MONZA – Max Verstappen wrote his name in Formula One’s history books on Sunday after winning a record-breaking 10th straight race, coming out on top at the Italian Grand Prix in another show of force from Red Bull.
The reigning world champion dominated on a beautiful day in northern Italy which left Ferrari fans disappointed, with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez finishing second ahead of home hope and pole-sitter Carlos Sainz.
Red Bull hailed a “stroll in the park” after a brilliant one-two which extended Verstappen’s lead on Perez at the top of the drivers’ standings to 145 points and also maintained a perfect team record of 14 wins from as many GPs this season.
“I never thought at the beginning of the season that something like this was possible. Very proud, but also just very happy with the race in general,” Verstappen told reporters.
“At one point Carlos had a little lock up which gave me a little run at turn two, and once I got into the lead I could just focus on my own pace.”
Spaniard Sainz crossed more than 11 seconds behind Verstappen despite a valiant performance in an exciting race.
The red sea of home fans loudly chanted “Carlos, Carlos” in appreciation of Sainz’s first podium finish of the year, just ahead of fellow Ferrari man Charles Leclerc who was the last Scuderia driver to win at Monza in 2019.
“Very happy because P3 at Monza in front of the ‘tifosi’ is as good as it can get, at least for this weekend because Red Bull were in the end quite a bit quicker than us as we expected,” said Sainz.
“It was a day to try and I did everything I could to keep them behind.”
Verstappen has now won 12 of this season’s races and is all but certain to claim his third consecutive F1 title after breaking a record he shared with Sebastian Vettel by winning in Zandvoort last weekend.
He needs four more wins from the season’s remaining eight GPs to break his own record for victories in one year and is 90 points away from the all-time highest tally of 454 he accumulated in 2022.
The Dutch driver made it 10 in a row in a race which was delayed by 20 minutes and cut to 51 laps after Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri car suffered a power-unit failure during the pre-race formation lap.
Sainz knew he had to keep Verstappen at bay in the opening two corners just after lights out and he drew a massive cheer from the stands once he was round the third Biassono turn and still ahead.
Verstappen was practically attached to Sainz’s rear with Leclerc pursuing close behind in support of his teammate.
But Sainz’s resistance ended at the start of lap 15 when Verstappen pounced on a slow exit from the first corner and surged into the lead.
Verstappen was back in front 10 laps later after a round of pit stops, blowing past former title rival Lewis Hamilton and showing the rest of the field a clean pair of heels.
With first place all-but sewn up Ferrari battled to keep the two other podium spots but Perez slipped past Sainz at the start of lap 45 to demonstrate Red Bull’s dominance.
All that was left was for Ferrari’s pair to do battle for a spot on the podium, with Sainz just holding on after another race in which no-one could handle Red Bull’s power.
Red Bull’s closest challenger Fernando Alonso fell 194 points behind Verstappen after finishing ninth, with Lewis Hamilton looming over his fellow veteran’s shoulder in the overall standings following a creditable sixth spot.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton, 38, trails Alonso by six points despite a difficult weekend in his Mercedes, with whom he confirmed a two-year contract extension on Thursday.
Last season Hamilton failed to win or claim pole position at any GP for the first time in his career and he looks a long way from adding to his record 103 race victories. – AFP