Ricciardo leads McLaren one-two after Verstappen and Hamilton collide at Monza

By Sports Desk September 12, 2021

Daniel Ricciardo ended his and McLaren's long wait for a Formula One victory after a collision between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton sent the title rivals out of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. 

Ricciardo's last win had come in Monaco in 2018 when he was at Red Bull, while McLaren saw one of their drivers top the podium for the first time since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris followed his team-mate across the line as McLaren claimed a famous one-two – their first since the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix – after Verstappen and Hamilton scarily crashed out midway through the race.

Although neither championship contender was able to finish and the incident was to be investigated after the race, Verstappen still increased his advantage in the drivers' standings by two points this weekend having finished second in the sprint race.

Valtteri Bottas, who was classified third on Sunday after a five-second time penalty for Sergio Perez, won the sprint race but started at the back of the race grid after taking a new power unit, so Verstappen lined up on pole alongside Ricciardo.

McLaren's straight-line speed was expected to make them contenders in the race and Ricciardo took the lead into turn one, with Hamilton going off track and returning to fourth after making contact with Verstappen at the second chicane.

Verstappen laboured behind Ricciardo and his hopes of victory were seemingly dashed when he was stationary for 11.1 seconds during his first pit stop, and he was alongside Hamilton when the reigning champion emerged from his stop at the start of lap 26.

The Dutchman looked to sneak down the inside at turn two but caught the kerbs and his car went airborne, landing on top of the Mercedes and sending both into the gravel.

A safety car was deployed and Ricciardo led the race competently, with Norris ordered not to challenge him for the victory, ensuring a memorable and long-awaited result for McLaren.

 

Magisterial McLaren

By taking the lead on the opening lap and controlling the race until he pitted, Ricciardo had already led more laps for McLaren than the team had managed since Hamilton's departure at the end of the 2012 season.

Bad blood developing

They had already clashed at Imola and Silverstone this season, but this time contact between Verstappen and Hamilton resulted in both drivers failing to finish. The Briton accused Verstappen of pushing him wide when they collided on the opening lap, while the Red Bull driver had a similar complaint following their race-ending crash.

Ghastly day for Gasly and AlphaTauri

After the elation of winning his first F1 race at Monza in 2020, Pierre Gasly and AlphaTauri's day this time could not have been any different. He started from the pits after a crash in the sprint race but retired early on, while Yuki Tsunoda was unable to start due to a mechanical issue.

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    Formula One has arrived at the most prestigious race on the calendar, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be desperate to end an awful run of form at his home race.

    Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc's string of bad luck on the historic circuit dates back to his days in Formula Two, where he set the F2 lap record in 2017 before suspension problems caused a DNF.

    The next year, in F1, he was in the points for Sauber before brake failure led to a crash with Brendan Hartley.

    After poor strategy and Q1 elimination in his first Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc charged up the field early on but pushed a little too hard and collided with Romain Grosjean at Rascasse.

    In 2021, he surprisingly stuck an inferior Ferrari on pole position but crashed at the end of Q3, and extensive drive-shaft damage led to him cruelly retiring on the formation lap.

    The 24-year-old became the first Monegasque to claim pole, but his three DNFs – from as many F1 entries – are his most at any circuit.

    Despite ending up in the barriers on a demonstration lap in Niki Lauda's Ferrari last week, another pole could finally put Leclerc on the top step in his home race.

    Twelve of the past 17 winners at Monaco have started from pole, as little room to overtake with bigger cars on Monte Carlo's notoriously tight streets makes track position critical.

    It would be a welcome way for Leclerc to buck his trend of failing to convert poles into race victories, winning only four times from 13 starts at the front of the grid.

    The title race adds another dimension, with Max Verstappen taking a six-point lead from him in the drivers' standings after successive victories at Imola, Miami and Barcelona.

    In-form Red Bull with records in sight

    Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, and this weekend could bring a number of records for the team.

    This weekend could see Red Bull claim their highest number of race wins (six), pole positions (six), podiums (24, with both drivers) and points earned at a circuit, surpassing the 356 collected in Spain.

    Meanwhile, reigning world champion Verstappen has the chance to record the longest winning streak of his career, beating last year's three wins between France and Austria.

    Ricciardo in need of renaissance

    Daniel Ricciardo has come under criticism from McLaren team principal Zak Brown for his recent performances, with a clear need for improvement.

    The 32-year-old suffered one of the lowest points of his career last year in Monte Carlo, when he was lapped by teammate Lando Norris.

    Ricciardo is suffering his worst streak of finishes outside the points (three) since 2012, when he had five consecutive empty-handed returns for Toro Rosso.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 110
    2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 85
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 74
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 65

    Constructors

    1. Red Bull 195
    2. Ferrari 169
    3. Mercedes 120
    4. McLaren 50
    5. Alfa Romeo 39

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    Lewis Hamilton says his fifth-placed finish at the Spanish Grand Prix felt "better than a win" after he recovered from a first-lap puncture that left him in 19th position.

    Starting from P6, Hamilton suffered the puncture following contact from Haas driver Kevin Magnussen on the first lap in Barcelona and suggested to his Mercedes team he should retire from the race to preserve the car's engine after rejoining at the back of the field.

    But the seven-time champion produced an excellent drive after his enforced pit-stop and looked on course to finish fourth before a coolant leak allowed Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to edge him out late on.

    Speaking after the race, Hamilton considered the circumstances he was forced to overcome en route to a strong points finish.

    "To have that problem and come back, it felt like some of the older races I've done," Hamilton said. "It feels amazing.

    "I was thinking it was impossible to get back into points, but the team said 'no, you're on for eighth'. I thought they were being super-optimistic.

    "I'm glad we didn't [retire] and it just shows you never stop and never give up, and that's what I did.

    "A race like that is like a win, and it actually feels better than a win when you have come from so far back."

    Since losing out on a record eighth world title in the closing seconds of the final race of the 2021 campaign, when Max Verstappen clinched his first championship in controversial circumstances, Hamilton has endured a frustrating time.

    The 37-year-old, who has only secured one podium this campaign, has been critical of Mercedes' W13 car on numerous occasions this year, calling it "undriveable" after finishing 13th at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month. 

    But Hamilton believes the team's work on the car has improved it greatly, and he suggested he could have joined team-mate George Russell – in third – in challenging the two Red Bull drivers, who secured their second one-two in three races, if not for his early problems.

    "We have made a lot of improvements with the car and the race pace is much better, the car is much nicer in the race," he added. "We have some improvements to make in qualifying.

    "If I hadn't had that [issue], I would have been fighting with the Red Bulls."

  • Verstappen triumphs in Barcelona after 'not nice' early struggles Verstappen triumphs in Barcelona after 'not nice' early struggles

    Max Verstappen tried to keep his frustration at bay as he overcame a "not nice" start to the Spanish Grand Prix before ultimately recovering to earn a crucial win.

    The reigning world champion claimed his third consecutive Formula One victory in Barcelona on Sunday, profiting after title rival Charles Leclerc retired with a technical issue when seemingly on course to win.

    Verstappen now holds a six-point lead at the top of the standings, an outcome that did not look likely when the Dutchman dropped from second to fourth after spinning in the early stages, as Leclerc built a huge lead.

    The Dutchman also voiced his concerns on team radio as persistent issues with his DRS system hindered his attempts to pass Mercedes' George Russell during a thrilling tussle between the duo.

    Verstappen, though, kept his focus and, after some help from team orders, recorded his first win in Spain since 2016, when he took his first-ever F1 victory at the same circuit.

    Team-mate Sergio Perez was second in a great result for Red Bull, with Russell taking the final spot on the podium ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton.

    "Of course I went off - I suddenly had a lot of tailwind, so I just lost the rear and went off," Verstappen said about his ninth-lap error.

    "Then I was obviously in the train and trying to pass but my DRS was not always working. That made it very tough.

    "But we managed use strategy to get ahead again [with three pit stops]. We tried to do our own race and eventually we got the win. So it was a difficult beginning but a good end.

    "I just tried to stay focused - of course it is not nice when stuff like that happens - but at the end I am very happy to win and happy for Checo." 

    Verstappen insisted his anger on team radio related to his car issues, not at the way Russell was defending his position. 

    "It was more frustration because of my DRS," he said. "It is a great result for the team. The behaviour of the car was good on the softs."

    As for Russell, third place represented a continuation of his strong start to the F1 season with Mercedes even as the team lacks its normal pace.

    The Briton has finished in the top five for all six races so far, with this being his second podium.

    "I gave everything I could do to hold Max off," he said. "I would love to say that [that Mercedes are back], I am proud to be standing here [in the top three]. 

    "It hurt us a lot but when I had the Red Bull in the mirrors all I was doing was the maximum to keep them behind. It is a lot of points on the board for us and well done to Max."

    Next up for the drivers is the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix, which will take place on May 29.

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