AGENCIES, Monza: It was a Sunday that Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton will not forget so easily. It was also a race that saw spills, thrills and major upsets at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. A quick look at what happened before and after.
Hamilton was quite comfortable with free practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and along with colleagues and rivals enjoyed the outcome. His Mercedes team couldn’t prevent the Briton from setting the fastest lap in Formula 1 history for the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. Hamilton averaging 164.267mph around Monza to secure his record-extending seventh pole position at the track.
What did make Hamilton’s pole satisfying was the fact that the Mercedes team were able to demonstrate their dominance despite a strict technical directive from the FIA which prevented teams using more powerful ‘party modes’ in qualifying – with Hamilton nonetheless ending up over eight-tenths faster than McLaren’s Carlos Sainz in P3.
No one could have predicted that the day would progress and end like this. The first five laps saw a lot of action that basically gave an indication of how the final race order would look like. Hamilton made a perfect getaway from pole, while Carlos Sainz’s launch was superb as he comfortably overtook Valteri Bottas of Mercedes to claim second into Turn 1. Behind, Sainz’s team mate Lando Norris was even more impressive, snaking through the pack from sixth on the grid to run side by side with Bottas through the first chicane.
He ultimately had to cede to the Finn, but took the outside line into the second chicane and sensationally claimed P3 from the Mercedes, with Sergio Perez nearly nipping through as well. By Lap 20, Hamilton had built a 13sec lead over Sainz, while the Spaniard built his own cushion of over 4sec to Norris.
Bottas’ fortunes would get worse in the next few corners, Perez getting Bottas a few corners down the road at Lesmo 2, while Ricciardo had demoted Bottas to sixth with a lunge down the inside of the entry into Ascari.
Fortunes drastically changed when the Safety Car was brought out to facilitate Kevin Magnussen’s stricken Haas had to be removed. Hamilton missed the sign and drove into the pit lane when it was closed (as did Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi), he was handed his costly penalty – which he served after the race was restarted on Lap 28 of 53, following a 25-minute red flag period after Charles Leclerc crashed heavily at the Parabolica.
The race was green-flagged again on Lap 24 of 53, with Hamilton leading out front after the pit stops. Leclerc quickly moved past the Alfa pair to take P4 but sadly he wasn’t able to complete the lap due to a mechanical problem at the Parabolica and counter-steering, before the SF1000 snapped back and ploughed into the outside wall. Leclerc emerged unhurt.
There was no option for the stewards but to red flag the race, and as the drivers pulled into the pits and hopped out of their cars. At this point, Hamilton was handed a 10-second stop/go penalty for his pit lane transgression.
The race saw AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly claim a maiden Formula 1 win from the McLaren of Carlos Sainz and the Racing Point of Lance Stroll, as a transgression under the Safety Car saw polesitter Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton forced to serve a 10-second stop/go penalty, resulting him in a disappointing seventh position.
In short, Sunday wasn’t great for Mercedes or Red Bull and just awful for Ferrari. The closing scenario of the day’s proceedings was like this: The Italian national anthem rang out over the sobbing AlphaTauri mechanics, Carlos Sainz, a future Ferrari driver took an incredible career-best second place and as a disbelieving Pierre Gasly sat on his own on the podium, swigging champagne and reflecting on a maiden F1 victory at the end of a tumultuous 18 months with the team.