Formula 1
Monday, Sep 9 02:43am
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Charles Leclerc wins Monza barn burner to break Ferrari drought

Charles Leclerc sent the Tifosi into raptures at the Italian Grand Prix, ending a nine-year win-less drought for Ferrari.


It’s the second straight win for the Monegasque driver who claimed an emotional first victory at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend. The win was tinged with sadness following the tragic death of his friend and former rival Anthoine Hubert, but it was sheer jubilation at Monza.


Leclerc survived attacks from both Mercedes pilots Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton throughout the 53-lap race to secure a historic 20th win for Ferrari at the Italian Grand Prix.  


It’s the first win for the Maranello men since Fernando Alonso claimed victory in 2010. Leclerc becomes the 11th different winner for Ferrari at the Grand Prix.


Read the full report below:


A sea of red in the grandstands greeted Charles Leclerc for the start of the race, but he was surrounded by Mercedes power with Lewis Hamilton alongside him and Valtteri Bottas immediately behind him. Fellow Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel started fourth while the Renault duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth respectively.


Leclerc managed to hold out Hamilton into the first Variante del Rettifilo chicane. Further behind them there was drama after Max Verstappen suffered front wing damage due to contact with Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.


Incredibly, Hulkenberg managed to get ahead of Vettel at Varriante della Roggia. It wasn’t for long though as Vettel took the spot back on Lap 2.


Recent Red Bull Racing recruitment Alexander Albon tried to push his way by Carlos Sainz at the second chicane, but the McLaren driver bit back. As the pair approached Lesmo 1, Sainz got back to the inside of Albon. Side-by-side they went and Albon ended up in the gravel trap briefly.


With Lap 5 of 53 completed it was Leclerc who led Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel at the front with Ricciardo and Hulkenberg in fifth and sixth.


Chaos kicked off on Lap 7 when Sebastian Vettel spun at the Ascari Chicane. The Tifosi winced as he tried to get going and clipped the right rear of Lance Stroll who was sent into a spin following the contact. Stroll blew up on the radio, but was equally as guilty as he rejoined and forced Pierre Gasly to go off onto the gravel in avoidance.


Vettel was duly given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for returning to the track in an unsafe manner. He pitted on Lap 14 and duly lost a lap to the leaders. Similarly, Stroll was handed a drive-through penalty.


Not long after the initial drama the Haas driver Romian Grosjean spun on his own at the final element of the Ascari Chicane.


Lap 19 saw Hamilton pit to try and execute an undercut. Leclerc followed suit just a lap later. The pair went for different strategies as Hamilton went on to the Medium compound while Leclerc went onto the Hard compound.


Hamilton was certainly closer on the rejoin than before the pit stop sequence. Despite having DRS, Hamilton couldn’t clear Leclerc initially. The pair had to negotiate Hulkenberg and that gave Hamilton a chance to take the place at the chicane, but a pass didn’t come off, though Hamilton got a great exit out of the chicane. Through Curve Grande they went, side-by-side. Hamilton got out on the dirt and had to go down the escape road. Leclerc was given a warning, but didn’t relinquish the place.


Lap 27 saw Bottas come into the pit lane for his sole pit stop. He returned to the race in a distant third effectively.


There was drama on Lap 28 when the right front wheel of Carlos Sainz exited the pit lane with a loose right front wheel. The Virtual Safety Car was subsequently deployed. Not long after the VSC was rescinded it was back out with Daniil Kvyat parked out of the first chicane. Smoke billowed from the rear of his car with a terminal engine issue.


An uncharacteristic mistake at the first chicane saw Leclerc over shoot the corner and straddle the sausage kerbs. That allowed Hamilton once again to get alongside out of Curve Grande, but Leclerc blocked the attack. The ensuing laps saw Hamilton try valiantly to pass Leclerc, all the while Bottas in third was narrowing the gap to them both.


Come Lap 42, Hamilton threw away his chance to overtake Leclerc. Having complained about his tyres losing grip, the five-time champion locked up and went through the escape road at Turn 1. That duly released Bottas to chase Leclerc with 10 laps to go.


Lap after lap the margin between Bottas and Leclerc narrowed. However, a mistake cost Bottas the best part of half a second. The Finn cooled his tyres off and mounted another attack with only three laps to go. The margin got to under a second and with the DRS wide open it looked like Bottas might make a move. But it wasn’t to be. Another mistake, this time at Turn 1, cost Bottas his best chance.


Ultimately, Leclerc couldn’t be caught. Bottas came home second while Hamilton was third. Renault duo Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg claimed fourth and fifth.


Alexander Albon was sixth for Red Bull Racing, while Sergio Perez made an impressive recovery from 18th to seventh. Max Verstappen similarly made an impressive recovery from the rear of the field to claim eighth. Antonio Giovinazzi gave something more for the Italian crowd and Alfa Romeo to smile about in ninth while Lando Norris of McLaren rounded out the top 10 order.