Italian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen wins and closes on F1 world title

This Formula 1 season has distilled into a sort of ‘Challenge Max Verstappen’ show – pick a grid position for the Red Bull driver and see if he can win. The answer has become, invariably, yes.

In Hungary, at the beginning of August, Verstappen started 10th and won. In Belgium, after the summer break, he was 15th on the grid and won. At the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday, he started seventh.

It is a measure of Verstappen and Red Bull’s superiority that pretty much everyone thought he was going to win from there, even with Charles Leclerc on pole for Ferrari at their home race. Mercedes driver George Russell, starting second behind Leclerc, said: “You’d have to be pretty stupid to bet against it.”

Verstappen was up to third a matter of meters after crossing the line to start lap three, and second two laps later. As he sat there over the next few laps, edging ever closer to Leclerc, it was simply a matter of time before the Dutchman was in front.

Ferrari gambled on strategy, but the reality was it made no difference.

“I don’t think strategically they made a bad call,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “We just had a quicker package and we would have won the race irrelevant of that.”

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto agreed.

“It’s not difficult to beat a faster car,” Binotto said. “It is impossible. He was faster. Whatever was the strategy, he would have won.”

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