Sergio Perez Fifth in Italy to Lead Honda F1 Fortunes

  • Verstappen maintains championship lead
  • Perez gains three spots from grid to earn top-five finish
  • AlphaTauri season-long point-scoring streak ends

Mistakes are inevitable in the top-tier of auto racing, and how a driver and team responds to those mistakes can often determine the outcome of a championship.

For Red Bull Racing Honda driver Max Verstappen, Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix saw mistakes compounded by more mistakes, but at the end of the day the Dutchman maintained his place at the top of the Formula 1 World Championship after a crash eliminated both frontrunners in the title chase.

Verstappen’s departure left Sergio Perez in charge of Honda’s fortunes and the Mexican driver answered the bell, climbing from eighth on the starting grid after Saturday’s Sprint qualifying race to finish fifth. Perez actually crossed the finished line in third, but a five-second time penalty earned while passing Charles Leclerc dropped him to fifth in the final listings.

Scuderia AlphaTauri had a rough weekend as the two-car Honda team could not overcome problems caused by contact in Saturday’s qualifying race. Both cars were slated to start from Pit Lane but Yuki Tsunoda would not make it to the grid after mechanical issues were found on Sunday morning. Pierre Gasly did take the start but lasted just three laps before retiring. The retirements meant the AlphaTauri team did not score points for the first time all season.

Verstappen started on pole for the seventh time this season but fell behind eventual racewinner Daniel Ricciardo in the opening chicane. Verstappen fought off Lewis Hamilton two turns later to hold onto second place, where he would run for the first 23 laps until Ricciardo pitted. Pitting one lap later, Verstappen returned to the Monza layout in 10th place after an uncharacteristically slow stop cost the #33 car 11 seconds on Pit Lane.

Mired in the middle of the pack, Verstappen was looking to make up ground when Hamilton came off Pit Lane alongside him after his own stop. The two fought for position going into the Turn 1 chicane when Verstappen hit the curbs, launching him sideways and into Hamilton, then over the top of the Mercedes machine as both drivers were stranded in the gravel trap.

The double retirement of the championship leaders left Verstappen with a five-point lead in the standings after 14 races. Perez is fifth in the standings while Gasly dropped to ninth, falling behind Sunday racewinner Ricciardo. Red Bull Racing holds onto second place in the Constructor’s Championship, trailing Mercedes by 18 points. After three consecutive weekends of racing, the series will have a week off before heading to Russia September 24-26.

After the race, the race stewards determined that Verstappen was ‘predominantly to blame’ for the accident and issued a three-race grid penalty to be served in the Russian GP.

Toyoharu Tanabe
Technical Director, Honda F1
“This was a very disappointing day for us with three of the four Honda-powered cars failing to finish. Checo actually had a good race to come from eighth on the grid to cross the finish line third, but a penalty meant he was classified fifth, but those points are important for the championship. It was a shame that both AlphaTauris were out of the race almost immediately and then Max had to retire after his collision with Lewis. However, there is still a long way to go this season and we can expect a tough fight for the championship all the way to the end, so we will start preparing for the next race right away. Finally, I would like to offer our congratulations to our former partners McLaren on their brilliant 1-2 finish.”

Max Verstappen - Red Bull Racing Honda
Start 1st, Finish: DNF
“We were racing for position today but you need two people to work together to make the corner and Lewis just kept squeezing until there wasn’t room anymore for two cars and that’s when we crashed. When he exited the pits, he started to squeeze me going into Turn 1 so I had to use the green part of the track. It was very tight but there was room for me to go around the outside and then I was pushed onto the orange sausage curb. I was there to try and race hard but fair. I don't fully agree with the penalty as I believe it was a racing incident. It’s very unfortunate what happened today but we are both professionals and so we will move on.”

Sergio Perez - Red Bull Racing Honda
Start: 8th, Finish: 5th
“It was a very eventful race and a real shame to miss out on the podium. With the penalty, I think we hoped for a wider view in the sense that it was my corner and I was ahead of Charles, but it is what it is and we tried to recover. From our side we did the best possible race we could as a Team but overtaking was impossible today and it was really difficult to keep ahead of the cars behind. McLaren were really quick and difficult to beat, they’ve been solid this weekend and especially on the straights they were hard to follow. They had very strong traction so at no point could I be a threat to them, but as a Team this wasn’t our track, we weren’t so strong here so now we move on and look forward to Russia. There is still a long way to go in this championship.”

Pierre Gasly - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: Pit Lane (qualified 20th), Finish: DNF
"We had a brilliant start to the weekend, with another strong Qualifying performance, but then after yesterday’s Sprint Qualifying it’s all been very disappointing. We knew there was something wrong in the initial laps, but we weren’t able to get it fixed before the race. We don’t know the exact issue yet but unfortunately, we had to retire the car. It’s our home race so it’s hard to lose both cars here today. We know that the performance of the car is there, so we need to just work hard and prepare for the next race.”

Yuki Tsunoda - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: DNS, Finish: DNF
“On the lap to the grid we found a mechanical issue with the car. We tried to fix this on the grid, but it wasn’t possible, so we brought the car back into the garage to try and sort it ahead of the race. My mechanics did a great job trying to get it fixed, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to start. It’s tough not to get more laps and experience in this car, but we need to turn the page and my full focus will now be on Russia.”


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