Charles Leclerc clinches home win for Ferrari at Monza

French driver held off Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to win a thrilling Italian GP

Charles Leclerc celebrates on the Monza podium, spraying the Ferrari fans below, after winning F1’s Italian GP. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Charles Leclerc celebrates on the Monza podium, spraying the Ferrari fans below, after winning F1’s Italian GP. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

 

Charles Leclerc won the Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari with a valiant drive. He had to see off a concerted attack by Lewis Hamilton who was third and the British driver’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who took second. The two Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg were in fourth and fifth. Sebastian Vettel had a poor afternoon, however, when an unforced error and a penalty left him in 13th place. Max Verstappen, starting from 19th after an engine change, was eighth.

Leclerc took the win from pole but had anything but a serene run to the flag. He was pushed by Hamilton for the first two-thirds as the British driver put everything into trying to pass him. He could not quite make it, however, with the Ferrari having a distinct edge in pace. It was a deserved win although not without controversy as Leclerc very decisively got his elbows out in defence of his lead. The five times-champion and the young pretender put on a fine fight at the front.

It is the second win of his career and his second in a row, having taken the flag at the last round in Spa. With his pleasure at his debut victory tempered by the death of his friend Anthoine Hubert in an F2 race on the Saturday in Belgium, Leclerc was able to truly revel in a mighty result at Ferrari’s home meeting.

For the team it was the win they wanted most. With the championship already gone, delivering for the tifosi at Monza was an absolute priority, the Scuderia had not won here since Fernando Alonso did so in 2010.

Race winner Charles Leclerc driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 passes his team celebrating on the pitwall during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Race winner Charles Leclerc driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 passes his team celebrating on the pitwall during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Moreover history, too, made expectations weigh heavier than ever. This was the 90th edition of the Italian Grand Prix and the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Ferrari in 1929. Leclerc’s pole had made fans optimistic of a home success and he duly delivered to their absolute delight. It is the first time Mercedes have been beaten here since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014.

The championship, however, remains firmly in Hamilton’s hands. The British driver leads Bottas by 63 points, with Verstappen 99 points back in third. Leclerc has overtaken his teammate Vettel and is now fourth with 182 points, three behind Verstappen.

Leclerc held his lead through turn one from Hamilton and Bottas, while Vettel then lost fourth to Hülkenberg, although he claimed it back on the start-finish straight on the opening of the second lap.

The three held their places but Vettel was swiftly in more trouble. On lap six he span at Ascari and hit Lance Stroll’s Racing Point as he rejoined, coming on at a right angle to the line. It was exceptionally dangerous, damaged his front wing in the process and sent Stroll into a spin as well. Vettel was forced to pit for a new nose and the incident was immediately investigated by the stewards. He was penalised with a 10-second stop-go penalty, with which he might feel he escaped lightly.

The leaders had moved well clear already. By lap 10 Leclerc led from Hamilton by just over a second but Bottas in third was a full nine ahead of Ricciardo in fourth. Hamilton was holding the gap to Leclerc at just over a second, when Mercedes pitted him on lap 19 to take the medium tyres. Mercedes were looking for the undercut on Leclerc, who came in a lap later to cover it off and took the slower hard tyre. He emerged still just in front of Hamilton.

On quicker rubber the British driver charged at him and two laps later they went wheel to wheel approaching Ascari. As Hamilton went to pass the pair touched and the British driver was squeezed wide and off.

Leclerc leads the rest at Monza. Photo: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA
Leclerc leads the rest at Monza. Photo: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

Hamilton claimed Leclerc had not left him a full car’s width as is required but the stewards issued only a warning. Bottas, meanwhile, led, having yet to pit, and he came in on lap 28, rejoining in fourth. Hamilton pushed again but the Ferrari’s straight-line speed was unmatchable until lap 36, when Leclerc locked up at the first chicane and cut the corner, coming back on having just held his lead. The incident was noted but no action was taken as once more the pair vied for the lead, yet Leclerc’s defence was robust and fearless.

Hamilton, losing grip, locked up on lap 42, went straight on at the first chicane and lost second to Bottas, who was looking very quick on the fresher rubber. The Finn duly went after Leclerc with 10 laps to go.

But Ferrari and Leclerc had done enough, cheered to the rafters for every lap. Leclerc held the place and the lifelong admiration of the tifosi. Hamilton took a late stop for soft rubber to claim the fastest lap.

Alexander Albon was sixth for Red Bull, with Sergio Pérez seventh for Racing Point. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was in ninth, in front of the McLaren of Lando Norris.

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