A lot of attention has been paid to Ferrari this season, and the spotlight was even brighter this week at the team’s home grand prix at historic Monza. The tifosi were out in full force, carrying their massive Ferrari flags. The Ferrari cars had a special livery and the drivers wore yellow firesuits to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company. But one big question loomed: Would they have enough to pull off a win?
The theme of the weekend was confusion: confusion over what the starting grid would be after all the penalties and confusion over why we didn’t get to see a final restart after a late safety car. What was certainly not confusing for anyone who has followed F1 this year was seeing Max Verstappen atop the podium again.
Immediate reaction: Under a safety car?
It seems ridiculous to me that a race is allowed to end in that way. I don’t know exactly what the answer is; maybe inside so many laps to go, the safety car laps stop counting? All I know is I wanted to see a 2-3 lap shootout with the field bunched up and what we ended up with was five parade laps to end the race.
Driver of the race: Nyck De Vries
Who?? That’s right, Nyck De Vries hopped in for an ailing Alex Albon (appendicitis) and outran Nicholas Latifi, who he is likely to replace in 2023. De Vries got in the car for FP3, made it to Q2, and started 8th after grid penalties. De Vries did exactly what you would want any driver of that car to do: he didn’t drive over his head and he managed to fend off the constant pressure from Zhou Guanyu for a 9th place, point-scoring finish.
Moment of the race: Safety car lap 48?
As soon as the safety car was dispatched I pegged this as the moment of the race, though things did not turn out as I thought/was hoping they would. I was hoping the result of the safety car would be a field that was stacked up and a 2-3 lap run to the end. Instead we saw the cars parade around for five laps and the race end under safety car. That’s a shame, but it shines a light on an issue within F1.
Thoughts moving forward: Ferrari vs. Mercedes
I talked to a few people after last week and this is going to be a theme. Hell, maybe it already is. Outside of the background movement of drivers, which might be about as entertaining/interesting, the race of Mercedes trying to catch and overtake Ferrari in the Constructor’s Championship is what I’m watching. Ferrari had an event-free day, which is something they have longed for lately. If they can do that and perform up to their speed then they can maintain their championship position, but can they keep it up? I don’t have much faith in them.
Just Ferrari Things: Ummm
Well, they did it: they managed to run a race where their stupidity wasn’t top of mind when the race ended. Congrats, I suppose?
While there was some interesting mid-pack racing, this grand prix was fairly boring. It took Max Verstappen no time at all to work his way up to the front after receiving a five place grid penalty. Ferrari were on their best behavior in front of their home crowd. They pitted Charles Leclerc earlier than most other cars because Verstappen was catching him and they felt they had to try something to overcome the clear speed advantage of Red Bull. Although it was a reach, it’s hard to criticize it too much because we all saw that nothing mattered. (Eat Arby’s.)
Verstappen and his car are simply too much better than the entire field for strategy to make a difference. Nothing short of equipment failure or an act of God would have stopped Max from winning this race. But I still would have liked to see a restart at the end.
Driver of the race
Carlos Sainz looked very fast all weekend, even faster than teammate Leclerc at times, but he had to start at the rear of the field due to engine penalties. He worked his way up to P4 with ease and was catching George Russell by about a second per lap for third, but the final safety car robbed him of the chance to race for the podium.
I also have to shout out Nyck De Vries, who suddenly filled in for Alex Albon when he got appendicitis. De Vries scored points (!) in his first ever F1 race (!!) in a Williams car (!!!). He should be in F1 next year.
Moment of the race
Leclerc was pretty certain to finish P2 as even new tires did not help him make much of a dent in Verstappen’s lead. Then Daniel Ricciardo’s engine failed and his car stopped on the track near the end of the race. Fans and race commentators initially thought there might be one last sprint to the finish where we could see if Leclerc had anything for Verstappen. Race officials had some difficulty removing Ricciardo’s car from the track and the safety car took a long time to gather the field, which resulted in a confusing and anticlimactic end under the safety car.
Thoughts moving forward
It took an absurd amount of time to sort out the starting grid this weekend after a whopping nine drivers took some sort of penalty for swapping new parts out beyond their allowed number for the season. The limits are intended to reign in spending and keep F1 from being even more of an arms race than it already is, but when teams with budgets both large and small are being penalized so frequently, who is this serving?
On top of that, no one with the teams or media could figure out how the penalties would be applied to determine the grid so it would be nice to see more transparency with that as well. I think the limits should stay, but be increased to a more reasonable number next year.