🇮🇹 F1'23: R14 - Competizione?

Max won, but you already knew that. Ferrari had their best Sunday in 2023 on a day they really needed it.

For a few laps at least, it looked like the Italian Grand Prix might have had some competition. 

But it was around 15 laps in when the race ended as a contest. Max Verstappen got past Carlos Sainz for the lead, and one lap later, Sergio Perez negotiated his way around George Russell. The latter move was key to release the Mexican to push his way up the grid and challenge the Ferraris.

There simply isn’t any competition for Max Verstappen at the moment, and by extension, Red Bull Racing. It is a matter of time for the two-time reigning champion to make it three titles in a row, and the rest of the field is still scratching its head at just how they can break the streak that is redefining the sport.

It also makes this a bit more difficult to write, but we move. Thank you to everyone that continues to subscribe and read this sparsely-read blog. 

But there are plenty of stories up and down the rest of the grid that are worth telling. Whether it’s the continuing emergence of Alex Albon, or the McLarens, the best story from the weekend belongs to Ferrari.

In front of a weekend attendance of over 300,000, Sainz and teammate Charles Leclerc delighted the home fans by securing a thrilling pole position and third place. Despite the cheers, everyone knew Of course, the way F1 has been in 2023, it was only a matter of time before Verstappen checked out in front, and the battle focused on Sergio Perez.

It took the Mexican Minister of Defence until lap 45 to get past the Ferraris, with Sainz cleverly defending, and the stalking horse of Leclerc waiting in the wings. But despite some late battling, it was Sainz who took that final podium spot and his first trip to the rostrum this season. 27 points represents a good haul of points for Ferrari, their best Sunday of the season so far, and at a crucial track for them.The Monza GP acts as a checkpoint for the health of the team, and previously, the sport’s interest as a whole on mainland Europe.

In recent years, with hundreds of thousands of red-clad fans all cheering the Italian giants in the 90s and early 2000s, this was the state of the union for F1. Now, it is arguable that Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium plays that role with seas of flag-waving orange fans Eurodancing their way through an afternoon with a job lot on distress flares in the stands. Silverstone to a lesser extent too.

But there is still a huge amount of importance for Ferrari in Formula 1. As you’ll get told at least once per season, the prancing horse has been part of every world championship season, and even though they have not won the drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, this is still THE team people associate with F1.

This is season three for their current lineup, and it does feel as though a changing of the guard is coming. Not at the end of this season, but after the 24 scheduled races in 2024. Today was a great day for Scuderia Ferrari, and this driver lineup has finished third and second in their current guise at the end of the season, but for the past few months, it has felt like what could have been for the team.

What makes this result even better is the sheer release. It hasn’t helped that there appears to be a more democratic decision making method among the team, with the engineers asking the drivers for their view of plans while they’re in the cockpit at 200mph, or the poor decisions eliciting screams of frustration from the drivers as they become the sport’s next great meme, but something has to come to a head soon, and the expiring driver contracts in 2024 might be that.

This third and fourth puts Ferrari third in the Teams’ championship, overtaking Aston Martin, who have not developed their green machine as much as others, and despite Fernando Alonso’s genius, have been unable to sustain the relentless upstart pace they showed in the Spring.

As we talked about last week, there isn’t really a silly season this season, with Logan Sargeant’s future having the biggest question mark, but even that doesn’t feel like the most massively hot seat. I’d like to put in a prediction now - Charles Leclerc to Aston Martin from the 2025 season, and after a year out, Carlos Sainz headlines the Audi entry into F1 from 2026. 

There have been many brilliant stories in Formula 1 this season, and through Drive to Survive, you’ll see about two of them, but the overarching narrative of the sport has been Red Bull rebuilding Formula 1 in their image. Winning every race so far this season should be impossible, and every weekend throws up a new test. Weather, a qualifying mishap, another new challenger emerging for a weekend, whatever. It simply does not matter to Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. What is it going to take to stop this team’s dominance?

The Italian GP marks the end of the European F1 season, with flyaway trips to far flung parts of the world to come for the run in. With previous winners here, this was something of a trap race for Red Bull, but a 15th consecutive win for the team and a 10th straight win giving Verstappen at least 250 points, those 10 races alone put him first and second in a championship where he really doesn’t seem to have an equal.

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