Italy presents us with a strong, unexpected argument for a reverse grid as Pierre Gasly wins in Monza

Benvenuti a Monza! We’re here and we’ve settled in for two weeks of exciting racing in Italy, but should we have come? Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari might like to weigh in on that one.

The Italian Grand Prix was the first weekend where the teams were no longer permitted to use their ‘party-mode’ engine modes, typically used in qualifying by certain teams to boost their chances of a better lap time.

At the start of the race it was a tale of two halves for the two Mercedes drivers, as Hamilton got yet another great start off the line, gliding into first place unchallenged as Bottas got swallowed up by the pack. McLaren had an excellent start with Sainz quickly taking 2nd position, and his team-mate Lando Norris overtaking a struggling Bottas going through the first and second Lesmos, which is testament to McLaren’s progress in recent years.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Bottas was quickly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, putting the Renault driver into 5th, and pushing Bottas down to 6th. Bottas was quick to report a possible puncture but chose not to pit. Bottas’ race engineer, Ricciardo Musconi, confirmed there were no issues with his tyres, but Bottas still looked to be struggling as he was overtaken by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen through the Parabolica.

It was a sorry start for the home favourites Ferrari, who qualified in 13th and 17th. Just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sebastian Vettel reported brake failure on lap four, smashing through the foam barriers at the end of the pit straight and limping his way back to the pits, where the car was retired for the second time this season.

Ferrari’s hopes were then pinned on Leclerc, who didn’t appear to be having the same issue but didn’t really seem to be having a much better race. Hope was quickly abandoned after a a shocking crash going into the Parabolica, where the Ferrari ploughed into the tyre wall, bringing out the safety car for the second time and red flagging the session. Leclerc’s crash athough dramatic, proved exactly how valuable the halo truly was, as he was able to get out of the car and run from the scene unscathed. All this in the same weekend that Netflix were spending time with Ferrari.

Shortly before the crash, Hamilton had made a quick decision to pit after the safety car came out for Kevin Magnussen, who was forced to stop on track just before the pit entrance with a suspected power unit issue.

Mercedes took what they thought was a risk-free pit-stop, with Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi following suit shortly after. It wasn’t long until the race was stopped due to Leclerc’s incident, and both Hamilton and Giovinazzi were placed under investigation for entering the pits after it had been closed due to Magnussen’s stoppage.

This visibly rattled Mercedes, who were looking pretty comfortable. Hamilton took it upon himself to grab his scooter and make his way to Race Control during the red flag in an attempt to justify his actions, arguing on the radio that “there was no light” going into the pit lane.

This didn’t save him nor Giovinazzi, who were both given a 10-second stop and go penalty, serving F1 fans with the biggest game-changer in the hybrid era.

Hamilton was noticeably annoyed by this decision and was talking about building up a lead once again before taking his penalty. He was dissuaded from doing this by his race engineers, who had decided to ‘take the hit’ on this occasion.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Mercedes’ loss meant some considerable gains to the likes of Alpha Tauri, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and McLaren.

The red flag wasn’t in place for too long and on lap 27 we were back on track heading for a dramatic restart.

Gasly was lightning fast on the restart, overtaking Stroll to take what was essentially first place, as Hamilton made his way around and back into the pits to serve his penalty. He re-joined the race 23 seconds behind the rest of the pack, meaning he would have to have had the drive of his life to get back to a podium finish.

Though it looked like a good opportunity for the Racing Point, Stroll seemed to have issues with the brakes, causing him to run off on the Della Roggia chicane and giving away two positions and putting him down into 5th. This was quickly taken from him by Sainz who had his eyes firmly set on the prize.

The same ambition and determination weren’t felt in either of the Red Bull cars, who have struggled more than usual. Albon was the first to have issues, running wide on lap one after being squeezed by Stroll and Gasly down the main straight, and causing damage to the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Albon was given a 5-second penalty for the damage he caused.

As usual, there was greater expectation of success with Verstappen, who was making some respectable overtakes, and scrapping with Bottas for 6th/7th position. Unfortunately, this was short lived as he was forced to retire the car on lap 31 due to a power unit issue.

Come lap 34, Sainz was chasing Gasly for the win after he and Raikkonen gave fans an absolute masterclass in overtaking through Turn 1.

Stroll bounced back from his earlier brake issue and overtook Raikkonen the following lap, moving him into third place.

Sainz continued to chase Gasly right down to the final lap of the race. Gasly just managed to stay ahead and out of DRS range of the determined McLaren driver and took his first ever F1 win, something absolutely none of us expected would happen going into this race weekend.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Race winner Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 06, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202009060423 // Usage for editorial use only //

After being essentially demoted from Red Bull in the middle of 2019, this win is exactly the boost Gasly and the wider Alpha Tauri team needed. You’d have to be a hard individual not to feel some emotion watching him sit on the podium, sipping champagne in sheer disbelief. It’s only a shame the Tifosi weren’t there to make his win even more special.

We cannot end this race review however, without giving a special mention to Williams, who had its final race with their de-facto team principal, Claire Williams. It followed the announcement last Thursday that the family had decided to step away from Formula 1 after 43 years. It’s a real shame for us to see both she and the family say goodbye to the F1 family.

We owe Williams so much after having been an enormous part in F1’s development, bringing iconic moments for us all to appreciate and look back on with fondness. Though they will continue to race under the same name, something tells me it just won’t quite be the same anymore, so thank you Frank, thank you Claire, and thank you Williams for the great memories. We hope to see you back on top soon.

Chadwick takes second W Series win at Misano

This weekend the W Series travelled to the Misano World Circuit in Italy for the third round of the all-female world championship.

The sun was shining on Saturday morning when Liechtenstein driver Fabienne Wohlwend took pole position with a laptime of 1:33.283. Championship leader Jamie Chadwick and Dutch driver Beitske Visser slotted in behind in second and third respectively, with Alice Powell in fourth and local girl Vicky Piria in fifth. Caitlin Wood suffered a suspension failure in qualifying which meant she was demoted last place on the grid.

The stunning weather continued as the nineteen drivers lined up on the grid for the race to begin.

Wohlwend had a good start from pole despite a little over steer, however, Jamie Chadwick had a blistering start and quickly snatched the lead from Wohlwend, Visser slipping past into P2 and demoting Wohlwend into third position. On the run down into turn one, Alice Powell hit Fabienne Wohlwend which led to a front suspension failure. As a result, Powell ran into the gravel which forced out the yellow flag and the safety car.

Chadwick had a great restart when racing got underway again, quickly gaining a second advantage over Visser in P2. Koyama and Piria had a close battle in fourth and fifth, with Wohlwend quickly closing the gap behind Visser in second. Wohlwent then went wide before the start finish straight, losing a little time, but managed to close back up to the rear wing of Visser.

W Series

Chadwick went wide which meant Visser closed right up to the British driver.
After her slight wobble, pole-sitter Fabienne Wohlwend set the fastest lap of the race, the first three drivers pulling away from the rest of the field.

Miki Koyama took to the outside to pass Vicky Piria for fourth position as Chadwick continued to set clean and consistent lap times at the front of the pack with thirteen minutes remaining, Visser and Wohlwend still fighting strongly for the win in second and third.

Sabre Cook majorly impressed having started in 15th and made her way through the field up to 9th, right in amongst the mid-field battle.

Visser was right on Chadwicks tail with eight minutes remaining, the Dutch driver thriving in the third sector, but not quite close enough to overtake the championship leader.

With five minutes remaining, Esmee Hawkey went wide and as a result, Naomi Schiff moved up to eleventh place.

W Series

Visser made a small mistake after she locked up the front left tyre with less than 2 minutes remaining. Schiff then had a spin after catching the kerb at turn 4 and 5 before rejoining in P16 and Cook and Moore had a close fight for eighth place.

Jamie Chadwick took the win in Misano and extended her championship lead after a flawless performance. Beitske Visser finished in second place and Fabienne Wohlwend in third – her first podium in the series. Miki Koyama finished in fourth followed by Piria in fifth, Garcia in sixth, then Pepper, Moore, Cook and Keszthelyi rounding out the top ten.

Hawkey finished just outside the points in eleventh, Bovy in 12th, then Rdest, Wood and Hawkins in 15th – who was given a five second time penalty for a jump start. Shea Holbrook finished in 16th, Megan Gilkes in 17th and Naomi Schiff in last place.

The championship is certainly hotting up as we pass the halfway point. The next round will be on the 6th July at the Norisring street circuit in Germany.