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2019 Italian Grand Prix Blog

Qualifying was a complete shambles. But what a great race! Charles Leclerc ended Ferrari’s 9-year drought with victory at Monza on Sunday. He was made to fight every inch of the way by Mercedes in an incident packed Grand Prix, the Tifosi roaring him home over the final few laps.

Let’s backtrack to Q3 on Saturday, where the teams were all desperate to take advantage of the slipstream which can make so much difference to lap times at Monza. The problem was that nobody wanted to be in the lead, with drivers blocking each other and taking the final warm up lap at a snail’s pace. The result? Eight out of nine cars failed to cross the line in time to start their flying laps, leaving only Carlos Sainz with an opportunity to better his time. Commenting on the race, Martin Brundle described it as: “One of the silliest things I’ve ever seen in F1”. He’s right and the Stewards afterwards said they “strongly recommend that the FIA expedite a solution to this type of situation” to avoid a repeat in future years.

The race itself was a hugely entertaining affair, unless of course you are Sebastian Vettel. With his teammate in first place, Vettel was down in fourth but keeping up with Leclerc and the two Mercedes when he inexplicably lost control at Ascari and spun off on lap six. It was an unforced error, which is bad enough for a four times world champion, but unbelievably Vettel then drove back onto the track without looking for other drivers and collided with Lance Stroll. The move was reckless, dangerous, and the outcome could have been much worse. As it was Vettel was given a 10 second stop go penalty plus three penalty points added to his super licence. That leaves him on nine points, three away from an automatic one-race suspension.

To his credit, Vettel did conduct a post-race interview where he said: “Obviously I’m not happy with it, I can’t be happy with my day… I lost the rear and couldn’t catch it, as simple as that. After that the race was gone.” When asked if he had seen the Racing Point of Lance Stroll coming he said: “No. I struggled a couple of times to get the car going, and to get in the right direction as well, so I couldn’t see him.”

The contrast between the two Ferrari drivers couldn’t be more different. Whilst Vettel is enduring the worst season of his career. Leclerc is the Scuderia’s new hero, winning at Monza puts him in the same category as Ascari, Regazzoni, Schumacher, Alonso… At just 21, it’s highly likely Leclerc will be a future World Champion.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though and Leclerc had to ‘bend the rules’ on driver conduct to fend off Lewis Hamilton through the middle part of the race. This didn’t escape Lewis who said over the radio: “There is some dangerous driving going on”. A mistake from Hamilton on lap 42 handed the baton to Bottas, who shot off after the Ferrari on fresher tyres. It looked briefly, that Valterri could win the race, but Leclerc did valiantly to keep him at bay. But it has to be said the Finn didn’t help his cause, locking up at a couple of vital moments in the closing stages.

The noise from the crowd as Leclerc passed the chequered flag was deafening. Last week the celebrations for his maiden win were rightly subdued. This time the delight was obvious, and Leclerc said afterwards: “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.”

It was indeed special and race that will live long in the memory. Roll on Singapore!

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