Verstappen leads Leclerc home after late Safety Car

Welcome to our coverage for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix from Monza. Yesterday’s qualifying session was certainly an intriguing one given the form book for the races since the summer break, but perhaps one not entirely out of sync with how the season has played out throughout the year. 

In the end it was Charles Leclerc who nailed his final qualifying lap around Monza to finish quicker than Max Verstappen by about a tenth-and-a-half, but before the end of Q2, it looked very much like the Dutchman had the upper hand yet again. 

It is encouraging, in some ways, that Leclerc finished on pole as, with Verstappen’s penalty, it gives him a half-decent chance of fighting for the race victory. The issue is how exactly today’s race pans out. All season Ferrari have had the edge over one lap before fading in the race. After Verstappen was quickest on Saturday at Spa and then Zandvoort last week, that trend changed. 

What is the most likely outcome today? Verstappen starts seventh, and although it is harder to overtake at Monza than it was at Spa – where he charged from 14th on the grid to a dominant victory – the Red Bull driver should still be the favourite. 

Why? Because, generally the Red Bull has been faster on Sundays (and recently by some margin) and also because Verstappen has specifically optimised his set-up for race day. Yes, he may find it hard to overtake with a higher downforce set-up but I cannot see it being too much of a problem. 

Our best hope is that it gives us a competitive race today but for that to be the case Ferrari probably need to maximise their car’s potential with no driver or operational errors and pace to compete with Red Bull. That has not been a feat they have managed many times in 2022. 

The past five editions of the race have been well worth watching, but they have largely depending on having two closely-matched cars at the front, or some other unusual factor (the chaos of Pierre Gasly’s 2020 win or the unusual set of factors in Daniel Ricciardo’s 2021 victory). They are not out of the question this afternoon. The raft of grid penalties throughout the field (more on that shortly) means the opening few laps could at least be interesting. 

The race begins at 2pm BST and I will be here for all the build-up, live updates and reaction from Monza. 

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