Ricciardo wins Italian GP as Verstappen and Hamilton takes each other out

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, right and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain crash during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, Sept.12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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MONZA, Italy Championship leader Max Verstappen and defending champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the Italian Grand Prix, which was won by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo on Sunday.

Ricciardo celebrated in his traditional style on the iconic Monza podium, drinking champagne from his shoe — and then getting teammate Lando Norris to do so too.

It was McLaren’s first win in nearly nine years since Jenson Button took the chequered flag in Brazil in 2012, and Ricciardo’s first win since Monaco in 2018. He finished 1.747 seconds ahead of Norris and 4.921 ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who turned in a strong performance after starting from the back of the grid after a penalty for taking a new engine.

“About time. Oh wow,” Ricciardo said. “Even if we got the start it wasn’t guaranteed that we’d lead the whole race. We didn’t have mega speed but it was enough to keep Max behind.

“To lead literally from start to finish I don’t think any of us expected that. But there was something in me Friday, I knew something good was to come.”

But the biggest talking point of the race came on lap 26.

Hamilton had pitted from the lead and returned to the track just in front of Verstappen. The Red Bull driver tried to come up the inside on a turn as the seven-time champion defended his position.

As the two made contact, Verstappen’s car catapulted on to the top of the Mercedes as both slid into the gravel. The protective halo ring at the front of F1 car cockpits may have saved Hamilton from serious injury.

“That’s what you get when you don’t leave the space,” said a furious Verstappen over team radio.

Both drivers were able to walk away from their cars though Hamilton took a long time getting out of his, only clambering out after Verstappen had long gone.

The stewards are investigating the incident and talking to both drivers.

Ricciardo enjoyed a brilliant start to the race, passing Verstappen, who started from pole position, at turn one.

Behind them Hamilton, who started fourth, managed to pass Norris. But he then attempted to try and get around the outside of Verstappen heading into the second chicane and was instead forced off across the grass, allowing Norris to regain his place.

“He (Verstappen) pushed me wide!” Hamilton exclaimed over team radio.

Hamilton was then held up by Norris and could only watch in frustration as Ricciardo and Verstappen stretched their advantage lap by lap.

Ricciardo was first to pit, on lap 23, and came out seventh. Verstappen was struggling with his tires and stopped on the following lap.

But a botched pit stop that lasted 11.1 seconds saw him come out in 10th and, to make matters worse for the Dutch driver, Hamilton had in the meantime passed Norris to take the lead.

But disaster struck for both drivers shortly afterward.

Hamilton, who was on a harder tire that allowed him to stay out longer, eventually pitted from the lead but his stop was also an unusually long one and he rejoined the race behind Norris and just ahead of Verstappen setting up their coming together.

There was contrasting fortunes for Hamilton’s teammate Bottas, who extended his strong weekend just days after it was reveleaved that he is to leave Mercedes at the end of the season.

Bottas had outqualified Hamilton on Friday and won Saturday’s sprint with the Finnish driver showing new team Alfa Romeo just what it can expect next season with a strong drive through the field on Sunday.

He finished fourth on the track but was promoted to third after Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez was given a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage while overtaking Charles Leclerc earlier.

Pérez was demoted to fifth, splitting Ferrari drivers Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

___ AP