Ferrari put on a show but can’t deny record-breaking Verstappen

Max Verstappen made history at Monza, while Ferrari finally gave the Tifosi something to cheer

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The thousands of Tifosi who congregated at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza this weekend were rewarded for their efforts – and patience – as Ferrari had its best weekend of the 2023 F1 season.

Last week in Zandvoort the Scuderia were the sixth-fastest team on the grid, but they managed to turn the page at just the right time with impressive showings in qualifying and Sunday’s race in Italy.

Carlos Sainz delighted the fans on Saturday, claiming his first pole position of the campaign with a spectacular lap that just beat out Max Verstappen and teammate Charles Leclerc.

He followed that up by leading the early part of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix. While nobody expected the Spaniard’s challenge to last all race, the performance was a welcome sight for the famed Tifosi given what the home race means to them and the team.

That’s why Sunday’s race will go down as one of the high points for Ferrari this season. Without something out of the ordinary happening, they were never really going to challenge Verstappen for top spot or fend off Sergio Perez for second.

In an ideal world, finishing third and fourth isn’t what the Scuderia would be aiming for, but that is just how 2023 has gone.

For a team that has often dropped the ball in recent campaigns, to see them maximize their performance is all they could have asked for. Given improvements don’t happen overnight, a podium and a show is all they had to offer on Sunday.

But what a show it was, especially in the closing stages as Sainz tried to fend off the fast-charging Leclerc for the right to step on the podium in front of the Tifosi.

Yes, things did get dicey at times, with Leclerc so intent on trying to pass his teammate that he nearly drove right into the back of him while locking up.

In the end no harm was done, with both drivers talking after the race about how much fun they had battling one another.

The battle was clearly warmly received by the Tifosi given that when the Dutch national anthem played for Verstappen after yet another victory, it was drowned out by chants of “Carlos, Carlos, Carlos” by fans on the pit straight.

No stopping Verstappen

While Ferrari’s performance was certainly a big talking at Monza, it wasn’t enough to stop Verstappen from making history.

The Red Bull man achieved what no driver has ever done before: 10 victories in a row, moving him one clear of the mark previously set by Sebastian Vettel back in 2013.

Verstappen’s win wasn’t all that surprising given Red Bull have been on a different level in 2023. The Dutchman started second before biding his time behind Sainz, waiting for the Ferrari man to use up his rear tyres before pouncing.

That’s exactly what happened on Lap 15, Verstappen forcing Sainz into a mistake at the first chicane before sweeping past him around the outside of the Curva Grande.

From there it was clear sailing for the Dutchman, much like it has been for most of the season, though the significance of what Red Bull is achieving isn’t lost on him.

“Of course it’s something you don’t expect to happen,” Verstappen said. “I never thought at the start of the season that something like this was possible. So very proud but also very happy with the race in general.

“I am very proud also of the whole team effort. Winning every race. We are definitely enjoying it. These kinds of seasons don’t come around very often and it is the same with winning 10 in a row.”

Christian Horner expanded on what Verstappen and Red Bull are achieving, adding that he doesn’t think there is a driver capable of stopping the reigning world champion at the moment.

“What Max is doing is breaking records and driving at an unbelievable level,” Horner said.

“I don’t think there is anybody in the world at the moment that can beat Max Verstappen in this car, that’s for sure.

“You have to recognise and applaud what Max is doing. It is very special to achieve what he has achieved and we shouldn’t detract from that in any way.

“In sport it is very rare that something like this happens and it is a golden moment for him and certainly a golden moment for the team.”

Now the focus shifts to Singapore in two weeks time. Verstappen stated after Sunday’s win that the street course could prove a challenge for Red Bull, though given how things have gone this season, we’ll have to see it to believe it.

Adriano Boin
Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1 and Ferrari.
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