Pole sitter Leclerc defied expectations by executing a two-stop strategy, but his late push on fresh tires failed to produce enough pace to bring the champion back as Verstappen dropped from seventh.
Leclerc had his hopes bolstered by a late Safety Car which had the potential to throw a spanner in the works, but he was slow to take the leaders and duly denied a thrilling sprint to the finish and sabotaged everything Ferrari come back.
It took the Red Bull driver to his 31st top-flight victory, fifth in a row and 11th of the season close to two triumphs from the record for most successful F1 season.
After a change to the internal combustion engine on the advice of supplier Honda, Verstappen lined up seventh thanks to a five-place grid penalty following his turn for second place in qualifying.
Verstappen continued to climb in the opening stages of the 53-lap 100th anniversary race at Monza. He relegated Alpha Tauri pilot Pierre Gasly for fourth place at the end of the first lap before diving past the winner of the 2021 Italian GP Daniel Ricardo under braking in the first chicane for a provisional podium.
Despite the W13 separating the pair, Leclerc and Verstappen traded the fastest early laps on the timing line as a net of 2.5 seconds separated the protagonists.
Then Red Bull took second with a fine outing from Ascari before combining DRS and towing to pass Russell cleanly on the main straight to start the fight for victory.
With Verstappen a few tenths quicker per lap, Ferrari attempted to lap using a virtual safety car – called when Sebastian Vettel parked with a smoky engine – to give Leclerc a cheaper pit stop.
He stopped for a series of mediums in the 13th round with a fast 2.2 second serve just as the green flags were waved to reduce the effectiveness of the undercut and Leclerc was released third with 18 seconds left. to find.
Despite his aging softs, Verstappen was able to maintain a decent pace – spinning just 0.5s slower than Leclerc while maintaining a 10.2s cushion at Russell as Leclerc trailed an additional 4.1s.
As the F1-75 began to make gains, Verstappen pitted for mediums on lap 26 and, thanks to a 2.4s quick stop, only exited a touch over 10s. of the leader.
Verstappen’s fresh rubber allowed him to close the gap to 5.4 seconds when Ferrari recalled Leclerc on lap 34 for softs seemingly for a single run to the flag, with the Red Bull coming second to Russell.
Leclerc’s initial pace was moderate but he managed to increase the wick to lap 0.4 seconds quicker than Verstappen as the gap was 18 seconds with 10 laps to go.
But a wrench was thrown in the works on lap 47 when Ricciardo pulled out of Ascari with an engine failure to trigger a safety car, which was deployed late, but Verstappen objected the next time to new softs and Leclerc exchanged used C4s with Russell. third.
With the terrain well distributed, the safety car picked up Russell instead, then the run-in cars of Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda split the main duo, plus the McLaren taking the time to be cleared by the crane, the race was not restarted to prevent a sprint to the flag.
Thus, Verstappen took the win over Leclerc as Russell completed the podium, while carlos sainz made a quick ascent in the first stint to make up for his grid-return penalty and trap fourth.
Lewis Hamilton did the same, including holding his Mercedes bristling while chasing Alonso and performing a deft double pass over Norris and Gasly to claim seventh place.
Sergio Perez managed to pass the flag despite a lingering brake light on his first stop for the hard tyres, as Norris took seventh over Gasly.
Formula E champion Nyck de Vries equaled Williams’ best result of the season in ninth to cap off his fine appearance as a substitute for appendicitis. Alex Albon.
Alongside Ricciardo and Vettel, Spear Stroll and Alonso (suspected water pump failure) were forced to stop early.