AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took a sensational victory in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, beating McLaren’s Carlos Sainz over the finish line by just four-tenths in a thrilling race that will be remembered for some time!
It was a podium that didn’t include a ‘top three’ team as Racing Point’s Lance Stroll finished third, just three seconds down on the battle for the lead.
This was a race F1 fans needed and won’t forget with action throughout the entire field, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton finishing down in seventh after serving a stop/go penalty.
Hamilton led from pole position and looked comfortable as he opened an early lead. It was a poor start however for Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who dropped down to sixth on the opening lap.
The Finn had a compromised start, allowing Sainz to quickly move from third to second, swiftly followed by team-mate Lando Norris, Sergio Perez and then Daniel Ricciardo.
Bottas struggled for pace throughout, even reporting a puncture such was the performance deficit to those around him, only for the team to inform him everything was fine. He would go on to finish fifth.
Alexander Albon also endured a poor start as he tangled with eventual race winner Gasly at Turn 1, forcing him to run wide and drop back to 15th. The incident was noted, but no further action was taken.
Albon was later handed a five-second penalty for failing to leave space for Haas’ Romain Grosjean, as he forced the Frenchman onto the grass a few laps later.
The race had settled down, but the action hadn’t even begun as first Kevin Magnussen ground to a halt on Lap 20 at the exit of the Parabolica, forcing a Safety Car.
Leader Hamilton would dive into the pits, but unbeknownst to him, the pit lane was closed by the race director due to the proximity of Magnussen’s stranded Haas.
Only Antonio Giovinazzi would make the same mistake, with both drivers put under investigation and throwing a comfortable victory for Hamilton into doubt.
The race was restarted on Lap 24, only for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to crash heavily on the next tour. The Monegasque racer went off at speed into the Parabolica tyre wall, but was able to extricate himself.
However heavy damage to the tyre wall forced a red flag and set the race up for a second half of pure drama and emotion, leaving every F1 fan smiling from ear-to-ear.
Italian GP – Take II
Under the rules, the race would see a standing restart with the grid reforming in the following order; Hamilton, Stroll, Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Sainz, Norris, Bottas, Nicholas Latifi, Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez, George Russell, Albon and Grosjean.
But as the grid reformed, the message flashed across the screens: A ten-second stop/go penalty for Hamilton and Giovinazzi.
Hamilton would lead at the restart, but just for a single lap as he dived into the pitlane to server his penalty. That would hand the lead to Gasly, who passed Stroll at Turn 1.
Hamilton would drop to the very back of the field, with a 23-second gap to the next car (Albon). The Briton recovered well to finish seventh and to continue his points-scoring streak.
A mistake for Stroll at the restart saw him drop behind Raikkonen and Sainz. Alfa Romeo didn’t have the pace to remain at the front and Raikkonen quickly dropped down the order, with Sainz elevated to second place, but four seconds behind Gasly with ten laps left.
The McLaren driver quickly reeled the Frenchman in, but with four laps to go, couldn’t close to within a second – DRS range – until the very final lap, with the pair crossing the line split by just four-tenths!
Stroll was a comfortable third, followed by Norris who managed to hold a lacklustre Bottas off for several laps to claim fourth.
Gasly’s victory means he’s the first French winner since Olivier Panis’ victory at the 1996 Monaco GP.
It also meant the Italian national anthem rung out around Monza for the second year in a row, though not for Ferrari which suffered an embarrassing double retirement, with Vettel losing his brakes.