Gasly wins crazy Italian GP from Sainz and Stroll as Mercedes error costs Hamilton win

Pierre Gasly won the wackiest of wacky grands prix from Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll after Mercedes wrongly boxed Lewis Hamilton for a tyre change when the pit lane was closed after a heavy crash from Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton again seemed to be in a class of his own, comfortably leading the race before a miserable day for Ferrari was compounded when Leclerc slammed into the barriers at Parabolica. It was at that moment when his team gambled to be first to pit for an advantage of fresh rubber, even though the pit lane closure lights were clearly visible.

It appeared to be an inexplicable error for such a polished tactical team, and surely denied Hamilton a 90th grand prix victory at exactly the same venue as Michael Schumacher delighted the now absent Tifosi with his 90th win.

Regardless, with Hamilton relegated to the back of the field following his ten-second stop-go penalty and no chance to make up the gap, it made for a dramatic finish, Gasly holding off the McLaren of Sainz by the barest of margins to take a memorable victory.

“Oh my god, guys, we did it again! Oh my god, yes!” said an ecstatic Gasly over the radio after taking the chequered flag for an Italian team win at the most iconic of Italian circuits.

In winning, Gasly became the first French winner of a grand prix since Olivier Panis in Monaco in an equally crazy race in 1996. It was also the team’s first win in their new guise as Alpha Tauri since Sebastian Vettel won in the rain at Monza in 2008 – the circuit a lucky omen for the team.

“Honestly, it’s unbelievable, I’m not sure what’s happening right now,” Gasly told 2009 world champion Jenson Button after the race. “It was such a crazy race and at the end we capitalised on the red flag. The car was fast, we had a really fast car behind us. I have been through so much in the space of 18 months. My first podium last year, I was already like ‘wow!’ and now my first win in Formula One with Monza, I’m struggling to realise.

“I have no words. And this team have done so much for me, they gave me my first opportunity in Formula One, they gave me my first podium, now they have given me my first win.

“It’s crazy, honestly it’s just crazy and I’m so happy. I can’t thank them enough, everybody from Alpha Tauri to Honda. It’s a power sensitive track and we won the race above the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault cars, so just amazing day.”

It was a great start from the McLaren duo, Sainz and Norris both taking Bottas who lost further places to Daniel Ricciardo, as Lance Stroll passed Max Verstappen for seventh.

With the Monza strategy a simple one-stopper, the crucial changes in position usually comes down to that vital change of tyres and which teams would try the undercut, stopping early to overtake cars in front whose tyres may be falling off optimum performance.

But then, just as the first stop window was approaching for the leaders, Kevin Magnussen stopped at the side of the circuit to bring out a Safety Car situation. It seemed the opportune moment for Hamilton to pit and change for a fresh set of medium tyres to take him to the finish.

Yet with Magnussen’s car close to the pit lane entry, Mercedes pitted when the pit lane was closed, and the McLaren duo realised as much, staying out until the pit lane was officially opened, leading to a gaggle of cars diving into the pits with the exception of Lance Stroll, possibly a strategic error from the Racing Point team.

It meant that Hamilton was slapped with a ten second drive through penalty and, what had literally seemed to be a walk in the Monza park was once again a competitive race to the finish.

A brake failure for Sebastian Vettel on lap 6 compounded Ferrari’s miserable qualifying performance. And it then went from bad to worse, as Leclerc lost control of his car at Parabolica, slamming into the tyre barrier and bringing out the red flags. Thankfully, the Monegasque emerged totally unscathed if understandably shaken.

Just as well, perhaps, there were no Tifosi in the stands to witness the latest chapter in this most dismal of seasons. But there was still another Italian team left to cheer on…

When the dust finally settled and racing resumed in earnest, Racing Point were the big winners. Error or not after the Magnussen retirement, they now had a free stop to change tyres under the red flags, and the Canadian now had a very good chance of a race win, as did half a dozen others.

Hamilton now led from Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi (also penalised for pitting) but Stroll went straight on at the chicane, wrecking his chances of victory. And, after the leader’s stop-go penalty dropped him to the back, Gasly led Raikkonen, Sainz and the recovering Stroll, to set up a thrilling finish to the chequered flag.

A brilliant move from Sainz saw him pass Raikkonen with 19 laps remaining and incredibly it now seemed to be a three-way battle for the win as the Racing Point man joined the podium battle.

But the day deservedly belonged to the affable and charismatic Gasly, who will take no shortage of pleasure from the fact that he was jettisoned by Red Bull back to the sister team but has now once again proved his credentials as a top driver in convincing fashion.

Lando Norris made it a strong weekend for McLaren by coming home in fourth place ahead of Bottas, Ricciardo and the recovering Hamilton as Esteban Ocon, Daniil Kvyat and Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten.

And there was further emotion all around the F1 paddock, as deputy team principal Claire Williams bade farewell to family involvement in the iconic British team after 43 years of racing.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Race winner Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri celebrates on the podium after the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 06, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Jenifer Lorenzini, Red Bull Content Pool, Getty Images)

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.