Lap 23. When Hamilton came out of the pits, he came out side-by-side with Verstappen into Turn 1.

Hamilton immediately squeezed Verstappen to the outer edge of the track as the rivals turned into Turn 1. Lewis was a tire’s length ahead of Verstappen as he turned in for Turn 2. But Verstappen didn’t have enough space, and he couldn’t make the turn. His car mounted the massive Turn 2 curb, and his rear-right tire mounted Hamilton’s rear left, which sent Verstappen’s car flying over Hamilton’s car. The Red Bull then fell back down on top of the Mercedes. Both cars went off into the gravel trap and were out of the 2021 Italian GP.

It was quite a dangerous crash, and Verstappen’s rear-right tire actually pushed down on Hamilton’s crash helmet. The tire went over the rollover hoop, and the halo stopped the tire from completely damaging Hamilton’s head and neck. We must be thankful for the safety advances that the FIA and Formula 1 have made over the decades. These advances have made a dangerous sport safer for drivers and spectators.

While some, including Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, called this a racing incident. But I think that for a crash this big and for a crash that was slightly aerial, the stewards would have to penalise somebody. It wouldn’t make sense for a significant crash like this to go as a racing incident. Please note that the stewards penalise the drivers based on the incidents themselves, not the consequences of the incidents.

Verstappen surprisingly walked straight past Hamilton's car after the accident.

As I mentioned earlier, Verstappen received a 3-place grid penalty and 2 penalty points as a penalty for the incident. Here’s the stewards’ reasoning behind penalising Verstappen. They stated “at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44”, which is true.

The decision document also said “The Stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb. But further, the Stewards observed that Car 33 was not at all alongside Car 44 until significantly into the entry into Turn 1.

“In the opinion of the Stewards, this manoeuvre was attempted too late for the driver of Car 33 to have “the right to racing room”. While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the Stewards determined that his position was reasonable and therefore find that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the incident.”

It’s true that Verstappen made a very late move around the outside of Hamilton with some late braking heroics into Turn 1. But in my opinion, he made the move early enough and was far enough alongside Hamilton to have “the right to racing room”. Through Turn 1 he was already pushing to get past Hamilton. Even though the two drivers weren’t completely side-by-side, Verstappen was still significantly alongside.

They were battling for position, and when the chicane is as tight as the Rettifilo chicane, the drivers should give each other enough space. If Verstappen was 50% or maybe even 75% alongside Hamilton, I would completely agree with the stewards’ verdict and reasoning. But Verstappen was much further alongside Hamilton than that. In my informed opinion, Hamilton ran Verstappen into the sausage kerb at Turn 2.

Hamilton stated in the stewards’ hearing that Verstappen should’ve either gone across the sausage kerbs or backed out of the move completely. Look at the diagram above. You can see that by when Verstappen could tell that he might have to back out, it was too late. He couldn’t back out because he had nowhere to go.

He couldn’t go across the sausage kerb without causing a serious collision with Hamilton. Verstappen was already driving at a speed that would be in preparation for Turn 2. He didn’t expect that Hamilton would run him off the road, and Verstappen had every right to expect that. While I don’t agree with their decision and reasoning, the stewards know what they’re doing. The penalty isn’t that harsh, and which shows that the stewards also think it’s a close incident.

Although I’m leaning towards a racing incident being my verdict, I believe Hamilton is predominantly to blame for the incident. It’s extremely tight, but I think that Lewis shouldn’t squeeze someone off the track when it is that close and when the track is that tight. That is riskier and prompts an incident. But then again, a driver has some right to push another driver off the track. But because it’s more dangerous to do that at a chicane like the Rettifilo chicane, I think that Hamilton should’ve been awarded a light penalty for the incident.

Valtteri Bottas’s Remarkable Comeback

Valtteri Bottas made a remarkable comeback at the 2021 Italian GP.

At the 2021 Italian GP, we saw the Valtteri Bottas that we really haven’t seen enough of. We knew he had killer pace after qualifying and the Sprint race, but we didn’t know he would slice through the field as he did on Sunday. He won the sprint race but started last because of engine penalties. It was disappointing for the Finn since he had some serious pace. But that disappointment flew away faster than an F1 car flying down the main straight at Monza. Bottas went from P20 to P3 at Monza, which is just incredible.

Just before the 2021 Dutch GP, Valtteri announced that he is going to leave Mercedes and go to Alfa Romeo in 2022. At the Dutch GP, Bottas didn’t have a good race since his strategy bombed. But in Italy, he was a completely different monster. As I mentioned earlier, Bottas is my Driver of the Day, because he absolutely nailed that race.

Bottas was making overtakes left, right and centre. By Lap 12, Bottas was in P12, which is already 8 positions gained. Actually, 7 positions; Bottas started 19th because Tsunoda didn’t start the race. 3 laps later and Bottas was into the points-paying positions, where he approached a harder challenge, since drivers in the Top 10 may not be as easy to overtake.

The Safety Car period worked out brilliantly for Bottas. His strategy was such that his pit window was during the Safety Car. He only pit once during the race, from the hards to the mediums. He pit on Lap 26, which is the lap Hamilton and Verstappen crashed and brought out the Safety Car. So when the Safety Car came back in, Bottas was in P6, racing on a fresh set of medium tires, while everyone else was on the hards. It was a perfect situation.

Bottas used that to his advantage and started making some overtakes. He took a lap or two to get past Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari. Then Sergio Perez got past Leclerc for P3, but Perez received a 5-second penalty for making the overtake illegally. So Bottas was in P5, which was technically P4. At the moment, Leclerc had a podium in his hands. On Lap 33, the exhilarating battle took place between Bottas and Leclerc.

Bottas got past Leclerc at Turn 2, because Leclerc ran off the track to keep his position. That meant that Leclerc had to give the position to Bottas because you can’t gain an advantage by going off the track. So Bottas had P3 in the bag. Or did he? Down into the Della Roggia chicane, Leclerc got past Bottas by braking later and surprisingly retained the position. Unfortunately for Ferrari, Bottas overtook Leclerc into Turn 1 on Lap 34, which crushed Ferrari’s hopes for a podium at the 2021 Italian GP.

Another battle ensued with Bottas in it, although this time, Bottas was fighting Perez for the podium on track. Bottas didn’t risk it too much, since he knew about the penalty, but it always feels better to get a position on track. This was on Lap 43, and Bottas couldn’t get past Perez into Turn 1. So he optimised his exit out of Turn 2, got a good run through Turn 3, and tried a move around the outside into Turn 4. He ran too wide, and Perez switchbacked him through Turn 5. Fair play to Checo for making that all-satisfying switchback stick! But in the end, despite his tires going off, Bottas stayed within 5 seconds of Perez and scored that wonderful podium.

Bottas was actually very confident coming into the 2021 Italian GP. He said “I told the Team that I was going to be on the Podium today so I am glad we did. A great recovery from me, I don’t think I’ve made up that many places in a race in my career. Starting from the back is never easy, and in the end, I am glad we got more points than Red Bull today, especially considering where we were before the race.

“It was enjoyable out there, some good overtakes and some good racing. The battle with Perez was a good one and I am very happy with my result. Probably one of my better weekends with Mercedes, I think I was strong all weekend so that is very satisfying. Obviously, it is a shame about the crash with Lewis and Max – we lost some important points there. I haven’t really seen the incident properly yet but I am glad to hear he is ok. Now we need to look ahead and I hope to carry this momentum into Russia, a track where I’ve done well in the past.”

This is the end of the race review; Bottas pulled a great comeback, while Ferrari didn’t exactly have the best race. That controversial incident is, in my opinion, Hamilton’s fault by a very slim margin. Stay safe, stay on the lookout for new posts, and enjoy F1ntastic!

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