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ANALYSIS: 2019 Italian Grand Prix – Assessing the field

7 Mins read
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Charles Leclerc won the Italian Grand Prix with another combative drive under extreme pressure. The Tifosi turned up in full force to see a Ferrari driver win their home Grand Prix for the first time since 2010.

It was an entertaining race that saw Leclerc resist the pressure of the two Mercedes drivers all-race long. The Monégasque driver scripted a famous win for the Italian team in front of a sea of red-clad fans.

Mercedes drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, joined Leclerc on the podium as the winning streak of Mercedes in the hybrid era since 2014 came to an end at Monza.

Top of the class…

Charles Leclerc – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.150s

Race margin to team-mate: -123.009s

Charles Leclerc registered the second win of his Formula 1 career at the Italian Grand Prix. This second win in back to back races by Leclerc ended Ferrari’s win drought at Monza since 2010.

The Monégasque racing driver took pole position as expected in qualification even as team-mate Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth position behind the Mercedes drivers.

Leclerc made a good start to lead Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1. Leclerc got himself outside DRS-range and maintained a steady 1.5 seconds gap to Hamilton in the first stint.

On lap 20, Hamilton pitted for a set of new medium compound tyres. Leclerc pitted a lap later but fitted a set of new hard compound tyres. The Ferrari SF90 had inferior pace to the Mercedes W10 on the medium compound tyres in the practice sessions.

Ferrari elected to use the hard compound tyres with Leclerc having to do a thirty-three lap second stint. It turned out to be the right decision in the end.

After the first pit stop, Leclerc emerged in front of Hamilton but the Briton was within DRS-range immediately. For the next 20 laps until lap 42, Hamilton stayed on Leclerc’s gearbox and attacked the race leader relentlessly.

On two occasions on lap 23 and lap 36, Leclerc’s defence was right on the edge as he acknowledged later. But to withstand the extreme pressure from a five-time world champion like Hamilton for such a prolonged period of time was an exceptional performance by Leclerc.

Mercedes then unleashed Bottas on fresher tyres to attack Leclerc in the last ten laps. But Leclerc emerged the winner on this day in front of an ecstatic Tifosi.

Leclerc after back to back wins has sailed past team-mate Vettel into fourth position in the drivers’ championship, just three points behind third placed Max Verstappen.

Leclerc entered the annals of Ferrari folklore with this win and said: “No words to describe it. I’ve never imagined, I’ve never dreamed of something like this before. It’s above everything I’ve ever imagined in my career to have such a podium.”

Daniel Ricciardo – Renault F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.210

Race margin to team-mate: -12.650

Daniel Ricciardo clinched fourth position for his best finish for the Renault F1 team. Ricciardo qualified in fifth position ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. The Australian lost out at the start to Hulkenberg and fell to fifth position.

But on lap 5, Ricciardo took back fifth position from Hulkenberg. When Vettel spun at the Ascari chicane and fell to the back of the grid, Ricciardo took fourth position.

Ricciardo mirrored his team-mate Hulkenberg’s strategy and benefited from pitting under the Virtual Safety Car. It was an impressive showing by Ricciardo and he took advantage of the strife the Red Bull Racing drivers and Vettel experienced in the race.

Ricciardo has gone scoreless in nine of fourteen races this season. For a prolific driver like him with seven Grand Prix wins under his belt, it has been a frustrating experience with his new Renault team.

Ricciardo sits in eighth position in the drivers’ championship. The performance of the Renault R.S.19 challenger in the low downforce configuration at Monza was impressive all weekend.

A happy Ricciardo said: “I want to give a special shout-out – obviously I’m happy for the whole team, but to the boys in Viry, building the engines. I think to get the best team result here in Monza on a power circuit since 2008 is a real statement. They’ve copped a lot of grief in the last few years and they’ve made some big gains this year on the power unit, so this one’s for them.”

Sergio Pérez – Racing Point F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.648 (Q1)

Race margin to team-mate: -29.037s

Sergio Pérez finished in seventh position and performed well for the second race in a row. The Mexican started in eighteenth position after his qualification was disrupted by engine issues.

The pace the Racing Point F1 challenger had was evident with team-mate Lance Stroll qualifying in ninth position. Pérez took to the escape road at Turn 1 at the start.

A good first stint saw Pérez progress to ninth position. The Mexican made his first pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car and resisted pressure from Verstappen to finish in seventh position.

The Mexican was satisfied with the progress the team has made with recent updates. Pérez said: “Another good result and we scored some important points today. It was a great recovery from what has been a difficult weekend in the lead up to the race, especially with the problems in qualifying. I think everything worked out for us in the end thanks to a strong strategy from the team and some good timing with the Virtual Safety Car.”

Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.002s (Q2)

Race margin to team-mate: -62.292s

Antonio Giovinazzi redeemed himself at his home race with a creditable ninth position. In the last race in Belgium, Giovinazzi was on course to finish in eighth position. But a crash in the final laps scuppered his chances of clinching the best-ever finish of his career and cost his team precious points.

Giovinazzi qualified in eleventh position and started in tenth position as his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen was demoted to the pit lane for his race start after penalties.

Giovinazzi had a steady first stint of twenty-one laps on the soft compound tyres and progressed to eighth position. In the second stint, Giovinazzi had to yield a position to Verstappen and secured ninth position.

Team-mate Räikkönen was in the wars in the qualification and the race. In contrast, Giovinazzi had a steady race and scored points for only the second race this season.

Homework to do…

Sebastian Vettel – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.150s

Race margin to team-mate: +123.009s

Sebastian Vettel had another wretched race in front of the passionate Tifosi in Ferrari’s home Grand Prix. The German’s troubles started in qualification when he qualified behind team-mate Leclerc and the two Mercedes drivers.

A botched final qualification saw the drivers jostling for position and denied most of the drivers a second flying lap with Vettel qualifying in fourth position behind his team-mate Leclerc.

Vettel was on the backfoot from the start and with an unforced error on lap 6 when he spun at the Ascari chicane he dropped to the back of the grid. Vettel further compounded the error as he hit Stroll when he rejoined the track.

Vettel was given a 10-second stop go penalty for the mistake and finished in thirteenth position in the end. Vettel was given three penalty points that took his total tally to nine penalty points. Drivers incur a race ban when they have twelve penalty points on their license.

On a day when team-mate Leclerc was on the top step of the podium and soaking in the adulation from the home fans, Vettel had another poor race. To rub salt into Vettel’s wounds, Leclerc also leapfrogged him in the drivers’ championship for fourth place.

Vettel’s position as team leader at Ferrari is being challenged by the young usurper Leclerc. Vettel is in real need of some good results in the remaining races to reestablish himself.

Carlos Sainz – McLaren F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.866s (Q2)

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Carlos Sainz did not finish for the second race in a row for no fault of his own. Sainz was running in a strong sixth position when he pitted on lap 28.

An unsafe release by the McLaren team ended Sainz’s race and brought out the Virtual Safety Car. The Spaniard was on a roll before the summer break and was in a strong seventh position in the drivers’ championship.

The last two races have cost Sainz a heap of points. But he has everything to play for as he is just seven points behind the recently demoted Pierre Gasly in the drivers’ championship.

Kimi Räikkönen – Alfa Romeo Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.002s (Q2)

Race margin to team-mate: +62.292s

Kimi Räikkönen was in the wars all weekend at the Italian Grand Prix. A crash during the free practice session was followed by another crash in the final qualification session.

The Finn started from the pit lane after he took penalties for a gear box and engine change. Räikkönen started on the wrong set of tyres and was given a penalty during the race.

Räikkönen finished in fifteenth position and outside the points for a second race in a row. In the previous race, Räikkönen was denied a strong finish as Verstappen’s error at Turn 1 on lap 1 compromised his race.

The Finn has been consistent all-season long and has led the team well. He will look to restart his season after the summer break with a good show at the next race in Singapore.

The rest…

Verstappen started in nineteenth position after grid penalties for taking on the new Spec 4 Honda engine. The first lap mishap and a broken wing put him further on the backfoot. The Dutchman fought back to finish in eighth position.

The Renault team had a good race as Nico Hulkenberg complemented team-mate Ricciardo’s strong showing with a fifth place finish.

Lando Norris finished in tenth position to score a solitary point and make up for the disappointment of a late DNF from a strong position in the previous race.

Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly finished outside the points for the Toro Rosso team. The Haas F1 team continued their slide as both drivers finished outside the points again.

All the teams will assemble for the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks time (September 20-22 2019)

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