What is the Monza Curse? The freaky streak that could deny Max Verstappen record F1 victory

The previous three winners of the Italian Grand Prix have all failed to finish the Monza race the year after claiming victory

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Max Verstappen will look to win the 2023 Italian Grand Prix to claim a record-breaking 10th consecutive F1 win, but in order to do so he’ll need to survive the Monza curse.

Since 2019, the winner of the Italian GP has failed to finish the race the following year. Charles Leclerc retired in 2020, Pierre Gasly retired in 2021 and Daniel Ricciardo retired in 2022.

The curse ‘began’ when Leclerc crashed at the exit of the Parabolica corner, in a hard impact with the tyre barriers. It was this incident that ‘selected’ the next victim, as the resulting red flag allowed Gasly to inherit the lead of the race due by being able to complete his mandatory pit stop for free.

Gasly would go on to win ahead of Carlos Sainz but did not manage to win in 2022 as he retired on Lap 3 due to suspension problems, thus becoming the second victim.

Ricciardo would claim the win in 2021 after title protagonists Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton crashed at the first chicane, opening the door for a McLaren 1-2 and their first win since 2012.

But like those before him, the Australian could do little to fight off the curse. Ricciardo suffered an oil leak in the 2022 race leading to his retirement on Lap 45, becoming the latest to succumb to the bad fortune.

With limited opposition in 2023, could the curse of Monza be Verstappen‘s greatest threat to his chances of victory?

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the 2022 Italian Grand Prix REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

The 2022 Italian GP: Verstappen’s race

Verstappen won the 2022 edition quite comfortably, claiming the top step of the podium after leading by 17 seconds prior to a late safety car.

The Dutch driver started from seventh following a grid penalty for an extra power unit and took the lead of the race on the 13th lap. He would go on to lead all of the remaining laps bar seven, when Ferrari led by virtue of differing pit strategies.

Leclerc came in for new tyres on Lap 36 and fitted the soft tyre to run against the World Champion’s mediums, with the task of making up 20 seconds. However, when the safety car was deployed on Lap 48, the Monegasque had only taken around three seconds out of Verstappen‘s lead.

The race ended under the safety car, a controversial decision in the eyes of Leclerc, who argued over the radio that the incident was clear and that the race could have been restarted.

When he took the chequered flag, Verstappen still led by two seconds to claim his first ever Italian GP win at Monza and extend his championship lead to 116 points.

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