Delight was writ large across Charles Leclerc’s face as he mounted the top step of the podium in front of an adoring crowd after claiming victory at Scuderia Ferrari’s home race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
The Monégasque driver secured his second race win in as many weekends, winning a gripping race-long fight against the two Mercedes. Leclerc showed plenty of nerve, repeatedly fending off attacks from Lewis Hamilton and at one point even forcing the Englishman off-track with some muscly defensive driving.
His tactics did not impress the championship leader, but with the FIA Stewards taking a softer ‘let them race’ approach after some much-criticised hardline calls earlier in the season there was little Hamilton could do but concede that the 21-year-old had been the quickest driver on the day when the points are handed out.
Leclerc was given a black-and-white flag, warning him that his driving was approaching an unsportsmanlike standard, and he kept his nose clean from that point.
With fading tyres, Hamilton ceded second place to teammate Valtteri Bottas and pitted a second time late in the race to post the fastest race lap on fresher tyres and claim the bonus championship point on offer. Bottas managed to get within one second of Leclerc in the final laps, but like Hamilton he lacked the straight-line speed (even with DRS) to mount a serious threat.
Leclerc was left to fight a one-man battle against the Silver Arrows thanks to another unforced error by teammate Sebastian Vettel who spun off at the Ascari chicane early in the race. In his attempts to recover without losing too many positions, he re-joined the circuit and ran Racing Point’s Lance Stroll off-track which forced the Canadian into a spin of his own.
Vettel was given a ten-second stop/go penalty – the most serious punishment the FIA Stewards could issue short of disqualifying him – which all but killed the four-time World Champion’s hopes of finishing in the points. With Lerclerc claiming a near-maximum points’ haul, the young pretender overtook his elder statesman teammate in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
The race marked a turnaround in the fortunes of Renault, with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg giving the factory squad its best result of the season by finishing fourth and fifth respectively. The haul of much-needed points now puts them in striking distance of McLaren’s fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings, and with the Woking team having scored just one point in the last two Grands Prix (courtesy of Lando Norris finishing tenth) the battle for ‘best of the rest’ honours between the two outfits will be fascinating in the coming Grands Prix.
Red Bull Racing predicted it would have its toughest Grand Prix at a track ill-suited to its RB15 challenger, and that somewhat rang true. After being dumped to the back of the grid thanks to power unit element changes, Max Verstappen had his second self-inflicted opening lap dramas and damaged his front wing in the traditional Turn 1 bottleneck. The Dutch driver drove well to recover to finish eighth ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
His new teammate Alexander Albon fared rather better in his second outing for the senior Red Bull team. The Anglo-Thai driver did, however, show his inexperience by attempting an impossible pass around the outside of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. at Lesmo 1 – running off-track in the process – but then knuckled down and charged to a sixth-placed finish, hot on Hülkenberg’s heels in the final laps.
|FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO HEINEKEN D’ITALIA 2019 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (53 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||53||1:15:26.665||25|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||53||+ 0.835||18|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||53||+ 35.119||16|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||53||+ 45.515||12|
|5.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||53||+ 58.165||10|
|6.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB15||53||+ 59.315||8|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||53||+ 1:13.802||6|
|8.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||53||+ 1:14.492||4|
|9.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||52||1 lap behind||2|
|10.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||52||1 lap behind||1|
|11.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||52||1 lap behind|
|12.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||52||1 lap behind|
|13.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||52||1 lap behind|
|14.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||52||1 lap behind|
|15.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||52||1 lap behind|
|16.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||52||1 lap behind|
|17.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||51||2 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||43||Hydraulics|
|DNF.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||29||Oil Leak|
|DNF.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||27||Loose Wheel|
Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
Lewis Hamilton is awarded an additional 1 championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.
Images via Scuderia Ferrari