ZANDVOORT -Red Bull’s Max Verstappen can chalk up a record 10th Formula One win in a row on Sunday but those hoping against hope for a different winner at Monza can still find some comfort in history.
The Dutch driver, 138 points clear of team mate Sergio Perez after 13 of 22 races, won at home in Zandvoort last Sunday to equal Sebastian Vettel’s 2013 nine streak, also with Red Bull. Verstappen won the Italian Grand Prix from seventh on the starting grid last year with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on pole but finishing second.
Red Bull have won every race so far this season, 14 in a row including the 2022 finale in Abu Dhabi, and are again favourites at Monza’s fast layout. No team have ever gone unbeaten through a season of more than 10 races, however. Monza proved the stumbling block for McLaren in 1988, a year in which they won 15 of 16, when Austrian Gerhard Berger led Ferrari team mate Michele Alboreto in an emotional one-two four weeks after the death of Enzo Ferrari.
Since Lewis Hamilton’s fifth Italian GP win with Mercedes in 2018 no driver has managed a repeat victory in the former royal park outside Milan. Leclerc won in 2019 and crashed in 2020. Pierre Gasly triumphed in 2020 and retired after three laps in 2021 while Daniel Ricciardo, absent this time through injury, won in 2021 and failed to finish in 2022.
Talk of a ‘Monza jinx’ may be premature but this is a season where straws are being clutched more desperately. Gasly and Ricciardo both won at the ‘Temple of Speed’ against the odds, with Verstappen retiring in 2020 (engine problem) and 2021 (collision with Hamilton), and the track can always spring surprises. Until last year, Verstappen had never finished on the podium there.
The race will be a first Italian Grand Prix as Ferrari principal for Fred Vasseur and the team will be racing with a special livery paying tribute to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours victory, the relationship with Monza and Ferrari’s ‘racing DNA’. Ferrari got only one car to the finish at Zandvoort, with Carlos Sainz finishing fifth, and they will be determined to give the ‘tifosi’ something to cheer.