On lap 12, the immobilization of Sebastian Vettel at the edge of the track forced the race management to impose on the drivers the VSC, the virtual safety car (virtual safety car), i.e. an immediate reduction in speed of 40% and the obligation to maintain one’s position on the track.
Ferrari had noticed that Max Verstappen, already back in 2nd place (from his 7th place on the starting grid) had a better rhythm than Charles Leclerc, in the lead, and that the tires of the Red Bull deteriorated less quickly than those of the Ferrari.
Leclerc being better placed than Verstappen on the track in relation to the pit entrance, Ferrari decided to bring him in for an unscheduled pit stop, switching to a two-stop strategy at the same time. The Red Bull strategists thought of doing the same with Verstappen, but seeing Leclerc entering the pits, decided to leave the world champion on track, convinced that his tires would last the distance of a long first stint.
Ferrari instead bet that Verstappen’s tires would degrade at the end of his long stint, and that Leclerc, fitted with fresher tyres, would catch up. Ferrari defended its bet.
Sporting director Matta Binotto explained it well after the race: it was not a strategic error, but a gamble. When we see that the opponent, who has chosen the same strategy, is faster, we must then find the strategy that will allow us to beat him differently.
That’s what Ferrari did at Monza.
But the Italian team was trapped by the race management who very quickly withdrew the VSC, while Leclerc was still in the pit lane at reduced speed (imposed by the engine limiter). Verstappen on the track was able to reaccelerate fully, and the Monegasque, who lost precious seconds, saw his delay on the Red Bull grow and he knew that it would be very difficult to catch up with the leader.
Ferrari made no mistakes, and Leclerc drove very well until the safety car entered the track, the real one this time, six laps from the finish, after the McLaren came to a standstill. by Daniel Ricciardo.
After a long period under yellow flag, noting that the track staff had difficulty in evacuating the McLaren (gearbox blocked), the race management brought out the safety car, but not in front of the leader.
By the time the safety car caught up with Max Verstappen, there was no longer enough time to apply the planned procedure, which was to ensure that the cars were in the correct order behind the safety car.
On the last lap of the race, there were still two cars sandwiched between Verstappen and Leclerc. The race direction therefore put an end to the grand prix in slow motion. Thus respecting the rules, even if it meant depriving the impatient public of a one-lap sprint between Verstappen and Leclerc.
After the Abu Dhabi controversy in 2021, when the race management decided to conclude the race with a restart on the last lap to favor the show, F1 this time played it safe.
The public whistled, some teams protested, but this time, no controversy, the race direction followed the rules to the letter. Lewis Hamilton, the big loser in the Abu Dhabi mess, did not fail to point this out after the grand prix.
Charles Leclerc was frustrated, but not angry. He admitted that if he was second at the time of the neutralization, it was because of “everything that had happened before”, consciously avoiding to blame anyone. Well seen.
After the remarks made by the president of Ferrari, John Elkann, in the form of a warning to the team, Leclerc knows that he must federate the team and not divide it.
Mr. Elkann gave his support to the team’s management personnel, much criticized for strategic errors and rough pit stops (that of Carlos Sainz Jr. in Zandvoort hurt) as well as to the pilots, but he has in the same breath warned that he no longer wanted to see the team go astray.
He thus added a layer of pressure on the shoulders of the members of the Scuderia in this weekend at home in front of the tifosis. Under the circumstances, Ferrari did well. Of course, starting from pole position, Leclerc had the mission to win. Which he failed to do, but at least he didn’t make a mistake, neither did the team.
The successful debut of Nyck De Vries
The intervention of the safety car made the happiness of Max Verstappen who was able to idle in the last five laps until the checkered flag. He also made the happiness of a beginner driver at Williams.
Dutchman Nyck De Vries made a successful entry into the Grand Prix by finishing 9th in his first race. Two points scored, two points that may have established him in 2023 in place of Torontonian Nicholas Latifi.
De Vries won the F2 title in 2019 and the FE title in 2021. He is part of Mercedes-Benz’s development program, and as such gets opportunities to go on track in customer teams. On Friday, he took part in a free practice session in Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin. On Saturday, he was taking part in a promotional activity for Mercedes-Benz, and having a coffee, when he was called urgently to Williams to replace Alexander Albon, victim of an attack of appendicitis and unavailable for the weekend.
The time to install him in the FW44, he was only able to participate in half of the last free practice session, ie 30 minutes of track, before tackling the qualifying session. He passed in Q2 while Latifi was eliminated in Q1, betrayed by his brakes. The Canadian started from 10th place on the grid behind his new rookie teammate, 8th.
In the race, De Vries drove in the points, in 9th place, until his pit stop on the 19th lap. He then recovered his 9th place on lap 46. He then maintained his position until the finish at the cost of violent physical effort.
For his part, Latifi fell from 10th to 16th place in the first 3 laps, and never returned to the points.
The specialized press is very harsh towards the Torontonian the day after the Italian Grand Prix:
De Vries amazing, Latifi desolatewrote the site of the French magazine Auto-Hebdo,
The writing is on the wall, wrote the site Motorsportweekwhich can be translated as: The chips are down.
Fans had harsh comments, like:
If Latifi was a Red Bull driver he would empty his locker right now. They want to see Nick De Vries in the Williams in Singapore.
Only the contractual agreement binding the Canadian to the British team (and perhaps the money he brings) protects him from a premature exit. There are six races left in the season. The end of the season will be a long agony for Nicholas Latifi.
Finally, when we say that to reach F1, drivers coming from promotion formulas or other championships must take a very high step, here is an illustration.
When Nick De Vries returned to the pits once his race was over, he was unable to extricate himself from the cockpit on his own, with no strength left in his arms. He had to call for help from his mechanics by radio communication, who pulled him out of the car at arm’s length, after having received authorization from the FIA representative.
The 27-year-old Dutchman has already contested F2 races at Monza, but they last 30 laps. Very short of mileage in F1, he still managed to complete the 53-lap exercise.