Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc takes an emotional maiden win in the sport after the death of friend Anthoine Hubert who died a day earlier during the F2 Feature Race. After a late-challenge, Mercedes Lewis Hamilton takes 2nd place ahead of team-mate Valterri Bottas as Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finishes 5th on his promotion to the team.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc emotional victory started the right way as a great start saw the young Monegasque led as the fast-starting Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton jumped Sebastian Vettel on the run-down to turn 1. Valterri Bottas retained 4th as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went down the inside of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen into La Source which resulted in contact and saw the Finn being tilted on two wheels. With broken suspension and dodgy steering, Verstappen’s race came to an end as the Dutchman got to the middle of the run up to the Camel straight ploughing into the barrier. Up front, Leclerc led as Vettel blasted past Hamilton for 2nd to make it a Ferrari 1-2.
The stricken Red Bull resulted in the Safety Car being deployed which also saw the retirement of the McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr who had power issues. The other McLaren of Lando Norris had now found himself in 5th ahead of the Haas drivers of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. Racing resumed on lap 4 where a excellent restart by Leclerc saw him unchallenged by his team-mate who made a mistake by locking-up into La Source. This saw the pressure put on Vettel as Hamilton and Bottas behind however by using the Ferrari’s straight line speed, the four time world champion wasn’t the one under pressure. Newly re-signed for 2020, Bottas challenged Hamilton into turn 5 but the championship leader stayed ahead and would remain for the rest of the race.
The top four pulled away from the rest of the pack who were still headed by Norris who had pulled a good gap to Grosjean behind. A queue of drivers started to form behind Magnussen who started to fall back after being overtaken by the likes of the Racing Point drivers of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll and then by the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. Having started in 17th, Alexander Albon knew he was going to have to work hard to score decent points on his promotion to the senior team of Red Bull and started to carve his way through the pack by firstly overtaking the struggling Magnussen for 11th on lap 15.
Come lap 19, focus shifted from the racing and to the fans who all stood up around the track to pay tribute to Anthoine Hubert who lost his life during the F2 Feature Race. His race number was #19 and this fan-inspired standing ovation paid tribute to the promising young Frenchman who tragically died after a horrific crash.
After pitting earlier, Vettel managed to take the lead whilst Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas made their pit-stops albeit longer in the race to make sure that they had enough tyre wear to make it to the end of the race. Leclerc rapidly made up for lost time and was eased by Vettel as the German played the team game. He knew that the charging Hamilton would put pressure on Leclerc in the final laps so would now try to hold Hamilton behind for as long as he could to ensure Leclerc claimed victory. Using the upgraded Ferrari power unit, Vettel kept Hamilton back for four crucial laps until the Brit, using DRS, found a way past and up into 2nd.
With Vettel playing the team game, Leclerc’s lead had built up to 7 and a half seconds. After making a second stop for tyres, Vettel rejoined in 4th albeit 18 seconds behind Bottas. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo had complemented whether to race on Sunday due to the weekend’s tragic events and after contact at the start, the Australian, having pitted at the start of the race, began to struggle. He was first overtaken by Kvyat and then hounded by Albon. Albon tried to go round the outside of turn 8 but used the cut-back move to go round the outside of Ricciardo into turn 9 – a move you don’t see very often.
Before the first round of pit-stops, Grosjean was running in 6th and having so far a good race at a track where he both likes and dislikes, more notably for causing a first corner pile-up in 2012 and then finishing in 3rd in 2015 with the struggling Lotus team. But he vented his frustration over team raido at being unable to overtake due to the lack of power coming from his engine compared to his rivals.
With only a few laps to go, Hamilton has closed the gap to Leclerc to only a few seconds as the leaders navigated their way through the traffic. Albon’s second half of the race had been more punchy as he became more confident in the car and was catching Perez ahead. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi started 18th after a power unit failure in qualifying sent him to the rear of the grid but that didn’t restrain the Italian from making up places to run in 9th with a handful of laps to go. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg had also had a quiet race on a weekend where he learnt that he wouldn’t be staying with the team come next season.
After driving an excellent race and set to finish in 5th, Norris’s McLaren gave up and cruelly, the Brit pulled up just after the finish line on the last lap. All of his hard work was gone and for the first time since Canada, McLaren failed to score any points. Giovinazzi’s hard work was also undone as the Italian lost the rear of his Alfa and crashed into the barriers at turn 11. This promoted Hulkenberg into 8th, Stroll into 9th and Pierre Gasly into 10th.
Nothing phased the man upfront as Leclerc stayed ahead of Hamilton to take his first win in the sport and Ferrari’s first win of the season. On such a difficult weekend for the motorsport community, Leclerc dedicated his win to his late friend. Bottas never really had the pace to challenge the top 2 and finished in 3rd and lost three more points to Hamilton who extends his lead to 65 points. Vettel finished 4th and after a bold move on Perez along with Camel Straight, Albon, having briefly dipped the right-hand side wheels on the grass to get past the Mexican, finished a career best 5th.
Perez therefore, having survived post-race investigation, took 6th for the fourth time in five years ahead of Kvyat, who moves into 8th in the championship, Hulkenberg, Gasly and Stroll. Having not managed to complete the last lap, Norris was classified in 11th ahead of the Haas duo of Magnussen and Grosjean with Ricciardo in 13th.
With a damaged floor from the lap 1 incident with Verstappen and coupled with a leg injury sustained from the summer break, Raikkonen struggled on and eventually split the Williams drivers of George Russell and Robert Kubica to finish in 16th.
Formula One now heads to Monza for the Italian GP and the home of Ferrari. Building on the momentum, can Ferrari produce a repeat of today’s events? Will more reliability issues plague teams up and down the field? Will racing at home boost Giovinazzi’s hopes? And can Hamilton be caught before it’s too late?
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 44 Laps
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +0.981s
- Valterri Bottas, Mercedes, +12.585s
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, +26.422s
- Alexander Albon, Red Bull Racing Honda, +81.325s
- Sergio Perez, Racing Point BWT Mercedes, +84.448s
- Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda, +89.657s
- Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, +106.639s
- Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda, +109.168s
- Lance Stroll, Racing Point BWT Mercedes, +109.838s
- Lando Norris, McLaren Renault, DNF
- Kevin Magnussen, Haas Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- Romain Grosjean, Haas Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, + 1 Lap
- George Russell, Williams Mercedes, + 1 Lap
- Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- Robert Kubica, Williams Mercedes, + 1 Lap
- Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari, DNF
- Carlos Sainz Jr, McLaren Renault, DNF
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing Honda, DNF