Copy of 2022-09-11T151821Z_227348967_UP1EI9B16IJ1Y_RTRMADP_3_MOTOR-F1-ITALY [1]-1662923195279
Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates with the trophy on the podium after winning the Italian Grand Prix. Image Credit: REUTERS

Monza: Having won in front of his own fans last weekend, Max Verstappen did it on enemy turf on Sunday to leave the Red Bull driver within touching distance of a second straight F1 title.

Boos rang out from the passionate red-clad tifosi fans when Verstappen stepped onto the iconic Monza podium for the first time in his career, after winning the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.

“I had a great view,” said a tactful Verstappen, whose previous highest finish at the track was fifth in 2018. “The atmosphere for me was not amazing. But it is what it is.”

Verstappen now has a 116-point lead over Charles Leclerc, who finished second after another questionable strategy decision from Ferrari on its home track. With just six races remaining, the Dutch driver could clinch the title in Singapore next month.

Verstappen started seventh after he was among a number of drivers hit by grid penalties but made his way up to third by the first corner of the second lap. The Red Bull driver then picked off George Russell in a Mercedes at the start of Lap 5 setting up the hunt for polesitter Leclerc in his Ferrari.

Good start

“The start was very good,” Verstappen said. “It was enjoyable to drive today even though it was quite hot out there. Great day for us.”

The Virtual Safety Car (VSC) gave Verstappen an opportunity as it came out on Lap 12 after Sebastian Vettel’s final race at Monza came to an ignominious end, with the four-time world champion pulling up at the side of the track after complaining about a power issue.

Ferrari decided to bring Leclerc in to change to medium tires, allowing Verstappen to take the lead. Leclerc rejoined the race in third.