Max Verstappen cruised to a record-breaking 10th consecutive victory after seizing the lead from pole-getter Carlos Sainz after 15 laps.
Verstappen had been confident ahead of the race that his Red Bull Racing car had the better race pace, and by lap 4 of the grand prix he was already noting that the leading Ferrari car was struggling with its tires.
On lap 6, Verstappen was testing Sainz’s defenses with an attempted move around the outside into the first turn, though the Spaniard rebuffed him easily by closing the door through the chicane. But what seemed like only a matter of time suddenly started to appear in doubt. Charles Leclerc, who had held third off the line, closed in on the battling duo and threatened to turn the race into a brawl.
“They have a lot of top speed, for f*** sake,” Verstappen said, his voice suddenly agitated.
Again and again Sainz returned the Dutchman’s volleys, perfectly placing his car to neutralize the threat. It wasn’t until the Spaniard made a small lock-up into he first turn on lap 15 that Verstappen finally got his chance.
The top speed of the Ferraris gave Verstappen a little more work to do, but once through the Red Bull driver was firmly in control once again. Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images
Verstappen got the better line through the chicane to get a great exit and take Sainz side by side through Curva Grande. Sainz was later on the brakes into the Roggia chicane, but he’d been forced onto the outside line.
Now Verstappen was perfectly placing his car. His RB19 sat on the racing line and powered out of the chicane with a lead that grew rapidly to a full second by the end of the lap, and the race was as good as won, eclipsing Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine consecutive victories.
“I never would’ve believed that was possible,” he said. “We had to work for it today, so that made it more fun.
“We had good pace. I think we were good on the tires. But they had a lot of top speed. It was so hard to get close and get a move into Turn 1, so I had to keep the pressure and force a mistake.”
Sergio Perez made Ferrari’s defeat comprehensive by recovering from fifth on the grid to record a Red Bull one-two.
He slipstreamed his way easily enough past George Russell to take fourth, but he couldn’t lay a hand on Charles Leclerc until lap 32, when the Monegasque fell out of DRS range of his teammate ahead, leaving him vulnerable to a draft into Turn 1.
He pulled the same move on Sainz with five laps to spare to score just his sixth top-two finish of the season.
“I think second was basically the maximum we could’ve achieved today,” he said. “We were lacking some top speed today. To get though Charles and to get through Carlos was pretty insane, because I had to use a lot of my tires.”
The battle to complete the podium went down to the wire between the two Ferrari teammates, who were told they were free to race so long as they did so with “no risk.”
Sainz’s tires had taken the greater battering over the course of the race, but his defensive work was undimmed. Leclerc had only one good look a the rostrum on lap 47, when he slipstreamed his way past into the first turn, but the Monegasque locked up, reopening the door to his teammate in much the same way Sainz’s earlier lock-up had invited Verstappen into the lead.
Sainz didn’t need asking again, seizing back the place into Roggia and holding it to the flag.
“Very tough,” he said. “It cannot get any tougher than what it was today.
“The whole race I was pushing very, very hard to keep the Red Bulls behind. It was tough, hard racing … we had fun out there today.”
Russell led home Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in fifth and sixth, both after serving five-second penalties — the former for overtaking Esteban Ocon off the track and the latter for colliding with Oscar Piastri late in the race.
Hamilton was attempting to crowd the Australian to the edge of the track from the inside of the approach to Roggia when he made contact that forced Piastri back to pit lane for a new front wing, dropping the McLaren driver out of the points.
Alex Albon completed a typically fighting defensive drive to seventh, holding off an assault from Lando Norris behind him by just 0.3s, with Fernando Alonso just 0.8s further back. Valtteri Bottas completed the top 10 for the final point of the race.