Carlos Sainz was seen off at Monza by F1 record-breaker Max Verstappen AFP / Marco BERTORELLO

Scuderia Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had an unfortunate encounter with thieves in Italy just hours after he stood on the podium at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.

The Spanish driver fought off an intense late challenge from teammate Charles Leclerc to finish the race in third place behind the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Despite failing to clinch victory after starting from pole position, it was a wonderful home race finish for the Ferrari driver. However, the weekend almost turned into a disaster after a watch worth a whopping £500,000 was snatched off his wrist at around 8:30 pm in Milan on Sunday.

Sainz became the victim of the robbery near the luxurious Armani Hotel just soon after returning from the track. According to witnesses, he was still wearing his Ferrari kit, making him easy to identify.

Luckily, Sainz gave chase along with some of his entourage and members of the public. They were able to recover the Richard Mille watch, and two suspects have been arrested by Italian police.

The custom made watch is a Richard Mille RM 67-02, which has been made in the colours of the Spanish flag to reflect the driver's national colours. Needless to say, it can easily be identified should it end up in the black market. However, that did not stop the thieves from targeting Sainz. In the end, it was fortunate that the F1 ace was able to catch the perpetrators. He recovered his precious watch and is reportedly unhurt, but he is perhaps a little shaken up by the incident.

Sainz is not the first F1 star to be targeted in a similar fashion

Back in 2022, Sainz' teammate Charles Leclerc also had his $320,000 watch stolen in Italy. The incident took place in the Tuscan village of Viareggio on Easter Monday last year while Leclerc was out with his personal trainer, Andrea Ferrari. He had been visiting his trainer's hometown ahead of the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix when the incident took place.

A crowd of fans had gathered around Leclerc after he was recognised on the street. Two people, a man and a woman aboard a motorcycle, reportedly approached the F1 star to ask for a selfie. They then proceeded to snatch the valuable watch straight off his wrist. They were reportedly able to escape with the help of two other suspects ridding an SUV nearby.

Just like Sainz, another special edition Richard Mille watch was stolen from Leclerc, which is valued at close to two million dollars (way above its actual sticker price) thanks to its origins. Even though Leclerc also tried to chase the robbers, he was unable to catch them.

Four people were arrested over the incident a year later in their hideout in the city of Naples, but Leclerc's watch was not among the valuable watches that were recovered at the scene.

Meanwhile, the Ferrari drivers were not the only ones to suffer the same fate. McLaren's British driver Lando Norris also had his £144,000 Richard Mille watched robbed from him after he went to watch the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. It was reportedly a violent encounter wherein Norris was put in a headlock by one of the suspects while the other forced the watch off his wrist, leaving multiple scratches.

A man named Liam Williams, 25, of Bootle, Merseyside was later accused of snatching the watch. He was identified via the DNA left on Norris' wrist after his watch was forcibly taken from him at the parking lot of the Wembley Stadium on July 11, 2021.

Norris' watch has not been recovered either, meaning Sainz is so far the only one lucky enough to have been able to thwart the robbery attempt.