2019 Italian Grand Prix: Back-to-Back Race Wins for Charles Leclerc

f1chronicle-2019 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday - Charles Leclerc on the podium (image courtesy Ferrari Press Office)

Disastrous Day For Sebastian Vettel

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-second stop-and-go his race was effectively over already. His eventual 13th place reflects a weekend that was very difficult for him.

“It’s been a good day for Charles, so congratulations and well done to everybody. Obviously my day did not go well. On lap 6 I lost the rear, which was my mistake, which is why I am not happy with my day. I got a good start, but then I had nowhere to go and so I lost the position, before getting it back again and catching up to the cars ahead of me. Then came the spin on lap 6 and the race was obviously ruined for me. Then I struggled to rejoin the track as I was on the grass and I couldn’t see Lance. I still love what I do, but of course when you don’t do well, knowing what you are capable of, then you can’t be happy,” added Vettel.

2019 Italian Grand Prix: How The Race Was Won

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-by-side into the second chicane. The pair quickly caught and passed both Renaults as the thrilling battle continued. Bottas then came in on Lap 27, dropping from first to fourth with a new set of medium tyres and Leclerc took the lead once again. 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.

“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,” said the Championship leader.

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.

Continue reading – (Page 3)

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