There were many crazy moments in the race but the biggest drama on Sunday afternoon was when the Italian Grand Prix was red flagged for the first time since 1995 with a huge crash that Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was lucky to escape from uninjured.
The race had already been turned on its head on Lap 20 and just gone «green for go» following a prior Safety Car pause – called to clear Kevin Magnussen’s stricken car. Amidst all the safety car confusion, Leclerc had succeeded to pit early for hard compound tires and he had been gaining positions well before he crashed, having advanced to fourth place.
A huge impact for last year's Monza winner on Sunday
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 6, 2020
Then Leclerc lost control going around the high-speed Parabolica final corner and plunged headfirst into the tyre barriers. Reeling from the shock the Monegasque ace was quickly able to wave he was fine before climbing out, reportedly saying: “Was a big crash! I’m sorry, but honestly I struggled so much with the balance. I’m sorry.”
. @Charles_Leclerc team radio after the crash, telling the team that he is okay. Thank god 🙏
— Charles Leclerc Fan Page (@LeclercNews) September 6, 2020
The mishap at close to 260 kmh ended a thoroughly miserable weekend for Ferrari who also saw Sebastian Vettel retire with a fiery brake failure early in the race on lap six when he pulled up at the first chicane ploughing through signs on the run-off area. His left rear brake had apparently been ablaze seconds before.
You would have had to go back a quarter of a century to 1995 to see Ferrari suffering an ignominious double «Did Not Finish» at Monza. What a contrast to where Ferrari were last year with Leclerc having memories of the Ferrari fans filling the track for wild celebrations.
Big crash today. A bit sore but okay, impressive how much these cars can take nowadays. Thanks all for your messages. pic.twitter.com/M5phPOILHh
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) September 6, 2020
Hamilton had earlier pitted immediately from the lead, missing obeying a signal that the pit lane was closed. He ended up being penalised 10 seconds for coming into the pits when the pit lane was off limits. 25 minutes after the LeClerc crash with the race restarted on lap 28, Hamilton, after his penalty, rejoined at 17th instead of first, 30 seconds adrift of a now fortuitous but inspired racing performance by Pierre Gasly. Hamilton did manage to pull off the fastest laps to eventually climb back into seventh place, lapping 1.5 seconds per lap quicker than anyone else.
A French Triumph
So it turned out to be a French triumph in the end with Pierre Gasly securing his first Formula One checkered flag win for the Alpha Taura team.
What a tumultuous Italian Grand Prix with crashes, penalties and safety cars wreaking havoc with expectations.
Gasly is the first French race winner in 24 years. Late pressure did come from Carlos Sainz of McLaren who will replace Vettel at Ferrari next season and join LeClerc.
Lance Stroll finished third for Racing Point.
Lando Norris came past the checkered flag fourth in the second McLaren ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes.
Hamilton in seventh place managed to salvage his record run to 41 successive points finishes, leaving him with a 47-point lead over Bottas overall so far in this F1 championship season.