Italian Grand Prix driver ratings: Nyck de Vries shows he belongs in F1

Jon Wilde

Max Verstappen talking to Charles Leclerc at the Italian Grand Prix. Monza September 2022.

A completely different outcome to last season’s Italian Grand Prix ended with Max Verstappen standing on the top step of the podium for the 11th time in 16 races this season.

At Monza last September, the Dutchman had to trudge back to the pits facing the prospect of a future grid penalty for his collision with Lewis Hamilton – this time, he was victorious from seventh on the grid.

But the climax was far from satisfactory as a Formula 1 race ended under a Safety Car for the first time since Bahrain 2020.

Here are our driver ratings for a race that was not quite the thriller the jumbled-up grid had threatened to deliver.

Max Verstappen: Such is the World Champion and Red Bull’s dominance just now that he was never going to be anything but favourite to win a fifth consecutive race even from seventh on the grid.

The decision the team made to add a bit of extra downforce to the RB18 this weekend clearly paid off with yet more searing race pace, whereas it was Ferrari who had the edge over a single qualifying lap.

Keeping it clean in among the pack through the opening corners, there was a sense of inevitability as Verstappen moved up to fourth on lap one and second by lap five – from there, it was the usual plain sailing as he completed the hat-trick in this European triple-header. 9.5.

Charles Leclerc: Despite Leclerc’s rueful post-race demeanour, second place was the best he was ever going to achieve in front of the expectant tifosi – regardless of how the climax had played out.

Ferrari’s ‘Plan C’ strategy, a two-stop with soft-medium-soft tyres, was worth a try but even with the fresher, grippier rubber from lap 34 onwards Leclerc was unable to make significant gains on Verstappen.

The way his year has evolved, it was telling that afterwards Leclerc was asked “can you win another race before the end of the season?” rather than the usual question about title prospects. 8.

George Russell: Another rock-solid effort from Russell, driving his own race to a seventh podium finish of the season – four of them in the last five grands prix.

This was not a Mercedes circuit, but there are others before the end of the campaign that will give the Briton a better chance of that long-awaited – and deserved – first win. 8.

Carlos Sainz: This was like Paul Ricard all over again for Sainz as he cut through the field from the back of the pack, passing car after car in the quest to nullify his grid penalty.

Up to fourth by lap 13, his progress stalled thereafter and he dropped away from Leclerc – but P4 was as realistic as he could have hoped for pre-race. 8.5.

Lewis Hamilton: Having joked he was tempted to take his iPad into the car to watch some streamed TV to offset the boredom of being in a DRS train, Hamilton did find himself in that scenario early on.

But after a long first stint on the medium tyres, he sliced through the pack nicely after changing to the softs to cap another fine performance – ‘House of the Dragon’ can wait for another day. 8.5.

Sergio Perez: Not a day to truly judge Perez’s current – recently underwhelming – form by, because he made a pit-stop on lap seven and a smoking right front brake disc suggested his participation could be in peril.

But he made it to the end in P6 having started 13th and admitted afterwards his race had been “a mess” because of that early issue. 7.

Lando Norris: A bad start from Norris as he got bogged down off the line set him back and a five-second pit-stop meant his attempt to finish at the front of the midfield with a long first stint looked in jeopardy.

But he got back past Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly and later said it had been “one of my best races of the season or in Formula 1” – surprising, especially given he finished second at Monza last year. 7.

Pierre Gasly: DRS trains are nothing new to Gasly as a regular midfield runner and that term summed up his race here.

Stuck behind Daniel Ricciardo for the most part, the Frenchman was among those to benefit from the nine drivers given grid penalties and P8 represented a solid return – his best finish since Azerbaijan. 7.

Nyck de Vries: What a weekend for a driver who thought his track activity would be limited to an FP1 outing in the Aston Martin – he ended it by increasing Williams’ points tally for the season by 50%!

It was not a perfect debut in the sense he attracted the stewards’ attention for continually exceeding track limits during the race, earning a black and white flag, and later received a reprimand for driving erratically.

But those are only minor blemishes and the Dutchman – who looks only half his 27 years – did more than enough to show he would be a very worthy full-time addition to the grid. Voted Driver of the Day with good reason. 9.5.

Zhou Guanyu: Zhou has gone under the radar quite often during his F1 debut season and this was another example – it was a quietly commendable drive by the Alfa Romeo man.

He kept up well with the McLarens and AlphaTauri and was pressing De Vries all the way, scoring a point for the third time this year – surely his future will be cemented soon? 8.

Zhou Guanyu alongside Esteban Ocon. Red Bull Ring July 2022.
Zhou Guanyu's Alfa Romeo alongside Esteban Ocon's Alpine. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Esteban Ocon: Starting 14th after an engine penalty, Ocon never really featured after starting on the soft tyres and switching to the hards on lap 20.

After a productive recent spell on track, this was a race to forget for Alpine. 6.

Mick Schumacher: For a driver under pressure, this was a doughty effort from Schumacher who has really got on top of his team-mate in the second half of the season.

Pulled off a couple of decent overtaking manoeuvres on Nicholas Latifi and Yuki Tsunoda and again advertised his claims to remain in the sport for 2023 by improving five places on his grid position. 8.

Valtteri Bottas: Starts have been Bottas’ bugbear this season and another poor opening lap, making contact with Kevin Magnussen, dropped him to the back of the pack from 15th.

Ran the medium tyres before switching to the softs on lap 37 but simply had too much ground to make up and was the first home of those lapped. 5.

Yuki Tsunoda: Given the number of penalties he had racked up for three different reasons – two of them his own misdemeanours – Tsunoda really should have been starting this race in downtown Milan rather than in P20.

He began well, making up positions on the opening lap, but was unable to sustain that opening thrust – and his AlphaTauri future has to remain under question. 6.

Nicholas Latifi: With Alex Albon unwell and out of action from Saturday morning onwards, Latifi really should have been the senior partner at Williams – but was put well and truly in the shade by a debutant.

De Vries showed what the FW44 was capable of at a track that suited the car and the Canadian was simply unable to extract anything from it. We won’t pull any more punches – this was utterly dismal. 2.

Kevin Magnussen: What has happened to K-Mag? From being a breath of fresh air back in the spring, his performances have fallen away alarmingly.

He made a great start but threw it away by incurring a five-second penalty for going off track and gaining an advantage, and it’s never a good look these days when you finish behind Latifi. 4.

Daniel Ricciardo: Last year’s Monza winner was clearly feeling the good Italian vibes again as he was going well, on course to collect good points, when his car broke down on lap 47.

A much better showing compared to recent efforts from the Australian, whose career really is on a knife edge at present. 7.

Fernando Alonso: Soon after questioning the “deployment” of the Alpine, Alonso’s race was over as he was called in to retire the car.

Tipped as a potential podium finisher at the start of the weekend, it did not turn out as hoped for the Spaniard who also had a messy Q3. 6.

Sebastian Vettel: After starting on the medium tyres, Vettel’s race was over on lap 12 when he reported he was “losing power” and stopped trackside, triggering the Virtual Safety Car. 6.

Lance Stroll: “Cool the brakes”, Stroll was told on lap 41 and instructed to bring in the car to retire.

A poor weekend for Aston Martin, whose trouble in qualifying again reared its head. 6.