Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix as McLaren managed a one-two finish as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the race.
Heading into the Italian Grand Prix, the 2021 F1 championship was poised on a knife-edge. Lewis Hamilton, the reigning champion, was trailing Max Verstappen by three points. In the sprint race just before the main race, Hamilton’s team-mate Valterri Bottas won the event. Max Verstappen secured pole position to extend his lead by five points. But, on race day, everything came crashing down for both the championship contenders.
On lap 26 out of the 53, Hamilton and Verstappen were side-by-side on the sausage curve in Turn 1. Hamilton was just coming out of the pitlane and down the straight when Verstappen was barreling down. At the turn, Verstappen was launched off the curve as he did not have that much room. He crashed into Hamilton and both the championship contenders were out of the race. That allowed the other drivers to go for glory in Monza. In the end, Daniel Ricciardo, driving for McLaren Mercedes, secured his first win since 2018. To make it a great day for McLaren, Lando Norris finished in second to make it a historic 1-2.
At the start of the race, Verstappen, who was on pole, was passed by Ricciardo at the sausage curve. To make matters worse, Hamilton passed Norris to get into the third position. The British driver was now pushing hard to get Verstappen. At the De La Roggia chicane, Hamilton and Verstappen were side-by-side. But, Hamilton ran wide after having contact with Verstappen and dropped down.
After that incident, Hamilton and Norris were having a great fight. However, things changed dramatically in the pitstops. Verstappen came in but due to some issue, the pit crew took 11.1 seconds for the stop. Verstappen dropped down the field and at the same time, Hamilton passed Norris to ensure he took the lead. When Hamilton pitted on lap 26, the Mercedes team took 4.2 seconds.
Hamilton came back on the track but Verstappen was coming down the straight. At the first sausage curve, disaster struck as Verstappen bounced off the curb and crashed into Hamilton. Had it not been for the halo, Hamilton would have suffered some injuries. Both drivers went off and the safety car came out.
After the safety car came in, Ricciardo remained in the lead but Norris passed Charles Leclerc to move into second. Sergio Perez tried to make a move on Leclerc at the De La Roggia chicane and bounced off the curb. He came back on the track but refused to give the position back to the Ferrari driver. This resulted in Perez getting a five-second time penalty.
Bottas, on the other hand, was having a quiet race. The winner of the sprint race sprang into action towards the end as he passed Leclerc on lap 34 to get into fourth position. But, Ricciardo and Norris were in the zone as they cruised to a McLaren 1-2 at Monza. Perez crossed the line in third position but due to the time penalty, he dropped to fifth. Bottas came onto the podium and it was a great race for a driver who confirmed he was exiting Mercedes after the end of the year.
After the race, Ricciardo remarked on his emotions. “It means everything. I definitely try not to make, or dictate, my life happiness around the sport because it’s been three-and-a-half years since I won so I’d be pretty miserable most of the time if I just based my happiness on winning races. It’s just wild… but deep down I never lost faith or the belief and I think I needed to step back and that’s where I think having some time off in August helped, and I truly think that helped this weekend, to get to this position,” Ricciardo said.
The next race is in Russia but already, Verstappen has a disadvantage as he has suffered a three-place grid penalty for the crash he caused with Verstappen.