Amazing MONZA -
In front of a record crowd – 200,000 people over the course of the weekend: the Autodromo di Monza had never seen so many visitors during an F1 grand prix event – Charles Leclerc sealed the second grand prix win of his career.
This followed in quick succession after his debut win a week ago at Spa, Belgium, thus providing a perfect way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari.
For the Maranello team this was its 19th win at its home race, and number 237 in its history.
The young Monegasque talent saw off two great rivals in the form of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who were permanently on his gearbox from the first lap to the last. Leclerc not only displayed remarkable sang froid but also extraordinary determination, above all in moments during his duel with the five-
He was also helped by his team, which didn’t follow the choice by Mercedes to use Medium tyres after the first stint when all three drivers were on the same Softs.
At the chequered flag the fourth expected major player in this battle, Sebastian Vettel, was missing. Having started from fourth place on the grid, the German Ferrari driver made a serious error on lap 7, spinning at Ascari and then clashing with Stroll as he tried to get back on track.
After a combination of the enforced pit stop to change his damaged front wing and the subsequent 10-
At the start, Leclerc got away brilliantly to outpace the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Bottas off the line and down into Turn 1, with Ferrari teammate Vettel holding station in fourth while under pressure from Ricciardo’s Renault. Further back an incident involving Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Max Verstappen, who had started from the back of the grid following a penalty for an engine change, resulted in the Dutchman pitting at the end of the first lap with front wing damage after being forced onto the grass.
There were cries of despair from the Italian crowd on Lap 7 as Vettel, under no real pressure, spun into Ascari. As the German returned to the track he pulled across Lance Stroll and was fortunate to only come away with damage to his front wing after clipping the Racing Point machine as it moved to avoid him. The Canadian, in turn, then forced Pierre Gasly to run wide into the gravel as he too rejoined. Vettel dived into the pits for a new nose and returned P19 to be given a 10 second stop/go penalty which promptly dropped him to last place. For his part Stroll was handed a drive through penalty.
Leclerc continued out in front with a gap of 1.5s, and Mercedes looked set to make a stop on Lap 16 with a set of hard compound tyres, only to think better of it. Four laps later Hamilton dived into the pits for fresh medium rubber. Ferrari responded immediately to try and prevent the undercut, the Monegasque coming in the following lap and switching to the hard compound.
The gamble paid off after a good job by the Italian team saw Leclerc rejoin in fourth, less than a second in front of the Briton.
Bottas inherited the race lead, with Ricciardo and Hulkenberg behind, but all eyes were on Leclerc and Hamilton as they scrapped side-
McLaren then struggled to change Sainz’s front right, it wouldn’t take, and the Spaniard was forced to pull over after leaving the pit lane and the virtual safety car was deployed. Three laps later it was deployed again as Daniil Kvyat parked his Toro Rosso on the grass with smoking brakes.
The gap between the front two barely rose above 0.5s, before Leclerc looked to have succumbed to the pressure on Lap 36. He locked up into the first corner, was forced over the kerbs, and Hamilton looked set to pounce but the Monegasque clung on to the lead as Bottas closed the gap on the pair.
With 12 laps to go it was Hamilton’s turn to lock up heading into the first chicane, much to the delight of the home faithful. The Mercedes man was forced to slalom his way through the exit road as Bottas darted past into second.
Ricciardo and Hulkenberg led the rest of the field in fourth and fifth, more than 30 seconds behind the front three.
The gap between Leclerc and Bottas by Lap 44 was 1.6s and closing as the Finn was told to hunt the Ferrari down. Elsewhere the HAAS of Kevin Magnussen is retired in the pits with a hydraulic problem.
With laps running out for Bottas, the Finn struggled to stay within DRS range of Leclerc. Every time the Mercedes appeared to have the Ferrari in its grasp, the Monegasque pulled away again. Hamilton meanwhile, with a free pit stop back in third, came in on Lap 50 for fresh softs and promptly set a 1:21.779 to take the fastest lap points.
Leclerc’s arrival at the chequered flag was greeted by a roar from the 93,000 watching fans, who proceeded to make their way under the podium to celebrate the success by the new idol of Ferrari’s passionate tifosi. It was truly a fantastic weekend for the
Italian public, which also had the chance to watch live another great protagonist of the Scuderia’s history: Jody Scheckter.
It was here on 9th September 40 years ago that Scheckter won the Italian Grand Prix and thus sealed the world championship.
Leclerc’s double victory still hasn’t threatened Mercedes’ leadership of both championships.
In the drivers’ leaderboard Hamilton stays in front with 284 points, 63 more than his team-
In the constructors’ championship Mercedes has now made it over the 500-
Behind the top teams the Monza race offered a boost to Renault, which secured its best result of the season with Daniel Ricciardo’s fourth place and Nico Hulkenberg’s fifth place. The French team is now back in fifth place overall (65 points) just behind McLaren, which has only taken one point from the last two races thanks to Norris’s tenth place today. But Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda leaves Monza empty-
MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS
First of all, congratulations to Charles, he drove a strong race and overall Ferrari had the strongest package this weekend. We threw everything at them today and as I said before the race, if you gave me second and third in Monza, I would have taken it. Of course, we wanted to win but you can see how happy the Tifosi are about the first Ferrari victory here in a while. Spa and Monza turned out to be as difficult for us as we expected, but we still achieved solid results and come away with a good batch of points heading into the flyaways, extending our lead in both championships. Singapore is up next, and we should be strong there, but so should Red Bull. We are looking forward to showing what we can do in the upcoming races.
I was trying everything to get close enough to Charles to make a move on him in the final laps, but the Ferraris were very quick on the straights this weekend, so it was difficult to get close enough. I was pushing as hard as I could, but every time I got really close, I started to lock-
Congratulations to Charles today, he did a great job, especially considering the pressure Valtteri and I were putting on him. The Ferrari was very quick in a straight line, so it was difficult to stay close to them. I think it just wasn't our day today, it's always disappointing to follow another car so closely but not be able to take the lead. But in the end, we're leaving Italy with more points in the Constructors' Championship and ultimately that is what matters. I'm not looking to the next race thinking it will be easy for us; instead we're going to go to the factory next week and go through the same process, looking for ways to improve our car, improve our processes over a race weekend, and I hope that I can do a better job in Singapore. I personally cherish this battle between Ferrari, Red Bull and us, so I want it to continue.
It's frustrating that we managed to spend almost the entire race with a car right behind Charles today and failed to find a way to get through but that is sometimes the way it goes. We had to try and undercut with Lewis when a gap appeared behind the Renaults but with the low degradation here, it's not as powerful as at some other tracks. Lewis made a good move into Turn four, but Charles defended aggressively and realistically, that was Lewis's best chance to win. Lewis pushed the tyres hard for most of that stint, so it wasn't a surprise when they started to drop off at the end. We were able to send Valtteri long to build an offset in tyre life, but it wasn't enough to give us the speed to pass and after that we didn't have anything else to try. We know where we need to work; our qualifying pace has dropped from where we were at the start of the season and we need more speed in a straight line. We've known that for some time now but having weekends like the two we have just had will motivate everyone in Brackley and Brixworth to get on top of these weaknesses. It's Singapore next which is a very different challenge to this place, and it is also a tricky circuit to get right but we are hungry to get back to winning so will be working hard this week to make sure we can arrive in the best possible shape.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
CHRISTIAN HORNER, Team Principal
“It was a good recovery by both drivers in what turned out to be a difficult race. Alex lost a couple of places on the first lap and was fighting his way back through the field but he got run wide with Carlos Sainz which dropped him back behind a couple of cars. He started making up positions before unfortunately picking up a five second penalty whilst passing Magnussen, which he had to serve at his pit stop. Overall, it was a good recovery drive from Alex to come back up to P6. As for Max, he started the race from the back of the grid due to the engine penalty and he unfortunately incurred some front-
MAX VERSTAPPEN, Finish Position: 8th, Start Position: 19th
“I got front wing damage under breaking into Turn 1 as everyone slowed up and I clipped Sergio’s rear tyre. We then pitted for a new front wing and the race was still on as I had really good pace in clean air. I managed to pass quite a few cars but we got unlucky with the virtual safety car as it came out the lap after I pitted and three or four cars which I had already overtaken were back in front of me. I passed them all again but it was pretty painful on my tyres and then at the end I got stuck behind Perez for the second time in the race. I just couldn’t get past him as he was so quick on the straights. We have made some steps forward with the pace of the power unit but we will of course keep working hard to improve even further. With what happened at Turn 1 coming through to eighth isn’t too bad and these things are always more likely to happen when you start at the back. The last two races were always going to be difficult for us and now I’m looking forward to having a more normal race weekend and starting closer to the front.”
ALEX ALBON, Finish Position: 6th, Start Position: 8th
“There were positives for me even though the race didn’t go as planned. It isn’t the easiest track for us and we had quite an unlucky weekend in the qualifying. I didn’t have a great start and had to fight my way back though the field. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace on the straights to overtake so I had to do my manoeuvres on the corners. That resulted in a lot of side by side action and at one point I just lost a bit too much grip going that wide so it started to get messy. I had a few offs and took a five second penalty. However, my race pace is getting better with the car and I feel I have made a good step up from Spa so personally speaking I am happy. Hopefully Singapore will be better for me as there will be more downforce and more corners. I think there is a lot more to come and I’m feeling more competitive.”
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