Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton crash, Monza, 2021

Verstappen-Hamilton rivalry resumed? Five talking points for the 2022 Italian GP

2022 Italian Grand Prix

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The Italian Grand Prix this weekend in Monza sees Formula 1 return to the scene of one of the most dramatic moments in recent memory, at a point where Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes appear to have overtaken Ferrari as the closest competitors to Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

But with Red Bull having such an advantage at low-downforce circuits this season, can Verstappen and Hamilton be expected to resume their on-track rivalry once again this weekend?

Here are the top talking points for the Italian Grand Prix.

Rivalry revival

One year ago at Monza, the season-long world championship duel between Verstappen and Hamilton saw one of its most dramatic moments. While battling for position on track with Hamilton having left the pit lane following a stop, the two championship contenders ran side-by-side into the Rettifilo chicane and collided, sending the Red Bull on top of the Mercedes and both into retirement.

It was the second major clash between the pair during the 2021 season, following their high-speed tangle at Silverstone, which served to fan the flames of the rivalry that built until the dramatic season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Verstappen and Hamilton clashed controversially last year
But while 2022 has seen the two champions rarely fighting on-track, with Mercedes unable to match the Red Bull for performance throughout the season, that changed last weekend in Zandvoort where Hamilton and Mercedes pushed Verstappen harder than at any point since that notorious Yas Marina showdown. Verstappen may have overtaken Hamilton to secure yet another victory, but Mercedes’ race pace left Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admitting that Mercedes were now likely ahead of them in terms of overall performance on the track.

Whether that will be the case this weekend remains to be seen. Monza is the ultimate low-downforce circuit, and Mercedes produced one of their worst performances of the season relative to Red Bull at the last similar track, Spa-Francorchamps.

But the W13 has proven a mysterious creature, being unexpectedly competitive at some circuits and underperforming at tracks Mercedes did not expect to do as well at. If Mercedes can keep up with Red Bull this weekend, it could be Hamilton who is Verstappen’s closest adversary once again.

No excuses for Ferrari

Ferrari’s continued slide away from championship contention has been one of the outstanding stories of the 2022 season – not just for how they have lost touch with Verstappen and Red Bull in the standings, but the sometimes shambolic way in which they’ve done so.

Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit Zandvoort, 2022
Ferrari will face huge expectations at their home race
From baffling strategy calls to seemingly basic errors of operation, such as Carlos Sainz Jnr being left with only three wheels on his car during his first pit stop last Sunday, it has been a challenging and embarrassing few months for the Italian team as their title aspirations have evaporated into the air like the flare smoke from the Zandvoort grandstands.

Heading to Monza, Ferrari’s home race, the team know they will enjoy as much partisan support from the fans in attendance as Verstappen enjoyed last weekend. But the Tifosi’s support comes laden with high expectations and the Scuderia’s supporters will not be shy to voice their disapproval if Ferrari put in another lacklustre weekend.

However, given the Italian Grand Prix is such a special event for Ferrari, it’s unsurprising that the team have plans to introduce new, low-downforce upgrades for this weekend – particularly in the form of a new rear wing. With Red Bull holding a significant top speed advantage that has allowed them to breeze past their rivals in races and be virtually unbeatable in qualifying sessions around high speed circuits, any upgrades to address that deficit will be most welcome around Monza. As long as the team do not commit more unforced errors on Sunday.

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Can Ricciardo find some form?

Already in the knowledge he will not be racing with McLaren for next season, Daniel Ricciardo endured yet another barren weekend of performance at Zandvoort, qualifying ten places behind team mate Lando Norris and almost being lapped by him on his way to finishing second to last of all 18 cars that were running at the chequered flag.

Ricciardo won for McLaren at this track last year
As the outgoing driver continues to consider his limited options for 2023, he is keen to see off his time at Woking the best way he possibly can. With that in mind, there is perhaps no better race to be up next in the calendar than Monza – scene of Ricciardo’s remarkable and unexpected victory here just 12 months ago.

While McLaren’s first victory in nearly a decade was largely helped by Verstappen and Hamilton taking each other out of the running, it came during a weekend where Ricciardo felt the most at ease with his 2021 McLaren all that season and was not simply the result of a chaotic combination of circumstances. The win also came after he had spent the year struggling to get up to speed with his car and he had to hold off team mate Lando Norris in order to take the chequered flag first.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl was quick to play down any suggestions that his team may be able to repeat their achievement last year during this weekend’s event, but even having Ricciardo able to run close to his team mate and help secure important points in their battle with Alpine for fourth in the constructors’ championship will certainly go a long way to helping Ricciardo end his time with the team on a positive note.

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Return of Antonio

Antonio Giovinazzi, Ferrari, Miami International Autodrome, 2022
There will be an Italian driver on-track this weekend
For a nation whose history in Formula 1 is richer than almost any other, it’s remarkable to think that there are no Italian drivers currently on the grid. In fact, only Antonio Giovinazzi has represented Italy as a driver in the last decade, before he lost his drive at Alfa Romeo at the conclusion of last season.

However, the racer of 62 grands prix will return to a Formula 1 session on Friday when he steps in for Mick Schumacher in the Haas VF-22 during first practice – his first outing in a Formula 1 car since last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and his very first time behind the wheel of a new ground effect F1 car.

After a season spent struggling with ill-optimised machinery in Formula E, Giovinazzi’s runs in Monza and in Austin next month will be a crucial opportunity for Giovinazzi to stake his claim for a return to Formula 1 for 2023. With Schumacher’s future surrounded by question marks and Haas’s close connection with Ferrari, the Italian driver could have a golden chance at a second wind in F1 – much like Haas handed Magnussen at the start of the season.

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Mr America

With McLaren securing the right to run Oscar Piastri in their team for 2023, it appeared as if an avenue for the highly touted American IndyCar driver Colton Herta to be given an opportunity to race in Formula 1 was closed. However, Red Bull admitted that Herta was very much under consideration for their junior team AlphaTauri in 2023, making the prospect of an American racer in Formula 1 more possible than it has seemed for almost two decades.

Colton Herta, Andretti, Indianapolis Grand Prix, 2022
Will Red Bull succees in bringing Herta into F1?
AlphaTauri may be a Red Bull team, but they are based in Italy in Faenza – a legacy of their original guise as Minardi back in days before Red Bull began dramatically ramping up their involvement in Formula 1. Famously, the team have taken two victories in their history – both here at Monza. First with Sebastian Vettel under the team’s previous guise of Toro Rosso in 2008, before Pierre Gasly claimed a shock victory in 2020 for the team he is still contracted to race with in 2023.

The prospect of Gasly seeing out his contract with AlphaTauri next year has come into question with Fernando Alonso’s move to Aston Martin leaving an empty seat at Alpine that will now definitely not be filled by Piastri. Despite Esteban Ocon’s lobbying for Schumacher to be offered the seat, a second French driver at the only French team on the grid seems a likelier fit and an opportunity for Gasly to depart from the Red Bull ecosystem and try and forge an identity elsewhere.

All that stands in the way of Herta’s move to Formula 1 is his superlicence eligibility. Despite his wealth of experience and success in IndyCar, he currently does not meet the threshold of points to qualify him to race in Formula 1. If Red Bull can successfully lobby the FIA to offer Herta dispensation to earn a superlicence, then we could see the announcement of Formula 1’s long-awaited newest American driver sooner than many would have expected.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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46 comments on “Verstappen-Hamilton rivalry resumed? Five talking points for the 2022 Italian GP”

  1. I can’t see the HAM/VER rivalry spilling into another incident like the one last year at Monza. That was a single season-rivalry, it was the only season we saw Hamilton and Verstappen racing wheel to wheel (apart from Hungary 2019). The stakes are different this year, nowhere near as high. Hamilton isn’t fighting for a championship, and to be honest – neither is Verstappen at this stage of the season, or if he feels he is – it ain’t with Lewis.

    Ferrari’s new aero-upgrades will be interesting, I hope so anyway. I don’t think that even the biggest Ferrari detractors would mind seeing them enjoying some success infront of a cheering Tivosi. Given the straight-line speed of Red Bull (in Verstappen’s hands) it might give us some nice battles.

    1. I don’t think that even the biggest Ferrari detractors would mind seeing them enjoying some success infront of a cheering Tivosi.

      As the fight for the WDC is all but over, I can only hope for 7.5 exciting races between the six leading cars.
      I’m happy if Ferrari comes out on top this weekend and for once see some red smoke instead of orange ;)

      1. Very true. If we get good, close racing then we’re all winners!

      2. Yes, but I have to admit as an extremely realist, I had already considered the title over somewhere around france, and although ferrari has been able to win austria more recently, they haven’t even really been competitive to fight for the win lately; hungary looked good before the bad strategy, but spa and zandvoort they had no chance, more fighting to be the 2nd best car than best.

    2. I can see HAM being a bit aggressive, trying to lay down a marker, and VER backing out because he’s focused on the championship. Almost a reversal of their battles pre-2021. But I doubt it. Most likely the Red Bull will be the class of the field again. If Ferrari’s upgrades work, they’ll be close. The irony is that when they’re close, it puts more pressure on their own pit wall then it does on Red Bull. MERC will probably be fighting Alpine for best of the rest.

  2. Omg. Mercedes will be nowhere in Italy no where. They can compeat at tracks like hungaro Ring and Holland. But as soon as top speed becomes a factor Mercedes are nowhere. Now stop talking nonsense every week about a potential race win from Mercedes. They are not gonna win one race this year. Be prepared for the same exuses as happend in spa. If you haven’t figured it out by now the Mercedes engine is slower the. Redbull and Ferrari. And you call your self experts

    1. Mmm, honestly if something happens to verstappen, a mechanical problem or he makes contact with someone and gets serious damage, then a merc win becomes very likely, you see they’re outperforming ferrari lately and perez is nowhere: when you only have to beat 1 driver the chance to win a race is high.

      1. This. At the start of the season Leclerc was right up there with Max, so if one dropped out the other took the win almost by default. But right now I expect one of the Mercs to clinch it if Max has an issue.

  3. Rivalry revival – Doubtful.
    No excuses for Ferrari – Indeed.
    Can Ricciardo find some form? – Doubtful & I reckon his outright performance will remain unchanged until the season’s end as he seems to lack confidence post-departure announcement.
    Return of Antonio – Only in FP1, of course, but he has a chance for regular driver return as long as everything’s open, but not necessarily a given, even if Mick left as a Ferrari-associated driver is unrequired for them.
    We’ll find out soon enough.
    Mr America – Time will tell.
    Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Italian Grand Prix? – Easy choice, RBR.

  4. Rivalry? No, but Hamilton and Verstappen both effectively have nothing to lose. Verstappen will win the title, and Hamilton won’t, but he’ll be keen to take that win. Will Verstappen settle for second should it come to that? Maybe, but let’s wait and see if Mercedes is competitive first.

    No excuses? Seems overblown, if you consider Ferrari’s season to have been solid for the first five races – they still have scored about as much as Mercedes since, and way more than anyone else. Except Red Bull obviously. We’re all disappointed the season isn’t a close title battle, but so many teams are doing so much worse than Ferrari, it’s a bit silly to put this narrative on Ferrari always and only.

    Ricciardo? He was almost lapped at Zandvoort by Norris.

    Giovinazzi? Makes sense to run him here, but it seems doubtful he’ll be back, especially with so many other people having a superlicense but as of yet no chance to drive in F1.

    Herta? He doesn’t have the points. Take someone who does; De Vries, Drugovich, Newgarden (also American!). Also, why is Christian Horner advocating for the “independent” Alpha Tauri team?

    1. The issue with Ferrari is that they have title winning speed in their car while Merc didn’t. Their development looks like it is starting to taper off as well. Really, the only time RedBull have looked clear of them has been Spa and that was down to their aero efficiency.
      RedBull certainly aren’t out of reach development wise, it’s just Max seems to be at one with this car and making a difference.

      1. Title winning is perhaps a tad optimistic, but in any case, that just shows Ferrari did a good job! They won four races, and could have maybe won two or three more. They’ve made many races – if not the championship – interesting. Yet people keep complaining about them.

        Meanwhile, Mercedes has won zero races. So did McLaren and Alpine. So did all the other teams. They’re doing a much worse job than Ferrari. They’re collectively spending upwards of a billion dollars on these cars and engines, yet they have not a single win to show for it.

        1. If Ferrari had maximized their opportunities like RedBull have done, they could have been close to level on points before Spa. So, I would say up until then that they had title winning speed just like the RedBull. There was barely more than a tenth or two between them.
          Not only have they lost a ton of points themselves, but prevented Max from gaining extra points and boosting his tally.

          1. If Ferrari had maximized their opportunities like RedBull have done, they could have been close to level on points before Spa.

            But Red Bull hasn’t done that either. They have the same amount of technical DNFs as Ferrari, and even Verstappen hasn’t been flawless. He had a messy Monaco weekend, and Red Bull bungled the strategy in Austria. There wasn’t much they could do about the points loss in England, of course. Overall, they’re just a better team, have a car whose strengths are better in the races (better tyre management, better straight line speed), have better operations, a better driver (singular), and are better politically too.

            However, Ferrari’s results are still better than every other team. Yet they’re being painted as a bunch of amateurs who barely know how to go racing. That’s just silly, especially when such criticism is rarely if ever leveled at the likes of McLaren, Alpine, and Williams. All teams with a long history in F1 who are also spending enormous amounts of money on their cars and engines. Which barely ever see the podium never mind win races.

          2. I totally agree with most of that. I’m just saying that the teams like McLaren and Alpine never had the performance of the Ferrari which was able to beat the RedBull on pace. That’s why Ferrari are getting grief from everyone.

        2. Yes, in short G is talking about lack of potential: making a fast car is probably the hardest thing for teams all year, ferrari managed that, no one else but red bull did, and then they throw it away on bad strategy mostly (agree that reliability and mistakes wise it’s similar, verstappen simply made smaller mistakes or got luckier on those than leclerc, didn’t lose points with them, leclerc did).

    2. Because they are looking for someone to replace Checo, getting a fast American driver one or two seasons experience in F1 in the sister team would be ideal.

  5. Even as a Ferrari fan, I really hope Mercedes can challenge Max at Monza. Only this way we may have an exciting race. If God forbid Ferrari are the main threat to RBR again, expect a 30 sec win for Max

    1. Yes, that’s true, mercedes whenever they have a decent speed are much more a threat to red bull than ferrari. In any case I wouldn’t mind if the 3 teams were very close.

  6. The only talking point in reality is who will occupy positions 2 thru 10 given the RBR car and team management is now in a class of it own.

    If we discount that fact, the rest of the field has been pretty competitive so at least there’s something to keep us all interested.

    I actually feel sorry for Leclerc and Sainz – fancy having to turn up at Monza and drive for Ferrari in front of all those Tifosi knowing that the team will manage to screw up even if they have a fast competitive car.

    1. @dbradock RB team? do you mean wunderkind GP because perez is absolutely useless journeyman(only reason he is in F1 because Mexican zillionare Carlos slim is a close family friend and bankrolled his F1 seat) which is what RB want: a team built around max and a talentless team mate to be a blocker . This is why RB underfeed perez in Abu Dhabi so he could more effectively block Lewis with a lighter car

      I Hope Lewis can fight max because this season has been absolutely rubbish with zero competition

      1. Yes, perez has been nowhere, reminds me a bit of the last few races of 2018: hamilton was winning, bottas was making 5th places, and his main rival was verstappen in those last races, so you need both the driver and the car, it’s not dominant enough that the number 2 ends up 2nd.

  7. RB is in safe mode from now on. Whatever they had found from chassis is doing wonders on the track and first they will not risk nothing to be 1st if they can finish 2nd and for sure they dont want to monopolize their rivals to keep their secret safe.

  8. Mercedes shouldn’t be anywhere near Red Bull even if they have worked out their Spa-issues (not holding my breath for the latest new dawn). Red Bull’s top speed will blow them away even if they find themselves ahead. The big story has to be Ferrari and their magnificently imploding season. Now to be live-streamed in front of the Italian fans. They really really don’t want to mess this one up. (They will.)

    1. I think the raised ride height to get through Eau Rouge affected the Merc a lot in Spa. If they can get around Monza with it dropped down again they might be competitive, although the kerbs might force them to run outside their optimal setting.

      1. They may be able to compete with Ferrari but I really don’t see a Verstappen-Hamilton battle as realistic. We could see them skirmish if Max starts further down the grid for some reason. But the top speed of the RBR is way higher and Max should be able to breeze past at Monza with DRS.

        1. Not only is the RedBull aero efficient, it seems to have a powerful DRS which I too think will be unbeatable in Monza.
          At least the other teams can catch up to that with development. It would be worse if it was the engine making all the difference.

  9. I doubt Hamilton will be close to Verstappen on track, but I will note that in the past two races Hamilton made two stupid moves that in the first case resulted in a nasty crash and his retirement, and in the second case luckily only resulted in minor floor damage for Carlos Sainz. He’s not been too good at keeping his nose clean. As I said, I don’t expect him to be close to Verstappen, but the other midfielders around him should definitely be wary of a frustrated Mercedes driver trying to outperform his car.

    Honestly though, I know Mercedes are closer to Ferrari than ever, but that’s seems to me a lot to do with Ferrari having come off worse from the summer break and falling back into the clutches of Mercedes than Mercedes significantly finding extra pace. Zandvoort inherently was never going to suit the Red Bull, and the fact they still won the race is a boon to Red Bull’s outright advantage over everyone else. I think in Monza, a track way more suited to Red Bull, should see a significant gap increase (even more than just the gaps inherently being larger because it’s not a very short track like Zandvoort).

    1. Hey! You can’t talk that!

    2. @sjaakfoo
      I’ve said it before, if Max was making those moves we wouldn’t hear the end of it on here.
      Another thing I don’t understand looking at the thumbnail for this article is that how Lewis was to blame for squeezing Alonso from the outside at Spa this year, yet last year at Monza it was Max who got blamed. Yet both Alonso and Max got squeezed from the outside while being equally alongside.
      If Max had stayed on the kerb like Alonso and not tried to avoid the closing Hamilton and let him hit him, would it then have been Lewis at fault?

      1. IIRC. Ultimately they considered the entire chicane (so both turn 1 and turn 2) as one big corner instead of two separate and argued that since Max was not fully alongside into turn 1, he was not entitled to space in turn 2 and should have backed out.

        1. That’s strange as they are both separate turns. I just remember Martin Brundle at the time saying Max had done absolutely nothing wrong by going for the space.
          It’s never a good idea to squeeze the inside anyway as you leave yourself vulnerable to contact, especially if it’s done late. He should have ran him wide at TO to the outside really instead of leaving it wide open.

          1. I mean who even cares at this point lol?

    3. Not only did red bull win at zandvoort, as discussed most of the other scenarios that could’ve happened, no VSC nor SC; hamilton on softs towards the end would’ve likely seen verstappen prevail, so they had a significant enough advantage to be likely win in any scenario.

      1. likely to win*

  10. I do hope Ferrari can provide a challenge to Red Bull here on their own turf as it would be good for the neutrals, and the local fans. Having someone just drive off into the sunset is just boring. However, to be honest I still think Red Bull, well Max anyway will win quite easily as the Red Bull is very fast on straights.

    I think a good result for Ferrari would be to get at least one or hopefully both drivers on the podium. This would be something to cheer about. And of course that the team or drivers don’t make any major blunders.

    So in answer to the main question above, I don’t think it will necessarily be Lewis providing a challenge to Max. It’s just as likely to be George anyway if the Merc is working on this circuit.

    I hope Daniel can get a decent result. A few points would do him the world of good. Then this circuit is quite unlike many others with it’s long straights and high speeds so maybe the McLaren might do a little better here. They have been quite average lately.

    1. Mclarens have done very well at monza in recent times, they were close to be the fastest last year and weren’t easy pickings for overtakes by merc or red bull, and even in 2020 they looked 2nd fastest after the dominant merc, and maybe monza suits ricciardo, so will be interesting if we get to see the old version.

  11. Last season was more of a one sided induced rivarly. Max just wants to race and compete. Lewis somehow felt the need to play (mind)games and involve media in his campaign towards greatness (which to me comes across like incapability to achieve it purely on merit). Luckily the new generation drivers behave like athletes instead of aspiring superstars.

    1. Last year was a one-sided overaggressive bully kind of rivalry, who was gifted the title cause FIA wanted a new champion and further encourage the support of the orange army.

      1. @RomTrain
        I would argue that Brazil was Max’ first bad move on Lewis out of sheer frustration. Likewise Lewis’ first bad move on Max was Silverstone, also a desperate move out of frustration after the sprint and being given a taste of his own medicine in previous races IMHO.
        In Imola and Spain Lewis was on the outside and behind with nowhere to go. If you feel sorry for him, ask Rosberg how it felt being done to him by Lewis. It’s racing.
        As for Monza last year, see my comments above.

      2. I rather saw FIA putting in everything the could (and were lobby’d into by Mercedes) to get Lewis back in contention and levelling both contestants going into the last race. Also I agree Brasil was the first moment Max showed some signs of being discontent with all that was unfolding. Up until that point all the heating up of the conflict was rather coming from one side. I am sure would Leclerc still be in the fight this season we would have seen a much more respectable rivalry. Rosberg knows what I am referring to. I never understood why such a successful team and driver felt the need to display the behavior seen last season. It just takes so much away from past achievement and fiddles with brand values of a brand that is much bigger than just F1. Well, luckily this is all behind us since they did not deliver a car this year that puts them into contention.

        1. Silverstone was a racing incident, where Max did cut the corner, believing Lewis will yield. Like HAM vs ALO in Spa. After yield-or-crash driving throughout the first half of the lap, pushing HAM around at least 4 times til Copse.

          And Monza was VER deliberately talking out Lewis.

          Orange blindness may cause one is blind to facts, which dont suit ones bias.

          1. Alonso was on the inside kerb. Lewis was a car width away from his at Copse, that’s why he was at fault for both. When Leclerc took the same line as Max this year, Lewis was on the kerb and they were still close to touching front left wheel to rear right. Lewis even commented to Leclerc that he didn’t want to clip him at Copse, that will be why he took a tighter line.
            I think you need to start living in a world of facts.

          2. One was a racing incident, and for the other he was not fully to blame. Facts

          3. That shows how the stewards can often get it wrong when Lewis himself admitted he was at fault in Spa.
            It’s a shame he didn’t do it last year at Silverstone, I think people would have more respect for him if he did instead of over-celebrating to mask what he did.

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