F1 2019: Leclerc fends-off Mercedes attack to win passionate Italian GP

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc seals back-to-back victories after fending off the Mercedes duo of Valterri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to win on Ferrari’s home soil as Renault secure their best result season since their F1 return with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg in the top 5.

08/09/19

Starting Grid

1.Leclerc  2.Hamilton  3.Bottas  4.Vettel  5.Ricciardo  6.Hulkenberg  7.Sainz Jr  8.Albon  9.Stroll  10.Giovinazzi  11.Magnussen  12.Kvyat  13.Grosjean  14.Russell  15.Kubica  16.Norris  17.Gasly  18.Perez  19.Verstappen  Pit-lane: Raikkonen

Race

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc’s second back-to-back victory started on Saturday as the young Monegasque secured Pole Position for the 4th time this season after a one of the most extraordinary final qualifying sessions in the history of F1 took place.

Leclerc led from the start despite early pressure from Mercedes Lewis Hamilton on the run-down to turn 1. The other Mercedes of Valterri Bottas pressured the Brit and managed to nip ahead for a few metres before championship leader got a better exit out of turn 1. While the Ferrari of Leclerc was up-front, the other Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel found himself under pressure from Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who managed to overtake the German for 4th out of turn 5.

Meanwhile at the back of the field, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen pitted for a new front wing as the Dutchman made contact with the rear of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. Vettel began to make up some ground as he managed to re-overtake Hulkenberg for 4th as the other Red Bull of Alexander Albon, made a diving move on McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr into turn 4. However on the exit of the corner, poor traction meant that Sainz was able to get back alongside and was ahead going into the first Lesmo. Albon tried to fightback round the outside but a move at that corner, round the outside, is rare and unfortunately for Albon, banging wheels with the McLaren sent the former Toro Rosso driver on a trip through the gravel and down to 13th.

The Renault team were one of the surprises of qualifying by showing impressive pace and were now running in 5th and 6th with Hulkenberg ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. They switched places after Ricciardo overtook Hulkenberg down the main straight with the help of DRS.

After getting back past Hulkenberg, Vettel was now on the prowl and hunting down Bottas’s 3rd place. But the German, who hasn’t won this race as a Ferrari driver, wasn’t going to amend that stat today as he spun on the exit of turn 8. Trying to get back in the race, the four time world champion, unaware that Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was heading his way. Stroll hit Vettel’s front wing sending the Canadian into a spin and ending up on the kerb at turn 10. In his frustration, Stroll then came back onto the track with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly having to take avoiding action across the gravel trap. Vettel pitted for repairs.

As if his day was going to get better, Vettel received the harshest penalty the race stewards can give out – a 10 second stop/go penalty. This would take Vettel out of contention of the win, a podium finish and even points. He was eventually lapped and finished 13th after making an additional pit-stop near the end of the race.

Up-front, Leclerc kept his Ferrari ahead but the gap back to Hamilton never exceeded 3 seconds and it was the Brit who blinked first. Mercedes pitted Hamilton a lap before Leclerc but the under-cut failed to work it’s magic as Leclerc came back out just in front. The major difference between the pair was the tyres their teams had put on. Mercedes fitted Hamilton with the Medium tyre while Ferrari, clearly, put the Hard tyre on Leclerc. After running race stints during practice, Ferrari knew that their car was quicker on the Hard tyre compared to the Medium and this along with the tyre life aided Leclerc’s fight.

Bottas decided to stick it out and ran for a few laps longer than the duelling pair but his over-cut wasn’t going to work. Onto lap 23, after overtaking Hulkenberg for 3rd and 4th, Leclerc and Hamilton made their way to turn 3 with Hamilton in the slipstream of the Ferrari. Hamilton pulled to the right and made it nearly all the way alongside coming into the braking zone. Leclerc moved over to take the racing line and that left little space for Hamilton. The Brit took to the escape road while Leclerc held the lead. Although a bit naughty, the stewards gave Leclerc the black and white flag.

After successfully defending his position against Albon earlier, Sainz had been running in 6th behind the Renault’s before his pit-stop. After retiring in Belgium, the Spaniard was looking good for some points in aid of minimising the points deficit to Renault. A botched pit-stop for Sainz saw front-right tyre being not secured properly and saw a consecutive retirement.

After a brief Virtual Safety Car, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was hoping to make up some places having not pitted and was going to use the VSC to his advantage. However, an oil leak left the Russian at the side of the track at turn 2 becoming the second retirement.

Hamilton’s faster Medium tyres had piled the pressure on Leclerc who was managing his more durable Hard tyres. Meanwhile Bottas, who was on fresher Medium tyres, was catching the pair at a steady rate. Leclerc locked-up his tyres into turn 1 and jumped across the kerbs at the chicane and staying ahead despite even more pressure from Hamilton.

Come lap 42, Hamilton’s Medium tyres were starting to wear out and a lock-up at turn 1, which sent him through the run-off, gifted Bottas 2nd place and a shot of victory. Hamilton pitted and with a fresh set of tyres, the Mercedes driver took the bonus point for fastest lap.

With three laps to go, Bottas was in striking range on the run-down to turn 1 but overshot his braking point meaning that the Finn went deep into the corner and lost time to Leclerc. This mistake gave Leclerc some breathing space until the end of the race.

As Leclerc rounded the Parabolica, Ferrari fans at the side of the track started to cheer and celebrate – their wait for a Ferrari victory on home soil was finally going to come true after the Scuderia’s last win came in 2010. The winless drought at Monza was over for Ferrari as Leclerc crossed the line to win!

Bottas and Hamilton rounded out the podium with the Renault’s of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg coming home in a deserving 4th and 5th – picking up 22 points. Albon recovered to 6th ahead Perez who managed to stay ahead of a relentless Verstappen in the final laps.

Home favourite, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi put in a great performance to finish the race in 9th and pick-up two valuable points. The delighted Italian ran as high as 7th before being overtaken by the likes of Perez and Verstappen. McLaren’s Lando Norris, who started near the back of the field, picked up a deserving point in 10th.

Gasly finished outside the points in 11th ahead of a frustrated Stroll, who served a drive-through penalty for his near collision with Kvyat, with Vettel in 13th ahead of Williams George Russell, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen who had a weekend to forget, Haas’s Romain Grosjean and the second Williams of Robert Kubica.

The third retiree of the race, Haas’s Kevin Magnussen retired not long before the end of the race with a hydraulic problem. Both Haas driver were left “baffled” by the lack of pace the team showed in Italy.

Race Result

  1. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 53 Laps
  2. Valterri Bottas, Mercedes, +0.835s
  3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +35.199s
  4. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, +45.515s
  5. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, +58.165s
  6. Alexander Albon, Red Bull Racing Honda, +59.315s
  7. Sergio Perez, Racing Point BWT Mercedes, +73.802s
  8. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing Honda, +74.492s
  9. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari, + 1 Lap
  10. Lando Norris, McLaren Renault, + 1 Lap
  11. Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda, + 1 Lap
  12. Lance Stroll, Racing Point BWT Mercedes, + 1 Lap
  13. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 1 Lap
  14. George Russell, Williams Mercedes, + 1 Lap
  15. Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing Honda, + 1 Lap
  16. Romain Grosjean, Haas Ferrari, + 1 Lap
  17. Robert Kubica, Williams Mercedes, + 2 Laps
  • Kevin Magnussen, Haas Ferrari, DNF
  • Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda, DNF
  • Carlos Sainz Jr, McLaren Renault, DNF

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