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F1: Chequered Flag - Italian GP Review

Max Verstappen's charge towards a second straight F1 world title continued with a win at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix which controversially ended behind the safety car.

The Dutchman was on course for another comfortable win as he was around 17 seconds clear of Ferrari pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, with Mercedes' George Russell in third.

However, with only six laps remaining Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren stopped on the track after an engine failure which brought out the safety car.

The marshals struggled to move the car which was still in gear meaning the safety car had to remain on track as it backed up all the cars.

Even though Verstappen, Leclerc and Russell made pit-stops during this period, anticipating a shootout to the end, time ran out and the Red Bull crossed the line first much to the disappointment of the Tifosi - Ferrari's loyal home supporters cheering on the Scuderia.

Verstappen is now 115 points ahead of Leclerc after winning his 11th race of the season and he could win the title in the next race at Singapore, where the 24-year-old is

Verstappen proves he is the class of the field again

Grid penalties have almost become irrelevant to Verstappen who appears to have the title sewn up already despite another six races on the calendar.

He began the race seventh but got up to second with just over five laps gone with his Red Bull's sheer straight-line speed working a treat on a track that rewards power - aided of course by DRS.

Red Bull and Ferrari tried different strategies - an early virtual safety car saw Leclerc dive into the pits to try a two-stop strategy, with other cars driving slower round the circuit.

However, it ultimately did not pay off because the VSC period finished while he was in the pits and Verstappen was homing in on the Ferrari after making a pit stop of his own.

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Ferrari then brought Leclerc in on lap 33, changing him to soft tyres, with the team hoping his fresher rubber would help him close in on Verstappen.

However, a consummate drive from Verstappen meant the Monegasque could never close the gap and Verstappen looked to be coasting towards another win.

The presence of the late safety car was reminiscent of Abu Dhabi last year but, unlike the title decider, there was to be no dramatic finish, with home fans booing the decision.

It is hard to take anything away from Verstappen though who looks as good as ever and, ominously, there could be even more to come from the dominant Red Bull.

Sainz charge quells Ferrari frustration

While there was disappointment for Leclerc over not winning, Ferrari fans can be pleased with the comeback from Carlos Sainz who began the race 18th.

The Spaniard, who has often been unlucky this season due to a mixture of reliability and strategy errors found himself having to fight his way through the pack.

He made an excellent start and was doing a good job of clear midfield runners throughout the Grand Prix.

Eventually, he came over the line fourth, just missing out on a podium but he can take credit for a solid drive.

Russell's third was his seventh podium finish of the season and he is now fourth in the title, with only 16 points separating Leclerc, Sergio Perez and the Brit in second, third and fourth.

De Vries makes impressive debut

With Alex Albon suffering with appendicitis and ultimately not being fit enough to race this weekend, Williams needed a replacement driver quickly and up stepped Dutchman Nyck de Vries.

He has been Mercedes' reserve driver this season and yet, with no preparation or testing time in his new car, he did a brilliant job in Saturday qualifying, starting eighth on the grid.

Even with quicker cars coming from behind on Sunday, the 27-year-old - who has won drivers’ titles in Formula 2 and Formula E - proved Saturday was no fluke and finished the race a very creditable ninth.

In one race, he has already outperformed team mate Nicholas Latifi and he may be sought after for 2023 judging by his performance.

Race direction frustrates fans

There will be a debate over the race ending behind the safety car which meant the chequered flag was a bit of a damp squib.

An option was available to bring out the red flag and let the cars have a standing start with only four or five laps remaining but the decision was made instead to persist with the safety car.

However, Ricciardo's car proved too difficult to move and the wait for extra help meant the race elapsed.

It was not a great look for a sport whose rules and regulations have certainly come into question over the past year, and the fans voiced their displeasure at the end, even if they had vested interests.

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