Red Bull driver Max Verstappen scored an all-time record with his 10th consecutive win as he broke Ferrari’s valiant challenge at the Italian Grand Prix.
The Dutch driver trailed pole-sitter Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari for 14 laps but his pressure paid off when a mistake from the Spaniard gave him his chance.
Sainz locked his brakes at Turn 1 allowing Verstappen to pass the Ferrari into Turn 2 at Monza.
And after Sainz firmly retained second place from his colleague Charles Leclerc, he remained to face Verstappen’s colleague Sergio Perez for second place.
After several defensive laps, Sainz finally lost the position with nine laps to go, then started fighting hard again to keep Leclerc behind for the final podium spot.
It was frantic at times as Sainz clung to his well-worn tyres, and eventually the Spaniard asked his team to let him “bring him home”. Leclerc was told: “Race to the end, there is no danger”.
Sainz clung on to some desperate late braking moves into Turn 1, and the battle was finally settled at the start of the last lap.
Leclerc sold the dummy to Sainz at the first corner, but the Spaniard moved to defend and Leclerc had to lock all his brakes and cut the corner to avoid his partner. Leclerc crossed the line by just 0.1 seconds.
Mercedes’ George Russell drove a steady race to finish fifth, overcoming a five-second penalty for leaving the track for overtaking Esteban Ocon after leaving the pits.
Lewis Hamilton impressed with his reversed strategy, starting on the hard and moving to the medium tyre, to overtake Alex Albon’s McLaren and Williams for sixth.
Hamilton was also handed a five-second penalty for overtaking McLaren’s Oscar Piastri at turn two but had enough space to maintain the position.
Albon clung to the lead in front of McLaren’s Lando Norris, while Fernando Alonso ran the most uncertain race of the season to finish ninth in his Aston Martin ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
Piastri had to pit to repair damage after Hamilton’s accident and finished twelfth behind AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson.
Ferrari put up a solid battle against the victorious Red Bull team on home soil with their most competitive showing of the season.
Their hope was that Leclerc, who is starting from third, would pass Verstappen into the first corner and carry out a cross-play at the front of the field, through which they might be able to play a strategy against Verstappen.
But Verstappen got off to a solid start, and Sainz had to cut in quickly to prevent the Dutchman from claiming the inside line of attack at the first corner.
The lead was secured, and Sainz had a difficult opening period trying to hold Verstappen out for as long as possible.
Verstappen trailed the Ferrari, rarely more than 0.5 seconds behind. He tried the outside on lap six, but was rebuffed, and complained to his team about Ferrari’s straight-line speed.
But his pressure paid off in the end. Sainz locked his right-front wheel going into Turn 1 at the start of lap 15, allowing Verstappen to make a better exit out of the corner.
Verstappen drew side by side on the full run across the Curva Grande and took the lead on the inside of the Roggia Chicane.
Once Verstappen was on top, his race-winning fate was no longer in doubt – if it ever was – and the uncertainty was now about the remaining podium positions.
Verstappen now leads Perez in the championship by 145 points with his third drivers’ title ever closing in.
An intense battle between Ferrari
Leclerc started to challenge Sainz as soon as he passed Verstappen, but the Spaniard blocked his lead and they stopped in two consecutive laps in the 20th and 21st laps, and Sainz stopped first.
Once again, Sainz overtook Leclerc, who attacked immediately after returning from the pits, and both began under pressure from Perez, who took 18 laps to overtake Russell’s Mercedes for fourth place in the first stint before sprinting after the Ferrari.
Sainz, Leclerc and Perez were running in the back line from lap 23, right after the Mexican pitted.
Perez attacked Leclerc on lap 32, through Turn 1 and then attempted in Turn 2, but was stopped, but finally managed to pass Leclerc on the next lap into Turn 1.
Perez then sprinted behind Sainz, who pushed hard lap after lap before Red Bull finally got close enough to pass the Ferrari down the straight into turn 1 on lap 46.
That left Sainz vulnerable to Leclerc and Ferrari facing a struggle for the honor of finishing on the podium in their home country.
Sainz’s driving was increasingly desperate as he battled his eroding tyres, but he was always on the right side of justice.
Leclerc passed his team mate into the first turn on the first lap after passing Perez, and they both cut through the corner, before Sainz fell back to his team mate on lap two.
It was as close as Leclerc could get. He tried again and again at Turn 1, and while there may have been some question marks over the double-going and under-the-braking action as Sainz defended on the final lap, it was a giant push to hold on in the end.