After the disappointment of not making the podium at the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix – what could be more thrilling than to contest the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in his Ferrari.
Imagine the atmosphere; a historic year for Ferrari, their 90th and racing on their home Grand Prix track at Monza. Italians have been waiting for a Ferrari win in the Italian Grand Prix for nine years since Alonzo last achieved it.
The prior Wednesday night at Rome’s Piazza Duomo, Monegasque Charles LeClerc received a warm welcome from the crowds who came to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the prancing horse. For the Italian Grand Prix he will don a special helmet to celebrate the 90 years of Scuderia Ferrari.
Fighting For Pole Position
Then Saturday and Charles fights for and wins pole position after a bizarre day of qualifying. Vettel had looked fast, but Charles eventually set the fastest qualifying time with Mercedes yet to make their final attack. And then most of the remaining racers, in order to beat Charles, resorted to tactical positioning to gain 0.3 seconds by hugging the tail of the car in front. It’s called “Slipstreaming”. You reduce wind resistance by following another racer then catapult yourself in front of the car you just dragged behind. But the tactics backfired as no-one, of course, wants to be that lead car. By the time Mercedes had waited for a Ferrari to slipstream behind they ran out the clock. That left Charles who had already completed a fast run, the victor in Saturday’s qualifying and in pole position for Sunday’s race.
Racing the Grand Prix
No room for complacency , the two Silver Arrows of Hamilton and Bottas were on front row with him.
Leclerc’s drive was very impressive given the pressure he had to withstand from Lewis Hamilton and then Valtteri Bottas. A couple of errors helped Hamilton get close, notably on lap 22 when Hamilton tried a move around the outside at the second chicane. Leclerc refused to yield and Hamilton put two wheels onto the grass, forcing the world champion to go straight on across the run-off area. Leclerc was shown a black and white warning flag by officials but not penalized, so he kept the lead. Hamilton’s pressure continued. The next excitement came on lap 34, with Hamilton appearing larger and larger in Charles’ mirrors. Leclerc missed his best braking point at Turn 1. Hamilton sensed the opportunity and tried to overtake around the fast right-hander, Curva Grande. Leclerc slammed the door shut on Hamilton.
It was at the limit of fearlessness and grit. Leclerc’s aggressive defensive moves against Hamilton drew loud applause from the packed grandstands around the Monza circuit as he finished the race in the lead, his second Grand Prix win after Belgium.
Leclerc has learned a hard lesson from his debut season at Ferrari. On the final lap at the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this year, Leclerc was forced out of the lead by Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver’s move went unpunished. LeClerc commented that since Austria it is clear that you can be more aggressive defending and overtaking. And the proof of the pudding is he won.
In contrast, Charles LeClerc’s Ferrari team-mate Vettel had a nightmare of a race. He was punished heavily after driving back onto the race track after making a mistake and making contact with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
With Charle’s win at Monza Vettel has now dropped 13 points behind Leclerc in the championship and it’s a gap that looks set to widen based on the current form of the two drivers.
As he heard the Monegasque and Italian national anthems play out at Monza, Charles was overcome with emotion.
Although the volume paled in comparison to the cheers for Leclerc, there was clear booing as Hamilton was called onto the podium and picked up his second place trophy. As long as he is driving for Ferrari’s main rivals the Italian fans will jeer rather than cheer.
Monza’s legendary podium ceremonies take place overlooking the start-finish straight and allowed the hoards of fans to celebrate Charles’ and Ferrari’s momentous win!