Formula 1: How a power issue and a penalty completely reshaped history

Entering Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton had already won five times in the 2020 Formula 1 season, and every time, he had done so from the pole position.

While only three of those five victories were lights to flag victories, he was never passed on the race track en route to taking any one of those five checkered flags, checkered flags which put him just two wins shy of Michael Schumacher’s all-time wins record of 91.


Enter Kevin Magnussen and a mechanical failure in his Ferrari-powered Haas.

Magnussen pulled his car over beside the track right by the entrance of the pits, and the safety car was deployed. Fortunately for Hamilton, he was right ahead of the pit entrance and was able to make a free pit stop during this safety car period.

Or so he thought.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. stayed out from second place to inherit the lead. Had he passed on the opportunity for a free pit stop?

No; he simply didn’t pit because the pits were actually closed — something Hamilton failed to realize.

This led to an investigation, one which had not concluded by the time the race had resumed. At this point, the pits had been opened up, and Sainz had given up the lead to come in for service, allowing Hamilton to retake the lead.

Then the race was stopped completely after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed. Hamilton was still the race leader, ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who had not yet pit, in second place and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who came into the pits before the Magnussen incident, in third.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen was running in fourth place ahead of teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, who had made the same mistake Hamilton did, in fifth. Sainz was the highest running driver among those who had pitted most recently in sixth.

It was then confirmed that Hamilton would need to serve a 10-second stop and go penalty once the race resumed.

That penalty singlehandedly changed the complexion of history.

With Giovinazzi set to serve the same penalty, the top five were effectively now Stroll, Gasly, Raikkonen, Sainz and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

The highest running driver for Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari, the three teams that had combined to win 146 races going back to March of 2013, was Bottas in sixth place.

Both Ferrari drivers were out already, with Sebastian Vettel having retired due to a brake failure, and both Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon, had experienced issues in the early going.

On the ensuing restart, which was a standing restart, Hamilton was the leader. But Gasly made quick work of Stroll for second place and inherited the lead when Hamilton came into the pits to serve his penalty.

With Verstappen retiring from the race shortly thereafter and Albon mired in the back of the pack after taking damage earlier, Bottas was now the only relevant challenger among the regular contenders.

And he wasn’t much of a challenger.

In his 55th career start and 43rd start for AlphaTauri, including his starts for the team when they were known as Toro Rosso, Gasly went on to win the race in stunning fashion, 0.415 seconds ahead of a hard-charging Sainz in a career-high second place. Stroll matched his career-best result in third ahead of Norris in fourth.

He became the 109th different Formula 1 race winner and first new winner since Leclerc won last year’s Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

You almost had to question whether or not this was real life.

While the “best of the rest” had effectively been moved from seventh to fourth place this season due to the struggles of Ferrari and the lack of pace from Albon, this kind of result was still unbelievable.

Here’s how Magnussen’s mechanical failure and the ensuing penalty on Hamilton changed the complexion of Formula 1 history.

As mentioned, a team other than Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari had not been victorious since March of 2013. Raikkonen, driving for Lotus at the time, won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.

From then until now, 146 straight races had been won by these three teams. Mercedes won 98 of those 146 races while Red Bull won 29 and Ferrari won 19.

Additionally, Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari had not all been left off the podium since July of 2012. Hamilton, driving for McLaren at the time, won the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring ahead of Lotus teammates Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in second and third place, respectively. From then until now, 155 races had been contested.

As noted above, Bottas was the highest finishing driver among the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari sextet, and he finished in fifth place. The last time none of these teams managed a single top four finish in a race was back in April of 2009 when Mark Webber led the way in sixth for Red Bull in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit.

In that race, it was Brawn’s Jenson Button who secured the victory ahead of BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld in second place. Panasonic Toyota Racing teammates Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli finished in third and fourth, respectively, ahead of Brawn’s Rubens Barrichello in fifth. From then until now, 220 races had been contested.

Technically, Mercedes took over Brawn after the 2009 season. Factoring that in, the last time none of these teams managed a single top four finish in a race was back in September of 2008 when David Coulthard led the way in seventh place for Red Bull in the Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit.

In that race, it was Renault’s Fernando Alonso who secured the victory ahead of Williams’ Nico Rosberg in second place. Hamilton finished in third ahead of Glock in fourth and Toro Rosso’s Vettel in fifth. Heidfeld finished in sixth. From then until now, 225 races had been contested.

Additionally, AlphaTauri had not won a race since September of 2008, back when they were known as Toro Rosso. That race also happened to be the Italian Grand Prix at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, and it was Vettel who won that race for the team, also to secure his first career victory.

Vettel is now a four-time world champion who sits in third place on the all-time wins list with 53 victories. From then until now, 226 races had been contested.

Finally, no Frenchman had won a race since May of 1996 when Olivier Panis won the Monaco Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco. From the until now, 438 races had been contested.