Leclerc triggers Ferrari frenzy with Italian GP win

Monday, 9 September 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates winning the race with second place Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and third place Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Formula One F1, Italian Grand Prix, Circuit of Monza, Monza, Italy, 8 September – Reuters


MONZA, Italy (Reuters): Charles Leclerc triggered a frenzy of Ferrari celebration yesterday after holding off a race-long Mercedes challenge to take the Italian Formula One team’s first home grand prix victory since 2010.

Valtteri Bottas was second for Mercedes with five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton a distant third after tyre wear took its toll in a thrilling battle with the 21-year-old Monegasque.

“What a race! I have never been so tired,” gasped Leclerc as a sea of fans, starved of success at Monza since Fernando Alonso won in the red overalls, swept onto the pit straight to party below the overhanging podium with flags and flares.

“Winning here is just a dream,” continued the winner, switching to fluent Italian to address a crowd cheering a fitting triumph on the 90th anniversary of both Monza and Formula One’s most glamorous team.

“Last weekend (in Belgium) was my first victory, but the emotion of winning here is 10 times that,” said Leclerc, a two times winner – and Ferrari’s sole one so far this season – in only his 14th race for Ferrari.

“Thanks to everybody. I have no words.

Hamilton’s lead over closest rival Bottas was cut to 62 points from 65, with the Briton limiting the damage by making a late pitstop for fresh tyres to set the fastest lap and gain an extra point.

“He did a great job, congratulations to Ferrari,” said Hamilton, who took the fight to Leclerc from the start but dropped behind Bottas 10 laps from the end when he cut the first chicane.

“A lot of pressure from both Valtteri and I. I did the best I could. Obviously following so closely for such a long time, the tyres eventually just went off the cliff.

“But nevertheless they were just quicker today, quicker in a straight line, so even if we did get close we couldn’t pass. So not our day but still strong points for the team,” added the 34-year-old.


Vettel nightmare

Leclerc’s German team mate Sebastian Vettel had an afternoon to forget, going from bad to worse at the one circuit where every Ferrari driver wants to impress.

While Leclerc led from pole position, the four-time champion spun off, plunged to last place and served a 10 second stop/go penalty for a dangerous return to the track.

He was then lapped by his impressive teammate, who is now 13 points above him in the standings and fast becoming the main man at Maranello.

Stewards also handed Vettel three penalty points, taking his 12 month tally to nine. Three more in the next three races will trigger a one-race ban. “I lost the rear, a mistake by me,” the German, 13th at the flag, said of the incident. “A good day for the team but not good on my side. I can’t be happy with my day today.” Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Renault, just ahead of team mate Nico Hulkenberg in a strong race for the French manufacturer.

Thai driver Alex Albon was sixth for Red Bull, with team mate Max Verstappen eighth and Mexican Sergio Perez seventh for Racing Point.

Antonio Giovinazzi, the first Italian to compete in his home race for eight years, was ninth for Alfa Romeo and British teenager Lando Norris took the final point for McLaren.