The 2021 Italian Grand Prix will go down in history for countless reasons, but none so impressive as Daniel Ricciardo’s first win for McLaren — a well-earned victory that began from the green flag and lasted all the way to the checkered.
Pierre Gasly, who was involved in a first-lap crash during the sprint race, found an issue with his car on the warm-up lap and pulled into the pits for a disappointingly early hitch to his day. His AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda’s car was also wheeled back to the pit lane, while Gasly was able to start from pit lane.
In a fairly shocking start, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo got an exceptional start and took the lead from polesitter Max Verstappen — something he was able to maintain. Lewis Hamilton also had a solid start, launching past Lando Norris and then challenging Verstappen for second place. The drivers made contact, and Hamilton was pushed wide off the track. When he rejoined, he was in fourth place.
Race control called a virtual safety car after seventh-place starter Antonio Giovinazzi spun after contact with Carlos Sainz Jr. He was able to drive back to the pits for a wing change, but he did struggle to get away after that. After an investigation, Giovinazzi was given a five-second time penalty.
The VSC was cleared fairly quickly. Gasly was into the pits to retire after a fraught start while Verstappen chased down Ricciardo, using DRS as soon as it was enabled.
On lap nine, Sergio Perez and Sainz had an exceptional battle for sixth place, with both drivers sticking to each other’s tires around Curva Grande. Perez came out in with the position, but he didn’t quite shake Sainz.
On lap 12, Hamilton had finally gotten close enough to Lando Norris to attempt to pass him, but even DRS wasn’t enough to combat Norris’ defensive driving.
Battling for 12th place, Esteban Ocon made serious contact with Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin when the German driver attempted to pass. Vettel had left plenty of space, but the two still made contact. Ocon was understandably given a five-second time penalty.
The gap between Ricciardo and Verstappen grew after Verstappen locked up his tires and ran wide, very nearly giving his second-place position to Norris. While he did manage to stay where he was, it was a demoralizing move for Verstappen.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo entered the pits on lap 23, while Red Bull psyched the team out by getting out Verstappen’s tires. That said, Verstappen’s tires were failing, and he came in on the next lap. Unfortunately, it was a horrible stop, and Verstappen reentered the track out of contention for the lead after the pit cycle.
Meanwhile, Hamilton passed Norris while the rest of the field began to cycle through pit stops.
A slow stop from Hamilton left the Mercedes driver desperate to stay ahead of Verstappen, but two hungry drivers led to disaster. The drivers made contact, ultimately taking each other out with Hamilton quite literally tucking underneath Verstappen’s car for the Mercedes driver’s first DNF in 84 races.
Stewards called a safety car while Verstappen came on the radio to say, “That’s what you get when you don’t leave me space.”
Ricciardo filtered out into the lead, followed by Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris.
The safety car ended at the end of lap 30, with Ricciardo getting a great lead. Norris tried to pull past Leclerc, but a little contact kept the two in their respective positions. Norris finally managed to pull out the pass a few corners later, going through the grass at Curva Grande to get it done.
As the race neared its final 10 laps, though, McLaren was presented with a problem: should the team swap Ricciardo and Norris? Ricciardo has frequently been less competitive than Norris this year, the latter of whom has pulled out more consistently solid drives. It would be nice to see him rewarded with the team’s first win in years. But at the same time, a fully solid weekend for Ricciardo would be deserving of a win.
Discussions were paused with nine laps remaining, when Nikita Mazepin’s Haas died on the side of the track and brought out a virtual safety car to slow speeds and safely pull the car off the track. It was a very brief VSC, and racing resumed a few corners later.
In third, Sergio Perez’s Red Bull began to suffer some mechanical issues with vibration, leaving him to struggle to maintain his position ahead of Valtteri Bottas — something made all the more difficult with the five-second time penalty that would be applied after the race.
Ultimately, McLaren let the race play out, leaving Ricciardo to take victory and Norris to take second place. It was the team’s first win since 2012, its first 1-2 since 2010, and Ricciardo’s first win since Monaco 2018. Ricciardo also took fastest lap and driver of the day.
Of further note was Perez’s third place crossing the line that was ultimately dropped back to fifth due to his time penalty, as well as George Russell’s ninth place for Williams.
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
- Lando Norris (McLaren)
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
- Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
- George Russell (Williams)
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine)