5 Takeaways from the 2020 Italian Grand Prix
One of the best races in recent memory, the Italian Grand Prix made history in many brilliant ways.
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Monza, Italy - Last weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix, it was a struggle to even get five thoughts down on paper from what was another boring race. It really felt like F1 had hit a wall in terms of excitement and after Saturday in Italy, it seemed like more of the same after a Mercedes front row lock out. But for a handful of reasons, we luckily got the complete opposite and ended up with one of the best races in recent memory. No matter who you support, I think everyone was extremely happy for the likes of Gasly and Sainz. The 2020 Italian Grand Prix was a great reminder as to why we love this sport and why we continually tune in to watch these races. Their is a lot to unpack from this race and unfortunately only five thoughts to do it in this article. We'll be doing a more comprehensive recap of the race later on this week but for now, let's look at my five big takeaways from the Italian Grand Prix.
1. Pierre Gasly is the driver of the year
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If you've been following The BackMarkers F1 Show this season, you have probably heard me praise Pierre Gasly's performances in 2020. As a matter of fact, in last week's Belgian Grand Prix recap podcast, I commented on the fact that Gasly could be the driver of the year. Well, I think this is a good time to highlight a comment we got on that video in light of this weekend's race result.
That comment aged well didn't it? If you haven't been paying close attention, Pierre Gasly this year has consistently put in brilliant drives in the Alpha Tauri. He has yet to qualify lower than 12th and has been much quicker than this teammate throughout the season. Gasly has also put that Alpha Tauri in higher positions than it realistically should be with P7 finishes in Austria and Silverstone. But my case for Pierre Gasly as driver of the year just got solidified with his win in Italy. It was his first career victory in Formula 1 and the first by a French driver since Olivier Panis in 1996. Luckily for Gasly, this time around the safety car worked to his benefit unlike in Belgium. Gasly fitted the hard tyre just a few laps before the red flag came out and with Hamilton's impending penalty, the victory was his for the taking. Pierre absolutely nailed the restart and was smart to not race Hamilton although he probably could have made a move on Lewis going into turn one. After Hamilton pitted to serve his penalty, Gasly took command of that race and didn't show any signs of nervousness. He pushed early in the stint to create a gap to Sainz and then managed the pace in the last ten laps beautifully to bring home a dramatic victory. I can't tell you how impressed I was with Gasly's driving at the front and how he was able to handle the pressure from behind. He was sliding all around the track to protect his lead but it's his composure as a young driver that really stood out. The McLaren and Racing Point on pure pace should have been faster than the Alpha Tauri but Pierre Gasly was not going to let that win slip away. Seeing the young Frenchman's emotions as he got of the car and then later on the podium was such an incredible sight to see. We've repeated this many times, but when you think of where Pierre Gasly was just 12 months ago, this race win is extraordinary. All I can say is a huge congratulations to Pierre and the whole Alpha Tauri team, thank you for reminding us why we all love this sport!
2. Thank you Kevin Magnussen
We joked after the Belgian Grand Prix that in today's Formula 1 you need crashes in order to liven up a race! Unfortunately (or in this case fortunately) we got two critical incidents that ended up creating a scenario that led to one of the best races in the turbo-hybrid era. So a big thank you is in order to Kevin Magnussen for having his mechanical failure at just the right time in the race. It's where Magnussen placed his broken down Haas that really ended up defining the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. K-Mag parked just after the Parabolica at the beginning of the entry to the pit lane. At first I thought it would just be a virtual safety car and the Haas would be pushed back behind the marshall's post. But the stewards decided to bring out a full safety car and push the Haas directly into the pit lane which in turn meant that the pit lane would be close momentarily. Now if you watch IndyCar like I do, this is something common under full course cautions but in the case of Formula 1 racing, we rarely ever see the pit lane closed. This call from the race stewards really caught out Mercedes and Alfa Romeo who both instructed Lewis Hamilton and Antonio Giovanazzi to pit. Both drivers failed to see the two signs on the left hand side indicating a closed pit lane and therefore were both hit with a ten second stop-go penalty. Of course a few laps later, Charles Leclerc's big shunt led to a red flag which shook up the grid even more on the restart. Personally, I was really enjoying the race even before these two incidents as the battle behind Hamilton was intriguing. Who knows where we would be had Magnussen not retired where he did, but I think a proper thanks is in order to the Haas driver for getting the ball rolling!
3. Renault will be kicking themselves
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When you get a hectic race like this, sometimes it's just about being at the right place at the right time. Unfortunately for Renault, they were neither at the Italian Grand Prix. Renault was coming off of their biggest points haul at the Belgian Grand Prix and looked poised to do one better at another low down force circuit. It seemed like with Red Bull out of the mix, Renault and Daniel Ricciardo might be able to sneak onto the podium but it never materialized. A disappointing Saturday meant Ricciardo would only start 7th with his teammate Ocon back in 12th. As the crazy events of the race were unfolding, Renault were unable to take advantage as in the end Ricciardo came home in 6th place. It was still a decent haul of 12 points for the French outfit but when you look at the smaller teams that took advantage and the fact that their customer car finished on the podium, they'll be absolutely kicking themselves for this missed opportunity. McLaren (with a Renault engine) finished in 2nd and 4th and were within a second of a race victory. That has to be extremely frustrating for the works team who seemed to be gaining good ground on third in the constructor's standings. Now after the Italian GP, they sit 27 points back of customer McLaren and heading to some tracks that might not be friendly to their chassis.
4. The Italian GP is why we love Formula 1
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We were getting so complacent with the Mercedes domination in the last few races that it was getting difficult to get excited for Sunday's. Thankfully, the Italian Grand Prix gave us a massive boost we all needed for this 2020 season. Most likely we're not going to get a race like this every weekend but it doesn't matter for now. This race was just a great reminder as to why we love this sport and an example of what this series could become in the future. The biggest problem with the last couple of race weekends is that we knew exactly who was going to win the race after a few laps. What made this race so thrilling, was the edge of your seat anticipation of the checkered flag to see who would cross the line first. During the red flag scenario, it really was a toss up between four drivers as to who could come out on top. We all have our personal favorites, but I couldn't be happier to see the likes of Alpha Tauri, Racing Point, and McLaren celebrating their hard work on the podium. But it was also the rest of the grid who joined in on the celebrations as you saw Red Bull clapping hands and other drivers congratulating Pierre Gasly. It's great to see the tense environment of the F1 paddock break down and genuine sportsmanship shine through at a brilliant moment. When you consider that this was the first non Red Bull, Mercedes, or Ferrari win since 2013, we really witnessed something special in Italy. A lot of credit also has to go to Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll who put in brilliant drives as well. When you look back on it, Stroll could've won the race had he nailed the restart but in the end still managed his second career podium. Sainz also showed he's not afraid of the big moment and made Gasly earn every bit of that victory. It's safe to say the future of F1 is in good hands with these young drivers as they showcased themselves to handle the pressure extremely well on Sunday. It was a brilliant race day all together and was thoroughly enjoyable at every moment. Hopefully we get more of these types of races in the future because the drivers deserve it and the fans deserve it as well.
5. Spare a thought for Williams
Their were so many talking points from a historic Italian Grand Prix that an end of an era was actually easily forgotten in all of the excitement. This grand prix marked the last for the historic Williams family in Formula 1 and brought an end to one of the most amazing stories in all of motor sport. The announcement that Sir Frank Williams and Claire Williams would step down from the team following the Italian GP was a shock to many. Williams have gone under some big changes lately with the sale of their team and this departure officially marked a new era at the UK based team. Tributes were pouring in all weekend as fans and drivers fondly remembered the Williams family contribution to Formula 1. As much as I could've used this last thought on another driver or team, I felt that it was important to give Williams a proper goodbye after they have done so much for the sport. The story of Frank Williams is so rare and will most likely never be repeated again in Formula 1. Williams has produced some of the most legendary F1 champions in history like Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, and Damon Hill just to name a few. As a private team, they took on the likes of mega manufactures like McLaren, Renault, Ferrari and came out on top on many occasions. It's sad to see the Williams family leave the sport but it was necessary to continue the legacy of Williams and keep the team on the grid for the future. Williams F1 team has meant so much to so many fans, so if you have any personal stories or memories regarding Williams in Formula 1, please leave them in the comments below.
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