Charles Leclerc wins Italian GP
September 9 2019 , 10:31 am
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc just held on under intense pressure from both Mercedes drivers to win a nail-biting, incident-filled and controversial Italian Grand Prix.
The 21-year-old pushed the rules on driving conduct to hold off Lewis Hamilton through the middle of the race before Valtteri Bottas took up the challenge in the closing laps after a mistake from the world champion.
And there were fresh concerns surrounding Sebastian Vettel after yet another driving error in a long sequence dating back to the middle of last year.
Leclerc’s victory was his second in a row, following his maiden win in Belgium a week ago, and Ferrari’s first at their home race since Fernando Alonso triumphed in 2010.
Leclerc screamed with delight into his radio as he crossed the line, after a victory that further underlines his status as a major new force in F1.
The 1978 world champion Mario Andretti, who drove for Ferrari at the start of his career and at the end of the 1982 season, said: “Fab win for Charles Leclerc, under pressure all the way. Future world champion for sure.”
Eight days after the loss of his friend Anthoine Hubert in a Formula 2 crash in Spa, Leclerc was overcome with intense emotions after the race.
“I have never been so tired,” Leclerc said, before switching to Italian and saying: “It was the hardest race” and describing the win as “a dream”.
Again, Hamilton was on his tail accelerating out of the corner, and this time Leclerc made a very late move through Curva Grande to fend off the Briton.
“There is some dangerous driving going on,” Hamilton said over team radio, but there was no further word from the stewards.
Soon, Hamilton’s tyres started going off – Mercedes had fitted mediums at the stop while Ferrari had chosen hards.
The bell tolled for Hamilton’s chances on lap 42, when he locked up and went straight on at the first chicane, and Bottas slipped by into second place.
Seven laps later, Hamilton pitted for fresh tyres in pursuit of the point for fastest lap, which he secured.
Hamilton’s championship lead over second-placed Bottas is now cut by two points to 63.
Leclerc said: “I did a few mistakes but at the end I finished first. Very happy with this. I need to be careful with the mistakes but none of them made me lose position today.”
Bottas said: “I think we had some good strategy for me but I am gutted. I tried everything to get him but there was no way past. There was front locking from the loss of downforce and they are so fast in a straight line.”
Hamilton said: “Charles did a great job. A lot of pressure from Valtteri and me. I did the best I could. Following so closely for such a long time. The tyres went off, they were so quick in a straight line.”