Charles Leclerc began Ferrari’s home grand prix in pole position, his eighth of the year tying Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher’s record, but would not be able to deliver the victory in what would be an exciting race with a less than exciting finish.
After getting off to a strong start and maintaining his position at the front of the pack, Leclerc fell behind a surging Max Verstappen when Ferrari opted to take a cheap pit stop on lap 12 under a virtual safety car caused by Sebastian Vettel’s car losing power and stopping on the track.
This choice put Leclerc in the difficult position of managing his tires for the remainder of the race while other drivers would be able to stretch out their initial tire selection and pit more strategically. Verstappen was able to maintain his pace while pushing his first set of tires another sixteen laps before entering the pit lane, giving him a decisive advantage entering the second half of the race.
Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz rampaged through the field after starting in seventeenth due to grid penalties for new engine parts and looked in the early stages of the race to be on an inevitable path to a podium finish.
Meanwhile, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, also starting from the back due to engine penalties, had a far different starting experience than Sainz. Perez was forced to pit on only lap seven and accidentally set his brakes on fire in the process, coming into the pit lane too fast and needing to lay heavily on his brakes to slow down.
Perez was able to put the fire out after leaving the pit lane, mostly due to the long straights of Monza, which do not require as heavy utilization of the brakes as other tracks. Perez found himself in last, nearly twenty seconds off the next closest racer, and with a lot of work to do.
Max Verstappen’s race day pace proved to be the difference maker, as the Dutchman never looked back after the early pit stop by Leclerc. Having carved up the field after starting seventh due to engine penalties, Verstappen looked in championship form for the entirety of the race.
There was a brief moment of intrigue late as Mclaren’s Daniel Ricciardo came to an abrupt stop on the track due to a technical failure in his car. A safety car was deployed, slowing down the race and sending drivers diving into the pit lane for cheap pit stops. Each team opted for the fastest tires available in hopes of a potential showdown in the final laps after the safety car was called off the track.
However, Ricciardo’s car could not be easily removed from the track, and the race concluded under the slower pace of the safety car, much to the disappointment of the Ferrari faithful in attendance, who wanted to see Leclerc mount a final challenge to Verstappen on fresh, fast tires.
In the end, the race concluded with Verstappen winning his personal best eleventh race of the season and putting him in striking distance of the all-time single-season race victory record of thirteen. There are six races remaining in the 2022 season, and Verstappen could end the fight for the drivers championship at the next race in Singapore if he continues his current stretch of dominance.
Leclerc finished second, and Mercedes’ George Russell, who ran a solid and consistent race throughout, finished third.
Nick de Vries, who made his Formula 1 debut in relief duty for Alex Albon, who had surgery for appendicitis, finished in the points in ninth and received Driver of the Day honors for his efforts. De Vries became the 67th driver in Formula 1 history to score points in their debut.
The Singapore Grand Prix is next on the calendar, getting underway on October 2.