F1 Italian GP 2021: Verstappen Vs Hamilton, the new Senna Vs Prost?

Hamilton Vs Verstappen, Senna Vs Prost 30 years on?

The F1 driver’s title protagonists, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, like Silverstone, the last race where we had a sprint qualifying event, collided at turn one on lap 26, this time, both drivers were out of the race.  Meanwhile, McLaren claimed a 1 — 2 finish, their first win in nine years, as incredible as that sounds, and it was Daniel Ricciardo who led Lando Norris home, for his first win since Monaco 2018.

I’m so happy to see McLaren back at the top, even if it’s just one race, it’s crazy to think that a multiple title-winning team like McLaren has not been on the top step of the podium since Brazil 2012 when Jenson Button won the race. Daniel Ricciardo has been struggling since he joined McLaren, being outdriven by his young teammate, Lando Norris, but today, Daniel won the race on merit, he got a better start than Verstappen to lead from the first corner, where he stayed for the entire race. And for good measure, his McLaren had pace in hand, as he claimed an extra point for fastest lap on the final lap.

McLaren stablemate, Lando Norris took full advantage of the restart after the safety car caused by the collision between Hamilton and Verstappen. Norris got better drive out of Variante del Rettifilo, to overtake Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the inside of Curva Grande to make it a McLaren 1 — 2.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas had a stormer of a race, after qualifying on pole, by winning the sprint “race” on Saturday afternoon, he took an engine penalty to start from the back of the field, which put Verstappen on pole. It was a supreme drive from the Finnish driver,  there was a time during the race where he was 1.5 seconds a lap faster than the race leaders, but Red Bull’s Sergio Perez put a stop to Bottas’ charge, but ultimately stood on the podium as Perez was handed a five-second time penalty for overtaking Leclerc while off track, the stewards judged “Car 11 left the track in turn 5 and gained a lasting advantage“.

Briton, George Russell, who was announced as teammate for Lewis Hamilton for 2022 at Mercedes earlier in the week impressed again, despite being out-qualified by Williams teammate, Nicolas Latifi, finished two places ahead of Latifi to claim 2 points for himself and Williams, finishing in ninth place. With Russell taking Bottas’ seat at Mercedes, the Finn will replace the retiring Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo for 2022, that’ll definitely be an adjustment after driving for the leading team for the past 5 years.

I’m looking forward to seeing what George can do at Mercedes against Hamilton, it has been reported that Russell has been promised he will receive equal treatment, but we’ll see how that works out. Hamilton claims he relishes a challenge for the win, but in my opinion, he’s a whiny bitch, we’ve seen it this season with the challenge from Verstappen, George will be more of a challenge than Bottas, for sure!

Time to get to the meat of the story and title of my write-up, the collision that ended the race for both Verstappen and Hamilton at turn 2. Let’s start with the red mist for Verstappen, the Dutchman was displeased after his pitstop was significantly delayed, spending 11 seconds stationary in his pit box, causing him to drop to the lower ranks of the top 10 after running in second before entering the pits.

Red Bull’s slow stop is what brought the title rivals wheel to wheel at the first chicane, Hamilton leaving the pitlane, while Verstappen was at full speed approaching the end of the main straight into Variante del Rettifilo. Verstappen was very late on the brakes to be alongside Hamilton as the pair went into turn 1, Verstappen was forced onto the sausage curbs, which launched the Red Bull into Hamilton’s Mercedes, ending in the Red Bull flying over the top of Hamilton’s Mercedes, taking out his roll hoop camera, before hitting Hamilton’s halo, which almost certainly saved Hamilton’s life in today’s scary incident.

I personally, like all the former racing drivers on the Sky Sports F1 team, called it a racing incident, but the stewards decided otherwise, putting the majority of the blame on Verstappen for making the overtake attempt too late. Like the incident at Silverstone, which I also thought was a racing incident, when going wheel to wheel, contact is always a possibility, health & safety F1 is ruining the spectacle once more.

The punishment for Verstappen is a 3 place grid penalty for the next race in Russia. Which, I believe to be disproportionate, given that Hamilton took out Verstappen at Silverstone, got a 10-second time penalty, and continued on to win the race, while Verstappen was in the barrier with a destroyed car, also costing him a power unit, which teams only have three of for the 2021 season before penalties are issued.

For sure, this is only going to escalate, much like the Senna — Prost battles in the late 80s, hence the title I chose. What concerns me is the stewards and their decision-making. If anything, the track design with the sausage curbs was the reason for the collision, when Lewis squeezed Max, it was the sausage curb that launched the Red Bull into the Mercedes. If those sausage curbs were not there, Verstappen probably would have taken the lead, and would have needed to yield back the position to avoid a penalty. This is a racing incident, two drivers racing hard, coming together into a tight chicane.

What gets me is that the stewards said in their ruling, that Hamilton “could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident”, which in my opinion puts equal blame on the Briton, racing incident. I wish that the FIA would let drivers race, crashes happen, stop ruining the spectacle that Formula 1 should be.

Ending this write-up on a positive note, well done Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, and the entire McLaren F1 team, it’s amazing to see the woking based team back on the top step of the podium, it’s been way too long since the last occurrence. Also, well done George Russell and Williams, I have always had a soft spot for Williams, despite George leaving for Mercedes at the end of the season, I hope that Williams, under new ownership, can continue to improve to become a front-running team once again, it was painful seeing the Grove based team languishing down at the rear of the field as an also-ran.

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