Max Verstappen is a man on a singular mission this F1 season, leaving the opposition in his wake with each passing circuit. As we return to Monza for the first time this year for the Italian Grand Prix 2023, the so-called ‘Monza Curse’ looms, and it could be the only thing stopping Red Bull in its quest for domination.
It feels as though history is made every time Max Verstappen takes to the asphalt this year, and the flying Dutchman was right at home in the wet and windy conditions in his native Zandvoort circuit to take home his ninth consecutive race win of the season.
In a race that was dominated by the evolving narrative at Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri, Verstappen continued in his pursuit of his third consecutive Formula 1 championship, quietly extending his lead at the top to 138 points.
By now it must come as no surprise that Red Bull has been able to turn Verstappen’s scintillating pace into a new era of on-track supremacy. With each passing circuit, we expect to see the 25-year-old clear of the chasing pack, without any opposition.
It feels as though the only thing that can stop him now, is a bit of atypical misfortune.
The Monza Curse
Heading into Monza for the Italian Grand Prix 2023, Max Verstappen appears to be untouchable and there is an expectation that the two-time champion will continue his displaying flawless form this season without much opposition.
But there’s a risk that Verstappen could fall victim to the so-called ‘Monza Curse’: a fan-led theory that dictates every Italian Grand Prix champion encounters misfortune the following year… but is it real?
Italian Grand Prix 2019
The Italian racing team has become synonymous with this famous circuit, with every young Ferrari driver dreaming of winning at home in front of the most passionate race fans in the world.
It was all going so well for Ferrari in that year, leading the best of the rest behind Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton out in first place. Leclerc’s win took the young Monégasque driver into fourth in the Drivers’ Standings.
Italian Grand Prix 2020
The following year, disaster struck for Leclerc; the defending Italian Grand Prix champion suffered a heavy crash on lap 23 at the restart following the withdrawal of the safety car.
Leclerc’s Ferrari exited the track at the Parabolica corner and collided with the barriers, damaging the car, and himself, in the process. Naturally, he couldn’t continue in the race.
Pierre Gasly would go on to win his maiden Formula 1 race at the Italian Grand Prix, beating Carlos Sainz, then with McLaren, by 0.415 seconds. Gasly’s win was the first for the newly-formed AlphaTauri since 2008 when the team went by Toro Rosso.
Italian Grand Prix 2021
Fast forward to 2021, and the Italian Grand Prix was the stage for the divisive F1 Sprint. Unfortunately for Gasly, the ‘Monza Curse’ would claim its next victim.
Pierre Gasly crashed out at Curva Grande following contact with Daniel Ricciardo, losing control of his AlphaTauri and his front wing as he exited the track and crashed into the wall.
The crash meant the French driver would be forced to start at the back of the grid, but an unscheduled gearbox and full power unit change by AlphaTauri relegated Gasly to the pit lane.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo overtook Max Verstappen at the race start and managed to hold off the Red Bull driver to claim his first Formula 1 victory since 2018, with his teammate Lando Norris taking P2 for a famous McLaren 1-2.
Italian Grand Prix 2022
Heading into the Italian Grand Prix 2022, defending world champion Max Verstappen was 109 points clear of Charles Leclerc in second, whilst Red Bull also led the Constructors’ ahead of Ferrari and the stuttering Mercedes.
Daniel Ricciardo would start the race in P8, but an oil leak forced the Australian driver to retire his car and a safety car was deployed.
The 2022 Grand Prix drew criticism as the FIA decided to deploy the safety car until the end of the race, and were unable to move Ricciardo’s McLaren in time. Verstappen crossed the finish line for his maiden win at Monza behind the safety car.
Italian Grand Prix 2023
As the Formula 1 season continues for the 88th edition of the Italian Grand Prix held at this famous circuit, murmurs of the so-called ‘Monza Curse’ will quietly spread through the paddock this weekend.
Rival fans will whisper it with an awry grin, hoping for any slip-up from the omnipotent Red Bull and its drivers as they seek to extend their lead at the top.
But if there’s any driver on the grid who won’t be paying it any notice, it’s Red Bull’s unrelenting champion Max Verstappen, who’ll be racing this weekend to prove the ‘Monza Curse’ is nothing more than Formula 1 fiction.