Verstappen dashes Ferrari hopes with safety car victory at Monza

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dashed Ferrari’s home hopes and won the Italian Grand Prix behind the safety car on Sunday to move within reach of his second Formula One world championship.

The Dutch 24-year-old’s victory at the “Temple of Speed”, in a race that ended disappointingly and to boos from the crowd, was Verstappen’s fifth in a row and 11th from 16 races this season.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Verstappen’s closest rival and now 116 points adrift with six races remaining, took second after starting on pole position but twice surrendering the lead in the pits.

George Russell finished third for Mercedes.

Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo had another disappointing day, forced to stop his car due to engine failure late in the race.

If Verstappen scores 22 points more than Leclerc in the next race under floodlights in Singapore on October 2, the title battle will be over.

Otherwise, it goes on to Japan a week later.

“You deserve that victory. It’s a shame it didn’t get going at the end there but you were the fastest car all weekend,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Verstappen over the radio after the chequered flag.

“Great job guys, we had a great race car,” he replied, before stepping out onto the Monza podium for the first time.

The win was Verstappen’s 31st, lifting him to level with Britain’s 1992 champion Nigel Mansell on the all-time list.

Verstappen started seventh on the grid but was third after the opening lap and 19.5 seconds clear of Leclerc with 20 laps remaining when the Ferrari pitted from the lead to go from medium tyres to softs.

Leclerc had made his first stop at the end of lap 11 when the virtual safety car was triggered by Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin stopping on track, also handing the lead to Verstappen who pitted on lap 25.

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto explained they had to do something different to Red Bull because it was the only hope of winning.

The safety car, deployed six laps from the end when last year’s winner Ricciardo stopped his McLaren on track with engine failure, raised the home fans’ hopes.

In the end it took too long to move the car for racing to resume.

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