Formula 1

Charles Leclerc resists Mercedes pressure to win the Italian Grand Prix

4 Mins read
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Charles Leclerc clinched a magical win at the 2019 Italian Grand Prix in front of an ecstatic home crowd. Leclerc recorded his second straight win after his first career win at the previous race at the Belgian Grand Prix. Leclerc’s win ended the win-drought for Ferrari since 2010 at their home Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas settled for second position after a late push to overtake Leclerc failed. Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third position after a pulsating duel with Leclerc all-race long was well-resisted by Leclerc.

Daniel Riccirado finished in fourth position ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg for his best-ever finish for the Renault F1 team. Alexander Albon finished in sixth position after an eventful race.

Sergio Pérez, Max Verstappen, Antonio Giovinazzi and Lando Norris completed the top 10 point scoring positions.

The race started under clear skies with the air temperature at 20 degrees C and track temperatures at 32 degrees C at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit. Leclerc started from pole position after a shambolic final qualification session. Hamilton joined him on the first row.

Bottas and Sebastian Vettel were on the second row. Ricciardo and Hulkenberg lined up on the third row. Carlos Sainz, Albon, Lance Stroll and Giovinazzi lined up at the front of the grid.

Norris, Pierre Gasly, Pérez and Verstappen started from the back of the grid due to penalties for multiple new power unit elements. Kimi Räikkönen started from the pit lane after changing components under Parc Ferme conditions.

The Start

Leclerc made a good start to lead Hamilton and Bottas into Turn 1. Vettel was briefly overtaken by Hulkenberg before regaining fourth position on lap 2.

As the drivers at the back of the grid bunched up, Verstappen who started from nineteenth position was forced into the run-off area and in the process broke his front-wing.

The Dutchman pitted for a new front-wing and a set of new tyres. Räikkönen who started from the pitlane on the wrong set of tyres was given a 10-second stop go penalty.

On lap 3, when the DRS was enabled the order was Leclerc, Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Stroll, Sainz, Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat and Gasly.

Vettel Makes A Crucial Mistake

Leclerc established a 1.5 seconds gap to Hamilton at the front. Bottas was behind his team-mate in third position with a similar gap.

On lap 7, Vettel spun as he hit the kerb at the Ascari chicane and went into the gravel. The German compounded his error as he rejoined the track in an unsafe manner and hit Stroll in the process.

Stroll was spun into the gravel and he then rejoined the track and forced Gasly off the track. Vettel pitted and rejoined last. Stroll dropped down to twelfth position.

Vettel was given a 10-second stop go penalty for his mistake. Stroll was given a drive through penalty for his own misdemeanor.

First Pitstops

On lap 20, Hamilton was the first driver to pit among the frontrunners for a set of new medium compound tyres. The Briton rejoined in fifth position behind Hulkenberg.

Leclerc pitted on the next lap for a set of hard compound tyres and managed to emerge from the pits ahead of Hamilton. But Hamilton was within DRS-range of Leclerc.

On lap 27, Albon pitted and served his five-second penalty for his clash with Magnussen. Bottas pitted on lap 28 for a set of medium compound tyres much later than the race leaders.

Leclerc and Hamilton Duel

After the first pit stop, Hamilton was within DRS-range and exerted maximum pressure on Leclerc. But Leclerc used the Ferrari SF90’s superior straight-line speed to keep Hamilton behind.

There were two close encounters between the two drivers, but Leclerc managed to stay ahead. On Lap 23, Leclerc squeezed Hamilton off the track as he pulled up beside him. Leclerc was shown the black and white flag and was given a first warning for dangerous driving.

On lap 36, Leclerc made a mistake that saw him cut the chicane and rejoin in front of Hamilton. But Leclerc driving on the edge kept Hamilton behind as he moved in front of him.

Meanwhile, Bottas on much fresher tyres than the leading duo was closing in on Leclerc and Hamilton. On lap 42, a rare mistake by Hamilton at Turn 1 saw him take to the escape road and allowed Bottas to overtake him for second position.

Leclerc Resists Bottas To Take A Famous Win

Bottas now set about catching Leclerc with ten laps to go. Bottas was within DRS-range of Leclerc with six laps to go. But superb defensive driving by Leclerc and a couple of small mistakes from Bottas saw Leclerc win for the second time this season.

Hamilton pitted on lap 50 for a set of soft compound tyres and clinched a point for the fastest lap.

Sainz had to retire from the race after an unsafe release from his McLaren team. Kvyat joined him on the sidelines with engine issues. Both retirements brought out the Virtual Safety Car for a brief period. Magnussen also retired from the race later.

The two Mercedes drivers, Bottas and Hamilton, had to be content with second and third positions on this day behind young Leclerc. The young Monégasque driver has now won back to back races and moved into fourth position in the drivers’ championship ahead of team-mate Vettel.

Renault brought home a huge haul of points as Ricciardo and Hulkenberg finished in fourth and fifth positions respectively.

Albon after an eventful race that saw him in several close duels finished in sixth position. Pérez started in eighteenth position and finished in seventh position with an impressive drive.

Verstappen also made the same jump from the back of the grid to finish in eighth position. Giovinazzi in his home race scripted the best-finish of his career with ninth position.

Norris completed the point scoring positions with tenth-place. Renault with its impressive showing at this race cut their gap to McLaren significantly in the constructors’ championship for fourth position.

Leclerc and Ferrari end the European-leg of the season with impressive back to back wins. But Mercedes is comfortably ahead in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.

The Formula 1 circus heads to Singapore next for the start of the Asian-leg of the season with the Singapore Grand Prix (Sept 20-22 2019) in two weeks time.

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