Charles Leclerc was able to successfully keep the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at bay to win the 2019 Italian GP, handing Ferrari its first win on home soil in nine years. The 21-year-old has now become only the 11th driver to win an F1 race for Ferrari at Monza.
Coming off the high of scoring his maiden F1 win at the Belgian GP, Leclerc kicked off the Italian GP weekend on a high note, topping the first two practice sessions and then clinching pole position. Despite leading majority of the race, it wasn’t an easy victory for Leclerc – he was unable to really pull away from the Mercedes drivers and lost the support of his teammate Sebastian Vettel early on as the latter spun at the Ascari chicane while running in 4th place and then made contact with Lance Stroll while re-joining the track. Soon after, Stroll made a similar error and forced Pierre Gasly into the gravel. Pitting for a new front wing dropped Vettel to last place and his race went from bad to worse when he was handed a 10 second stop/go penalty for the incident with Stroll, essentially ending his chances of scoring any points. Stroll, on the other hand, received a drive through penalty.
Out at front, Hamilton went for the undercut, pitting for medium tyres. Leclerc pitted a lap later and emerged just ahead of Hamilton, with Ferrari opting to give him the more durable hard tyres. The two then spent close to 20 laps battling one another – Hamilton attempted a move into the second chicane on lap 23, but Leclerc cut to the right of the track, forcing Hamilton into the run-off. Leclerc then endured a tense moment on lap 36 as he locked up into the first chicane, but he was able to hold on to the lead as Hamilton started struggling on his medium tyres. Meanwhile, the tussle between the two allowed Bottas to catch up on fresh tyres.
Hamilton closely followed Leclerc for the next few laps, but then he locked up into the first chicane on lap 42, allowing Bottas to move up to 2nd place. Despite being on fresher tyres, Bottas was unable to launch an attack on Leclerc and had to settle for 2nd place as Leclerc crossed the chequered flag to claim his second consecutive victory. Hamilton finished 3rd – a late pit stop allowing him to set the fastest lap and grab an additional point. As a result, he’s only lost two points to his teammate Bottas in the drivers’ standings and yet leads the championship by 63 points.
Renault enjoyed its best finish of the year so far with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg finishing 4th and 5th respectively. Alexander Albon finished 6th followed by Sergio Pérez, who benefitted by pitting under the virtual safety car. Max Verstappen endured a difficult race – having started from the back of the grid due to engine penalties, he had to pit on the very first lap after damaging his front wing at the start. He was ultimately able to recover to finish 8th, followed by Antonio Giovinazzi and Lando Norris.
A total of three drivers retired from the race. Carlos Sainz had to pull over after his front right wheel was not properly attached, while Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen suffered an oil leak and hydraulic issues.
Carlos Sainz Jr.
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