May­hem in Monza

Gasly grabs stun­ning win af­ter Hamil­ton’s pit-stop fi­asco

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Philip Dun­can in Monza

Lewis Hamil­ton took the ex­tra­or­di­nary step of de­mand­ing an ex­pla­na­tion from the stew­ards mid­way through yes­ter­day’s Ital­ian Grand Prix af­ter he was served a penalty that paved the way for Pierre Gasly to com­plete one of the most sur­pris­ing vic­to­ries in mo­tor rac­ing’s re­cent his­tory.

Gasly, the 24-year-old French­man un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped by Red Bull 13 months ago, cel­e­brated his maiden For­mula One win, with McLaren’s Car­los Sainz, and Rac­ing Point driver Lance Stroll com­plet­ing an im­prob­a­ble podium at Monza. Hamil­ton fin­ished seventh.

Hamil­ton had been on course for his sixth vic­tory of the year af­ter es­tab­lish­ing a com­mand­ing 11sec­ond lead with just 20 of 53 laps on the board. But the world cham­pion and his all-con­quer­ing Mercedes team then made an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic er­ror.

With Kevin Mag­nussen’s stricken Haas car parked in a dan­ger­ous po­si­tion, and the safety car sub­se­quently de­ployed, Hamil­ton missed two red crosses to in­form him that the pit lane was closed.

Hamil­ton and the Mercedes pit wall had 12 sec­onds to re­act to the or­der but failed to do so. The Bri­ton dived in for fresh tyres and his fate was sealed.

The stew­ards hit Hamil­ton with a 10-sec­ond stop-and-go penalty for the in­fringe­ment, end­ing his hopes of claim­ing a 90th ca­reer win and mov­ing to within one of Michael Schu­macher’s vic­tory record.

Charles Le­clerc’s stag­ger­ing 180mph crash at the men­ac­ing Parabol­ica on lap 24 led to a red-flag pe­riod – and a frus­trated Hamil­ton left his Mercedes in the pit lane, be­fore walk­ing up the stair­case at the rear of the pad­dock and head­ing to the stew­ards’ of­fice.

“I wanted to see what had been missed be­cause I swore there wasn’t a red light at the en­try to the pit lane,” Hamil­ton later ex­plained.

“The stew­ards showed me the on-board video and the signs which had a cross through them. I didn’t see them be­cause I was look­ing else­where.

“It feels se­vere. A stop-and-go penalty of­ten comes if you have done some­thing in­ten­tional, driven er­rat­i­cally or put some­one in dan­ger. I don’t know if they can make the rule bet­ter for the fu­ture, but I ac­cept it and move for­wards. I hold my­self ac­count­able.”

Hamil­ton’s faux pas was the cat­a­lyst for the best race of the year, pro­vid­ing a shot in the arm for the sport af­ter a se­ries of pre­dictable grands prix.

Gasly started 10th but he was up to third at the res­tart af­ter for­tu­itously stop­ping for tyres a lap be­fore the safety car was re­leased. He then made mince­meat of Stroll when the race re­sumed on lap 28. Hamil­ton stopped for his penalty, Gasly as­sumed the lead and held his nerve. Sainz chased him to the line but the Al­pha Tauri driver tri­umphed by 0.4 sec­onds.

Gasly, who be­came the first French driver to win a grand prix since the sim­i­larly un­likely tri­umph for Olivier Pa­nis in a Ligier at Monaco 24 years ago, was re­duced to tears when he crossed the line.

“Oh my God,” he screeched over the ra­dio. “What did we do!? We won the f------ race! Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”

The vic­tory is the sil­ver lin­ing on what has been a tur­bu­lent year and a half for Gasly, sent back to Al­pha Tauri af­ter a se­ries of poor per­for

‘I don’t know if they can make the rule bet­ter for the fu­ture, but I ac­cept it and move for­wards’

mances for se­nior team Red Bull. An­thoine Hu­bert, his child­hood friend, was also killed in a For­mula Two race at Spa-Fran­cor­champs in Au­gust last year.

“Hon­estly, it is un­be­liev­able,” Gasly said. “I can­not be­lieve what is hap­pen­ing right now.

“It was such a crazy race. I have been through so much in the space of 18 months. I strug­gle to re­alise what has hap­pened. I have got no words.”

De­spite Hamil­ton’s trou­bles here, his 47-point cham­pi­onship lead re­mains in­tact af­ter he passed eight cars and se­cured a bonus point for the fastest lap fol­low­ing his penalty. Max Ver­stap­pen re­tired with a bro­ken Red Bull, while Hamil­ton’s team-mate, Valt­teri Bot­tas, fin­ished only fifth fol­low­ing a poor start.

Bri­tish driver Lando Nor­ris was fourth on a strong af­ter­noon for the resur­gent McLaren team, but a mis­er­able week­end was sealed for Fer­rari when both cars failed to com­plete their home race.

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel re­tired with a brake fail­ure on lap six be­fore Le­clerc’s seis­mic shunt. Le­clerc went to the on-track med­i­cal cen­tre but was given the all-clear.

Pay­ing the penalty: Lewis Hamil­ton came into the pits (above) when the pit lane was closed af­ter the race was sus­pended fol­low­ing Charles Le­clerc’s dra­matic crash (left)

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