Max Verstappen beat Sergio Perez to win Formula 1’s 2023 Italian Grand Prix, while early leader Carlos Sainz won a savage late intra-Ferrari fight ahead of Charles Leclerc to hold third.
Verstappen’s victory is his 10th in a row, which gives him the outright record of consecutive F1 wins ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Alberto Ascari.
The start was delayed by nearly 20 minutes due to Yuki Tsunoda stopping with a suspected MGU-H issue, his cockpit smoking and the race reduced to 51 laps as the rest had to be re-dressed with their mechanics on the grid.
When they did finally get away, Sainz covered off Verstappen to immediately seize the lead, where rather than attack the lead Red Bull as Ferrari had hoped Leclerc had to defend from George Russell’s Mercedes behind.
But as he was able to hold on, the top three shot clear and Russell turned to defending against Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull.
For 14 laps Sainz was able to hold on in front of Verstappen – regularly defending the inside run to the first chicane, where on lap six the leaders nearly made contact as Verstappen stayed on the outside line and Sainz forcefully shut the door.
But on lap 15, Verstappen again got a run towards Turn 1 and there Sainz locked up his right front, which meant his rival could get alongside on the exit and surge through at the Curva Grande.
Verstappen sealed the move at the second chicane and quickly blasted to a 2.5s lead, as Sainz, with his rear tyres crying enough, struggled to hang on in front of Leclerc, who had lost DRS to Verstappen a few laps before the Dutchman fought his way into the lead.
Ferrari pitted Sainz to switch from the mediums all the leaders had started on for hards on lap 19, by which point Perez had finally battled by Russell – following a botched pass on lap 14 where they both cut the first chicane and Perez handed the position back – and was homing in on the red cars.
Leclerc and Verstappen came in a lap later, with the former rejoining barely behind Sainz and Verstappen over five seconds clear in the net lead.
When Perez stopped on lap 21, he made it a tight three-way scrap for second, with the trio initially lapping quicker than Verstappen ahead and trimming his lead under five seconds.
At this stage Lewis Hamilton led as he had started on the contra-strategy hard tyres, before Verstappen blasted by with his fresher set of the white wall rubber on lap 24 and the Mercedes then fell back towards the second-place scrap.
Sainz passed through at the Ascari chicane on lap 27, before Hamilton pitted and returned to running midway down the pack.
Here Verstappen upped his pace again and pulled his lead back towards six seconds, as Leclerc and Perez continued to chase Sainz.
Perez having a speculative move towards the inside of Turn 1 on lap 30 cost Leclerc enough momentum and, as he moved to defend that, he fell far enough back from Sainz to lose DRS the next time by the main straight.
At Turn 1, Leclerc was able to hang on defending the inside, but when Perez got alongside running towards the second chicane, Leclerc swung across as they moved to brake and Perez’s right-side wheels went onto the grass but it did not lead to a bigger incident.
With Sainz shooting clear by a few seconds, Perez easily took third on lap 32 – using DRS to get Leclerc well before the Turn 1 braking zone.
Up front, Verstappen held a near eight -second lead entering the final 20 laps, as Perez did not immediately shoot up to Sainz’s rear and Leclerc in turn was able to stay with the Mexican driver using DRS just behind.
But Perez did eventually find enough pace in the low 1m25s where Verstappen had long been running and the Ferraris had been putting in early in stint two to drag himself and Leclerc back to Sainz with 12 laps remaining.
Like his team-mate much earlier, Perez mounted several attacks at the first chicane – twice more cutting Turn 2 as Sainz again firmly shut the door there.
With Perez getting frustrated, eventually his pressure came good as Sainz’s tyres wore and his pace dropped into the high 1m26s – so much so that the lapped Kevin Magnussen was able to keep up with the podium battle behind.
On lap 47, Perez was barely behind Sainz starting the tour and he used DRS to shoot ahead on the run to Turn 1 and then sweep across to the inside of the right-hander and seal second.
But Sainz’s action was not over yet as Leclerc still lurked and the Ferrari pair then engaged in a thrilling intra-team fight.
They both cut the second chicane on lap 47 as Sainz locked up ahead in third, with the pair all over the road as they desperately fought to stand on the podium in front of their home fans.
Just after Sainz had asked Ferrari to call off the fight, which it denied, Leclerc locked up both his front wheels at the first corner and so nearly hit his team-mate, the pair crossing the line with Sainz ahead by just 0.2s.
Well ahead, Verstappen had backed off to the flag, a lead that had at one stage been north of 12s down to half that over Perez at the finish.
Russell was a distant fourth, but was in turn enough in front of the rest to negate a five-second time addition he was handed for cutting the first chicane while passing Esteban Ocon’s artificially high Alpine shortly after Russell had stopped.
Hamilton likewise negated a five-second penalty at the finish – as he had battled by Alex Albon and Lando Norris late-on then pulled clear of that pair, who had engaged in a scrap throughout the second stint.
Norris undercut his team-mate Oscar Piastri having been complaining about the other McLaren’s pace in stint one after starting behind, but when the Australian emerged from his stop he clipped his team-mate’s left-rear and nearly dropped his MCL60.
Piastri was then caught by Hamilton’s medium-shod Mercedes in the second stint and they had two incidents at the second chicane – the second one breaking Piastri’s front wing as Hamilton, attacking on the inside, moved over and caused the contact in the view of the stewards.
He nevertheless raced up too and by the pair ahead, as Albon and Norris were followed home by Fernando Alonso, who Hamilton had quickly caught and passed at Turn 1 just after his pitstop.
Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10 – the Alfa Romeo driver involved in clash with Logan Sargaent, for which the second Williams driver was penalised and he fell to 13th from 11th in the final standings.
Piastri came home 12th just ahead, with Liam Lawson 11th in the sole AlphaTauri following Tsunoda’s pre-race exit.
F1 Italian GP race results:
|Cla||Nº||Driver||Car / Engine||Gap|
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda RBPT||-|
|2||11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull/Honda RBPT||-6.064|
|3||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||-11.193|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin/Mercedes||-46.294|
|10||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||-1'04.056|
|11||40||Liam Lawson||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||-1'10.638|
|14||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||-1'20.164|
|16||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin/Mercedes||-1'27.266|
|-||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||-|