Pierre Gasly earns stunning inaugural Formula One victory at Monza

F1 Pierre Gasly wins
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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MONZA, Italy — AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly claimed an unlikely F1 victory at the Italian Grand Prix after a thrilling race that saw six-time champion Lewis Hamilton given a 10-second penalty and both Ferraris fail to finish at their home circuit of many prior wins Sunday.

It was Gasly’s first win in Formula One.

The 24-year-old Frenchman finished 0.415 seconds ahead of McLaren driver Carlos Sainz and 3.358 ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll on a surreal-looking podium. All three drivers had never won a race and each had only one top-three finish to their name.

Hamilton appeared on course for a comfortable victory from pole position, but he was given the stop-go penalty for entering the pit lane when closed.

The Mercedes driver finished seventh, 17.245 behind Gasly, who was emotional as he crossed the line to become the first French winner at any GP since Olivier Panis in 1996.

“It was such a crazy race. The car was fast, and to go through so much in the space of 18 months. First podium last year (in Brazil), now first victory in Monza. I have no words,” said Gasly, who was dropped by Red Bull last year.

Pierre Gasly takes a moment on the podium after winning the Italian Grand Prix (Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images).

Gasly celebrated wildly with his team but then, after the trophy presentation, was seen sitting down on the top spot of the podium alone. He had a moment to reflect on his achievement, as he took a swig of champagne surrounded by ticker-tape.

“I would have never expected that a year ago,” said Gasly, who had started 10th on the grid. “The podium was already unexpected, a big, big highlight last year.

“I sat down, and I had a lot of things crossing my mind, obviously first of all my family, my friends, and all the people who supported me. You just remember everything you’ve been through … It was a very special moment. It’s been a crazy ride in the last few months. It’s just unbelievable, I’m still struggling to realize what we’ve just achieved.”

Sainz hustled Gasly all the way to the checkered flag as both strove for their first win.

“It’s incredible that I am halfway disappointed with P2,” Sainz said. “I wouldn’t have believed that I would have got a chance to fight for victory today. I think it’s what we deserved.

“We need to be proud of that, we need to be proud of the pace of the car.”

Ferrari’s abysmal weekend continued as Sebastian Vettel had a brake failure on Lap 7 and he limped into the pits with his right-rear brake disc in flames. It was the four-time champion’s first DNF at Monza in his 14th start.

His teammate Charles Leclerc had made it into fourth but lost the rear of the car under acceleration through Parabolica on Lap 25 and crashed into the barriers, causing the race to be red-flagged.

By that time Hamilton’s penalty had been announced. Hamilton had pitted immediately after the safety car had been deployed after Kevin Magnussen broke down but was unaware the pit lane was closed as the marshals recovered Magnussen’s Haas.

Antonio Giovinazzi received the same sanction.

Hamilton served his penalty shortly after a 27-minute delay while the barriers were repaired. The British driver emerged last on Lap 29, more than 30 seconds behind Gasly, but passed eight cars and secured a bonus point for the fastest lap following his punishment.

“My race wasn’t meant to be today but what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger,” Hamilton said. “It was a long pit stop but once I finally caught everybody I enjoyed that bit of a battle.

“We didn’t do a great job with the pit stop. I didn’t see those boards and take responsibility for that and it’s something I’ll learn from. To get seventh and still get the fastest lap is still some good points so I’ll definitely take it.”

In an emotional farewell, Williams drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi offered touching tributes on their cooldown laps to deputy principal Claire Williams, who is leaving her family’s team with her father, Sir Frank.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.