Daniel Ricciardo won a thrilling Italian Grand Prix ahead of McLaren teammate Lando Norris after championship rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came to blows again in a terrifying airborne crash.
The two title protagonists were kept separated in the first stint by Norris, who bottled Hamilton in fourth and split him from Verstappen’s fight with leader Ricciardo, but a slow stop by the Red Bull Racing mechanics conspired to drop the Dutchman off the lead battle.
Mercedes stopped Hamilton shortly afterwards, and his stop was also slow, dropping him onto the track alongside Verstappen as they entered the chicane, the Briton with the inside line and squeezing the Dutchman onto the apex at Turn 2.
Verstappen clattered over the high curbs and speared listlessly into the Hamilton as he tried to navigate the turn, and as they touched wheels the RB16B launched its rear into the air and landed heavily on top of the W12, its rear-left tire sitting perilously on top of the halo just inches from Hamilton’s helmet.
The tangled cars bounced to a stop in the gravel trap. Verstappen extricated himself rapidly from the car and marched off in disgust; Hamilton took his time to catch his breath before pulling himself from the wreckage.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 12, 2021
The stewards summoned both to a hearing set down for after the race.
A five-lap safety car ensued to clear the crash site before racing got underway with Ricciardo, who had snatched lead from Verstappen with a sizzling start, powering away at the restart. He led Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and teammate Lando Norris, but McLaren’s straight-line speed soon had the young Briton past the Monegasque with a gutsy move on the grass through Curva Grande, setting up an intrateam battle for first place.
But they weren’t alone with designs on victory in the freshly cracked-open race.
Sergio Perez had restarted fourth and risen to third behind Norris at the restart, while Valtteri Bottas, the only of the four to be equipped with the faster medium tire, dispatched Carlos Sainz and Leclerc four laps later to throw his hat into the ring.
Norris sensed the threat and radioed his pit wall that Ricciardo was holding him up. The team responded by telling the Australian that the only chance to win the race was to throw caution to the wind and blitz his tires in an attempt to break free from DRS threat, and he picked up the pace in reply.
The improved lap times were enough to dull Bottas’s charge. Stuck in the four-car slipstream, the Finn struggled to make an impression on Perez ahead, though his pressure was enough to keep the Mexican from engaging Norris ahead.
It effectively stalemated the battle, allowing Ricciardo to claim his first victory since his 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, setting the fastest lap on the final tour as a bonus.
“Deep down I knew this was going to come, so thanks for having my back,” Ricciardo said over team radio on his cool-down lap. “And for anyone who thought I left, I never left, just moved aside for a while.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 12, 2021
The one-two was McLaren’s first since the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix and the team’s first win since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.
“To not only win but get a one-two, it’s insane,” Ricciardo said. “For McLaren to be on the podium is huge, let alone a one-two. So this is for Team Papaya. For once I’m lost for words.”
Norris was unperturbed to be beaten to the team’s first victory by Ricciardo against the run of play between the two teammates’ respective form, the Briton instead thrilled for the team to have controlled the race.
“We’ve had a pretty awesome weekend,” he said. “Four years ago I joined the team, we’ve been working towards this, and we got a one-two finally.
“I’m happy for of course Daniel getting the win and me P2. I’m just happy for the win.”
Valtteri Bottas was promoted to third after Perez was handed a five-second penalty for passing Leclerc off the circuit through the Roggia chicane, completing a strong weekend for the Finn with a run from 18th on the grid to the podium.
“Starting from the back is never easy,” he said. “I told the team I was going to be on the podium today as well.
“I’m glad we could get more points than Red Bull. I think otherwise I maximized where I started.”
Leclerc delivered Ferrari a strong fourth for the team’s home race ahead of the penalized Perez and teammate Carlos Sainz.
Lance Stroll finished seventh for Aston Martin, holding off Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. George Russell finished a commendable ninth after starting 14th, with Esteban Ocon taking the final point for 10th.
Nicholas Latifi was 11th ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Antonio Giovinazzi finished a disappointed 13th after crashing with Leclerc on the first lap in an incident that cost him a five-second penalty.
Robert Kubica finished 14th ahead of Mick Schumacher as the final finisher.