Leclerc holds off Mercedes assault to win for Ferrari
21-year old Charles Leclerc held off a race-long assault from Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and then Valtteri Bottas to win the Italian GP for Ferrari as the Tifosi went wild at Monza.
Leclerc led from pole and only lost the lead on his one pitstop to win by just 0.835s over Bottas - the first Ferrari win at Monza since Fernando Alonso won for Ferrari in 2010.
"Wahhhhhh, yessssss! Yes yes yes," he yells down the radio. Leclerc was unable to truly celebrate victory last week in a race overshadowed by such awful tragedy, and it looks like the emotion has finally bubbled over this week.
"Bravo, bravo," cried the Ferrari team as Leclerc dove into the waiting arms of his crew. It is safe to say the team has a new hero, and what a sensation Leclerc has been since swapped to the team after just one season in F1.
As Leclerc came out onto the podium flanked by the two Mercedes drivers. Huge smiles for the Monegasque man as he proudly listened to his own anthem, before the crowd sung along with the Italian one that followed.
Singing might be an understatement - shouting is closer... They were absolutely over the moon with the result.
Hamilton came home third 35 seconds back after stopping late for soft tires to get fast lap point. Renault drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top-5.
For the majority of the race, it appeared as though Lewis Hamilton would once again deny Ferrari home glory. But once the five-time champion’s tires went off in the closing stages of the race, it was left to team mate Bottas to launch a late, and ultimately unsuccessful assault, on Leclerc.
Sebastian Vettel once again spun on his own in the 2nd Ferrari and was not able to keep pace (finishing 1 lap down in 13th) with the leaders and it's clear Vettel is a defeated man and we would not be surprised that he leaves Ferrari after this year.
Red Bull’s Alex Albon ended up in sixth, ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, who just managed to hold off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who ended up eighth having started P19.
Antonio Giovinazzi chose an opportune moment to score just his second points-finish of the year, coming home ninth for Alfa Romeo, while Lando Norris completed the top 10 for McLaren.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
Valtteri Bottas (2nd): "I was trying everything to get close enough to Charles to make a move on him in the final laps, but the Ferraris were very quick on the straights this weekend, so it was difficult to get close enough. I was pushing as hard as I could, but every time I got really close, I started to lock-ups the fronts. While it's disappointing that we didn't win, our performance today was actually quite promising. We came to Monza expecting this to be one of the most difficult races of the season for us, but we could really challenge the Ferraris, so that's good to see. It was a good race overall from that perspective and I think we can leave Italy with a positive feeling. On paper, the upcoming races should play a little more towards our strengths and I'm looking forward to a good fight with Ferrari and Red Bull over the next weeks."
Lewis Hamilton (3rd): "Congratulations to Charles today, he did a great job, especially considering the pressure Valtteri and I were putting on him. The Ferrari was very quick in a straight line, so it was difficult to stay close to them. I think it just wasn't our day today, it's always disappointing to follow another car so closely but not be able to take the lead. But in the end, we're leaving Italy with more points in the Constructors' Championship and ultimately that is what matters. I'm not looking to the next race thinking it will be easy for us; instead we're going to go to the factory next week and go through the same process, looking for ways to improve our car, improve our processes over a race weekend, and I hope that I can do a better job in Singapore. I personally cherish this battle between Ferrari, Red Bull and us, so I want it to continue."
Toto Wolff, Team Principal: "First of all, congratulations to Charles, he drove a strong race and overall Ferrari had the strongest package this weekend. We threw everything at them today and as I said before the race, if you gave me second and third in Monza, I would have taken it. Of course, we wanted to win but you can see how happy the Tifosi are about the first Ferrari victory here in a while. Spa and Monza turned out to be as difficult for us as we expected, but we still achieved solid results and come away with a good batch of points heading into the flyaways, extending our lead in both championships. Singapore is up next, and we should be strong there, but so should Red Bull. We are looking forward to showing what we can do in the upcoming races."
Andrew Shovlin: "It's frustrating that we managed to spend almost the entire race with a car right behind Charles today and failed to find a way to get through but that is sometimes the way it goes. We had to try and undercut with Lewis when a gap appeared behind the Renaults but with the low degradation here, it's not as powerful as at some other tracks. Lewis made a good move into Turn four, but Charles defended aggressively and realistically, that was Lewis's best chance to win. Lewis pushed the tires hard for most of that stint, so it wasn't a surprise when they started to drop off at the end. We were able to send Valtteri long to build an offset in tire life, but it wasn't enough to give us the speed to pass and after that we didn't have anything else to try. We know where we need to work; our qualifying pace has dropped from where we were at the start of the season and we need more speed in a straight line. We've known that for some time now but having weekends like the two we have just had will motivate everyone in Brackley and Brixworth to get on top of these weaknesses. It's Singapore next which is a very different challenge to this place, and it is also a tricky circuit to get right but we are hungry to get back to winning so will be working hard this week to make sure we can arrive in the best possible shape."
Charles Leclerc (1st): “There are no words to describe the emotions I felt during the race, after the race, or on the podium. It felt ten times stronger than anything I have ever experienced in my whole career. It was very special.
Sebastian Vettel (13th): “It’s been a good day for Charles, so congratulations and well done to everybody. Obviously my day did not go well. On lap 6 I lost the rear, which was my mistake, which is why I am not happy with my day. I got a good start, but then I had nowhere to go and so I lost the position, before getting it back again and catching up to the cars ahead of me. Then came the spin on lap 6 and the race was obviously ruined for me. Then I struggled to rejoin the track as I was on the grass and I couldn’t see Lance. I still love what I do, but of course when you don’t do well, knowing what you are capable of, then you can’t be happy.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal: “This is probably the best podium of the whole Championship and you’ve got such a view of it from the pitwall that you cannot miss it. This is something you’ll remember for years. It’s not the first victory I have experienced in Monza, but it’s something you never get used to. It’s so special with all our fans and even more so after such a long race defending and battling. Coming here we knew we could be competitive, but we also knew there was no margin for error. Again today we have seen how close it is between us and our competitors and so I am happy we were first past the checkered flag this afternoon. Two wins in a row after such a difficult start to the season, really means something for the team. Charles drove fantastically and defended very well, making very few mistakes. If anything, pressure is a boost for him. The win is very well deserved! It’s a shame for Seb who could have had a good race today, as he was closing the gap to Bottas. He made some mistakes, but that’s Monza. You drive at such high speed and you have such a light car because of the low downforce package and braking is so difficult. The whole team did a flawless job, also in terms of strategy, because I think switching to hard tires was a brave decision. It proved to be the right choice, and it paid off.”
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Alexander Albon (6th): "There were positives for me even though the race didn't go as planned. It isn't the easiest track for us and we had quite an unlucky weekend in the qualifying. I didn't have a great start and had to fight my way back though the field. Unfortunately, we didn't have the pace on the straights to overtake so I had to do my maneuvers on the corners. That resulted in a lot of side by side action and at one point I just lost a bit too much grip going that wide so it started to get messy. I had a few offs and took a five second penalty. However, my race pace is getting better with the car and I feel I have made a good step up from Spa so personally speaking I am happy. Hopefully Singapore will be better for me as there will be more downforce and more corners. I think there is a lot more to come and I'm feeling more competitive."
Max Verstappen (8th): "I got front wing damage under breaking into Turn 1 as everyone slowed up and I clipped Sergio's rear tire. We then pitted for a new front wing and the race was still on as I had really good pace in clean air. I managed to pass quite a few cars but we got unlucky with the virtual safety car as it came out the lap after I pitted and three or four cars which I had already overtaken were back in front of me. I passed them all again but it was pretty painful on my tires and then at the end I got stuck behind Perez for the second time in the race. I just couldn't get past him as he was so quick on the straights. We have made some steps forward with the pace of the power unit but we will of course keep working hard to improve even further. With what happened at Turn 1 coming through to eighth isn't too bad and these things are always more likely to happen when you start at the back. The last two races were always going to be difficult for us and now I'm looking forward to having a more normal race weekend and starting closer to the front."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "It was a good recovery by both drivers in what turned out to be a difficult race. Alex lost a couple of places on the first lap and was fighting his way back through the field but he got run wide with Carlos Sainz which dropped him back behind a couple of cars. He started making up positions before unfortunately picking up a five second penalty whilst passing Magnussen, which he had to serve at his pit stop. Overall, it was a good recovery drive from Alex to come back up to P6. As for Max, he started the race from the back of the grid due to the engine penalty and he unfortunately incurred some front-wing damage at the first chicane. This meant he had to pit for a nose change on the opening lap, which the boys did in under 10 seconds and then the virtual safety car came out one lap later which was unlucky. Once he was in clear air, Max's pace was equal to that of the leaders and he was able to make up some good ground despite a slight issue with the rev limiter in the tow which made it very difficult for him to overtake. Nonetheless, coming from the back of the grid to P8 with an extra pit stop and with Alex in P6, we leave Europe and now look forward to the final stage of the season starting in Singapore."
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Daniel Ricciardo (4th): "We deserved that today. It matches my best ever result here in Monza and to do it with Renault is great. I saw the battles happening at the front and I thought there could be a big opportunity to score strong points. I'm really happy for myself and also for the team. To get the team's best result since returning to Formula 1 in fourth and fifth at a power circuit really complements Renault and their hard work. The race pace was really good and it's a nice reward for the team. The result is long overdue this year; I'm very satisfied now!"
Nico Hulkenberg (5th): "I'm very pleased after that result. It feels nice to have a finish like this and hopefully it will bring some momentum for the remaining seven races. The team deserve it as it's been a tough year for us with some difficult results and moments. It's a nice reward for everyone involved for the hard work. For me, it was a straightforward race. I made a strong start with two overtakes and managed to hold good track position. From there it was about maintaining that, making no mistakes and keeping calm. I had some pressure at the end but I managed to fend that off. It was largely quiet and controlled and a very good team result with Daniel just ahead!"
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director: "Today's result is not only the best combined result for the team since its re-entry to Formula 1, but also a demonstration after Montréal and Spa the clear progress of the team and in particular on the power unit side that has been so openly criticized in the past. It is a demonstration that everything is so fluid with a competitive package. It is also an invitation to repeat these types of emotions, when our season has been far from a smooth ride so far. Our drivers have shown what they can do with a competitive car. They have been remarkable all the way through including in tricky situations. This result is good for the team as we also know there are very challenging circuits to come this season where we will be less competitive. But let's take this for now."
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
Romain Grosjean (16th): "It was very complicated today. I was hit from behind into turn one and it picked up the anti-stall. I had to pull the clutch, release the clutch, and by the time I had done all that I was driving through the polystirene blocks and was dead last through the first corner. I tried to push to come back, then I had a spin at Ascari. I came into the pits and asked the team to remove a fair bit of aero balance, as the car was very much on the nose. We did it, but the car was still over balanced. We pitted again and removed one percent of aero balance, and the car was still over balanced. Definitely something went wrong with the car today. We need to analyze everything, the balance we had today was definitely not what we had during the rest of the weekend. A lot to do."
Kevin Magnussen (DNF, Hydraulics): "I had a hydraulic problem at the end, so we had to retire unfortunately. Until then, it had been going okay. I was fighting to keep people behind, which is normal for me these days. That said, we had been in a good position and a lot of other people were having problems. It was just bad luck to have our problem at the end. On the positive, we were in the top ten from beginning to end – of our race at least. It wasn't a true picture but at least we were going for it. It looked like we could do something, but obviously I'm gutted we had to retire at the end."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: "It was a very disappointing race. Kevin (Magnussen) started off running pretty well, but then it all went wrong when he locked up. The car was just difficult to drive. A hydraulic issue then meant we had to retire the car. Romain (Grosjean), it looked like he was hit at turn one, his car was out of balance after that. We'll need to see what happened, but the car was just slow, there must have been something wrong with it. He couldn't drive it. He tried to get the balance back on the pit stop, but it was not possible. We were slow. It's a disappointing weekend for the whole team. We just need to regroup and keep on going until we find a solution to our lack of performance."
McLaren F1 Team
Lando Norris (10th): "A decent race and a point is alright considering where I started, but you always want a little bit more. We got a bit unlucky: we boxed, we had the undercut on Perez, but then the Virtual Safety Car came out and he got a bit lucky to stay ahead and went on to finish in P7. I'm not suggesting we definitely would've finished there, because I think they still had better pace than us, but we could've finished better without the VSC. In the end, I didn't think we had all the pace but we hung on, managed to finish the race and got a point – which was a good thing after last weekend in Belgium."
Carlos Sainz (DNF, Wheel): "It's a shame to end the day that way. We obviously need to analyze what we could've done better in the pit-stop as a whole team, but honestly, this year the pit-stops have been great; our guys have been doing an outstanding job on the pit-wall and in the pit-box, so nothing to be concerned about. Heads up high. We've lost a potential P6, but we've gained a lot more this year with good strategies and good pit-stops. Let's analyze and come back stronger."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: "It's a disappointing race for us. Coming away with one very lonely point wasn't the plan for today. On Carlos' side, everything was running okay and he looked well-set to finish in P6, but unfortunately we had an issue with the front right wheel at the pit-stop, which caused us to stop the car. Lando's Italian Grand Prix went as well as we could've expected. He drove a very good race to make up positions and finish P10 after starting P16. These last two races have been tough. We don't have a tailored low-downforce package but the team has worked very hard with the tools they had available, and in both events we could've scored good points. It's important for us to go back home now, review the issues, regroup, and focus on the races ahead, with the aim of recapturing the form we had before the summer break."
Racing Point F1 Team
Alfa Romeo Racing
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
ROKiT Williams Racing
George Russell (14th): "Our pace was surprising, especially considering Monza is one of the three worst circuits of the year for us with our straight-line speed. We definitely have some positives to take away, it shows that we did a good job with the set-up, with the tires, with everything else in our control. I think we can be quite pleased with the result."
Robert Kubica (17th): "It wasn't easy, overall the weekend was up and down. Generally, the race started pretty well, but then I struggled with the front-left tire in the corners. We had a few battles and I tried to defend as much as I could, but I struggled to stay in the tow of the other cars. I tried my best and that's how it is."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: "This was another action-packed race, during which our drivers battled with several cars. Robert enjoyed a good opening lap and got up to P13 before falling back as the race progressed. He eventually completed a two-stop race having flat-spotted a tire whilst defending from Grosjean. George completed a more conventional one-stop race and almost managed to beat Vettel but unfortunately was overtaken on the final lap. Our straight-line speed made defending difficult, but George did a good job to hold on to P14, showing good pace relative to the cars around him. Our attention now turns to the final set of flyaway races, which begins in Singapore in a couple of weeks. The races then come in quick succession as we make our way across the World."
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