Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Grand Day for Gasly: AlphaTauri Driver Wins Memorable Italian GP

Luca Bruno - Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images

A race course celebrated for its age and speed, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is now known for a surreal 2020 Italian Grand Prix. After 53 laps, series of misadventures by Formula 1's currently established front-runners and some opportune placement by other entrants led to a very different podium topped by a surprising yet popular victor. 

The grid for the Italian Grand Prix assembled somewhat routinely for a 2020 Formula 1 with Lewis Hamilton on pole and Mercedes AMG teammate Valtteri Bottas starting beside him. Without any awareness for what will occur in this year’s Monza event, the race started with Hamilton shooting out to a major advantage. Bottas, on the other hand, struggled immediately on the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix falling to sixth place by the time the black Mercedes completed a full circuit around the track. The weak start by the #77 Mercedes AMG allowed the two McLaren cars of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo driving for Renault to make early gains. 

Photo Credit: LAT Images/Mercedes AMG

On lap 19, the race was slowed by a safety car period when the #20 Haas F1 Team machine driven by Kevin Magnussen stopped along the edge of the track ahead of the pit road. A power unit issue was cited as a reason for Ferrari-powered race car. Initially appearing as a simple recovery of a stopped vehicle, the safety car appearance ultimately reshaped the entire race. Entering the Parabolica turn just as the Mercedes-AMG GT R safety car was being deployed, leader Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes AMG team attempted to use the more than 14-second gap to make a pit stop. However, due to the full-course caution period, pit road was closed meaning Hamilton’s stop was against the rules. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was also caught pitting as the start of the safety car period. Both drivers were given a 10-second stop-and-go penalties in their pit stalls eventually being served on lap 30. 

Viewed as a home race for Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, the Monza, Italy circuit is seen as a venue of heightened pride where the squad has an additional incentive to perform. Unfortunately, this year’s grand prix performance for Ferrari was another situation compounding what has been an overall dreadful 2020 season; in fact, it required a very short time for the afternoon to go badly for the Ferrari team. After just six laps, the #5 car of Sebastian Vettel encountered massive brake system failure on track requiring to German to make an uneasy trip to pit road and retirement from the Italian Grand Prix one lap later. Charles Leclerc’s Monza race also came to a premature end only in more dramatic fashion than his teammate. Shortly after the race resumed under green after the safety car period to retrieve Kevin Magnussen’s car, the #16 Ferrari lost control through the turn 11 Parabolica corner and slammed hard into the barriers on lap 25. Escaping major injury, Leclerc was unable to defend his 2019 win at the grand prix.

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

The recovery of the crashed Ferrari and the repair to the track’s safety barrier required a red flag on the Monza track that span almost 30 minutes. A second standing start would be employed on lap 28 in order to send the race back to green with all teams were allowed to place new tires on their cars prior to the event’s resumption. Well-timed early pit stops by Pierre Gasly and Kimi Raikkonen elevated them up the racing order. Having not pitted in the Italian Grand Prix up to the second safety car period, Lance Stroll and the #18 Racing Point was granted the enviable grid position of starting alongside the Mercedes AMG of Lewis Hamilton who had yet to serve his penalty. Similar to Valtteri Bottas’ start in the second grid spot, Stroll has a terrible launch dropping from second to fifth place near the end of lap 28. 

From third place on the grid, the AlphaTauri in the hands of Pierre Gasly obtained second place just prior to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes attending pit road to serve his stop-and-go penalty. As Gasly maintained the lead of the Italian Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz Jr. would eventually pass Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo for second place. Although the Alfa Romeo Racing team was able to place Raikkonen in a runner-up position for lap 30, the red and white #7 car slid down the standings and would finish the race in the 13th place spot. 

Into the final laps, Sainz began to close on the leading AlphaTauri closing within a one-second on lap 52. With a gap of 0.415 seconds, Pierre Gasly held off the McLaren driver to win the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. 

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

The first-ever Formula 1 win for the 24-year-old Frenchman, Pierre Gasly comes in his third full season in the sport that included last year split between Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri). Ecstatically taking his first podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix last season, Gasly was on top of the world. The French driver was equally as emotional celebrating victory in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. Immediately following Pierre Gasly’s win, the news was greeted with resounding positivity from his fellow drivers and other teams. Rebranded from Toro Rosso this year to advertise energy drink company Red Bull’s fashion line, the AlphaTauri is now the third team that has found victory in the 2020 season in addition to Mercedes AMG and Red Bull Racing.  

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

One week after a Belgian Grand Prix where he wasn’t even able to start the main event due to an exhaust issue, Carlos Sainz Jr. narrowly missed scoring his first Formula 1 victory in Monza. “It’s obviously impossible to be too disappointed with P2, but I wanted that win!” Sainz stated in a post-race release from McLaren. Both McLaren drivers managed to complete the 53-lap race high in the finishing order as Lando Norris crossed the line in fourth place. McLaren believed a certain win may have existed for their team if not for the second safety car and red flag period that would have broke a winless streak stretching back to 2012.

Crossing the line in third place, Lance Stroll and Racing Point captured his second career podium finish in Formula 1 at the Italian Grand Prix while some analysts believe a higher position or perhaps a win would have been possible on the day. The 21-year-old Canadian cited considerable wheel spin on the second standing start as hindering a better result. The finish by Stroll is the first podium for the Racing Point team since the ownership consortium led by Lawrence Stroll purchased the operation from Force India in the middle of 2018.

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Unable to improve his position while in traffic, Valtteri Bottas settled for fifth place in the Italian Grand Prix. Used to leading, the usually dominant Mercedes AMG race cars appeared humbled. Dropped to the back of the running order after attending to his stop-and-go penalty, Lewis Hamilton would put on a worthwhile show as he charged back into the top 10. By the end of lap 53, the Brit was able to salvage a seventh place result. Hamilton still holds a commanding 47-point lead in the 2020 drivers’ standings after eight races. Bottas is now second place in the overall standings aided by Max Verstappen dropping out of the race after lap 30 when his Red Bull Racing car suffered a power unit problem. 

Renault F1 Team drivers finished favourably in Italy with Daniel Ricciardo taking sixth while Esteban Ocon took the chequered flag in eighth place. The final two top 10 spots in the Italian Grand Prix were claimed by AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. 

Finishing outside of the points, the Williams Racing team’s showing at Monza carried weight for being the final event that the organization would have found Sir Frank Williams as well as deputy team principal Claire Williams serving in an official capacity. Sold to an American-based investment firm, Williams Racing will continue to feature the team’s past glory including the name of its founder. Canadian Nicholas Latifi crossed the finish line at the Italian Grand Prix in 11th place while George Russell achieved a 14th place run. 

For what will be the third weekend in a row where Formula 1 cars will compete, the Tuscan Grand Prix on Italy’s Mugello Circuit will provide a unique, new competitive venue for the tour with a race scheduled on September 13th. 

2020 Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix
Race Results

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