Italian GP: Ricciardo and Norris bring home 1-2 finish for McLaren

Italian GP: Ricciardo and Norris bring home 1-2 finish for McLaren

Ricciardo and Norris have brought the silverware home for McLaren, with a 1-2 finish at the Italian GP, the first for the team since 2010.

McLaren drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris delivered the goods at the Italian GP with a 1-2 finish for the team. Sunday’s race win is McLaren’s first since Brazil in 2012, and first 1-2 finish since Canada in 2010.

Ricciardo and Norris put on a stellar drive throughout the race. Starting second on the grid, Ricciardo managed to get an early jump on Max Verstappen, taking the lead into Turn 1. The Australian would go on virtually unchallenged for the remainder of the race.

McLaren’s MCL35M showed great pace, with Ricciardo holding off Verstappen, the Dutchman unable to get close enough to make a pass. His life was made even easier when Red Bull bungled Verstappen’s pit stop, resulting in the car sitting in the box for some 11 seconds.

A collision at the Turn 1 chicane between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton all but sealed a McLaren victory. With the two championship contenders knocked out of the race. Valtteri Bottas, who pitted for fresh medium tyres under the safety car, did show some concerning speed upon the restart.

However, unable to keep up the pace after pushing hard to make up several places, Bottas dropped back, stuck behind third place Sergio Perez.

Ricciardo has copped plenty of flak for his lack of form during the 2021 Formula 1 season. Norris has outperformed him in the majority of qualifying sessions and races. However, after returning from the summer break, he has looked like a completely revitalised driver during the past three race meets.

“It means everything. I definitely try not to make, or dictate, my life happiness around the sport because it’s been three-and-a-half years since I won so I’d be pretty miserable most of the time if I just based my happiness on winning races,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s just wild… but deep down I never lost faith or the belief and I think I needed to step back and that’s where I think having some time off in August helped, and I truly think that helped this weekend, to get to this position.

“I knew, to be honest, even if we got the start, it was never a guarantee we would lead the whole race. I was able to hold firm out front in the first stint. I don’t think we had like mega speed, but it was enough just to keep Max behind.

“And then I don’t know, there were safety cars, there was this and that. To lead literally from start to finish, I don’t think any of us expected that.

“There was something in me on Friday. I knew something good was to come. Let’s just say that.”

A resurgent Ricciardo will be a much-welcomed addition to McLaren’s continued fight with Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship. The lead for third in the standings has changed several times between the two teams. With Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz outscoring McLaren in recent races.

The team have needed Ricciardo to step up to the plate and contribute to the points alongside Norris. And if the last three weeks are anything to go by, we may be about to see the Ricciardo of old. McLaren now have a 13.5 lead over Ferrari in the standings.

But while Ricciardo has now shaken the monkey off his back, scoring his first podium since joining McLaren, Norris also managed his highest points finish since joining F1 back in 2019.

Starting from third, Norris quickly found himself passed by Hamilton leading into Turn 1. He wouldn’t stay fourth for long, however, passing Hamilton to retake his starting position. Norris managed to hold off Hamilton for some time, until the Mercedes squeezed pass as Norris’ tyres started to degrade.

Another bungled pit stop, this time by Mercedes, would play into McLaren’s favour, with Norris passing Hamilton down the straight, just prior to the Red Bull and Mercedes collision.

Sitting third behind Charles Leclerc upon the restart, Norris wasted no time in overtaking the Ferrari, skirting around the outside to line up in second by Ricciardo.

“Obviously I’m so pleased for the whole team,” Norris said. “It’s such a cool moment for all of us. We’ve done an awesome job from the beginning of the weekend. From practice to qualifying, the decision to use the Soft tyres on Saturday, all of that set us up for today. We didn’t get lucky, we had the pace, we were in the positions we wanted to be. We had to overtake, we had to defend, we had to do everything.

“It’s an amazing result, I’m so happy for everyone. It’s our first one-two in 11 years! Another podium for myself, a win for Daniel, but more importantly a one-two. So that as a combination is the coolest thing in the world. So, huge congrats to everyone and well-deserved.”

There is no doubting the tremendous effort it has taken McLaren just to make it back here. After so many years of being uncompetitive, the team are slowly making their way back towards the top.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown and Team Principal Andreas Seidl can be credited with much of the development and performance increases seen at Woking over recent years. With the team now heading in the right direction regarding car developments, as seen by the last two years, as well as updates to outdated equipment at the McLaren Technology Centre, including construction of a new wind tunnel.

Brown stated previously he doesn’t realistically see McLaren competing for the World Championship until at least 2024. However, a win here or there wouldn’t be out of the question. A sentiment Seidl shared after Sundays race, reminding people not to get ‘carried away’.

“First of all, I’m just happy and proud of the team today,” Seidl said. “I’m very proud of every single member of the team back home, here at the track, colleagues at Mercedes and Lando and Daniel.

“And there was a lot of pressure today because we knew that we had a good car and we knew also that if we managed to stay ahead of one or the other car at the beginning or managed to overtake that there’s actually a chance to do something big.

“The team is doing sensational work with sensational spirit as well, and it’s great to see that it’s step-by-step paying off. At the same time, no reason to get carried away; it’s important to celebrate today but shouldn’t forget one week ago we got destroyed. We still have a lot of work to do, but the direction is the right one.”

F1 heads to Sochi in two week’s time for the Russian GP. Another high-speed track on the calendar that may suit the MCL35M.