Charles Leclerc ends Ferrari’s wait for home win at Italian Grand Prix
Charles Leclerc ended Ferrari’s nine-year wait for victory at the Italian Grand Prix as he led from pole to take his second win in as many weeks.
The 21-year-old Monegasque driver held off fierce competition from Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to seal the win, backing up his first Formula 1 victory at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Celebrations in Spa last weekend were muted following the death of Formula 2 driver Antoine Hubert, and Leclerc raced on Sunday with the words “RIP Toni” written across the back of his steering wheel in memory of his friend.
The last time Ferrari tasted success in Monza was Fernando Alonso’s victory in 2010, but this weekend’s result means the Tifosi — the famous Ferrari supporters that flock to the northern Italian city in their droves — can finally toast a home champion.
“What a race. I’ve never been so tired,” Leclerc told Sky after the win.
“I made a few mistakes but in the end I finished first so I’m very happy with this. I need to be careful with the mistakes but obviously none of them made me lose position today.”
‘Not our day’
Championship leader Hamilton kept in close pursuit of Leclerc for most of the race, but when he left the track with 11 laps to go, it was down to his teammate Bottas to try and spoil the home fans’ party.
The Finn narrowed the gap between his Mercedes and Leclerc’s Ferrari to just half a second, but a braking error in the closing stages effectively settled the result.
Hamilton still holds a comfortable lead at the top of the championship, 63 points clear of Bottas.
“Congratulations to Ferrari and Charles, he did a great job,” Hamilton told Sky after the race. “There was a lot of pressure from both Valtteri and I. I did the best I could.
“Obviously following so closely for such a long time, the tires eventually just went off a cliff. But nonetheless they were just quicker today, much quicker in a straight line and so even if we did get close we couldn’t pass.
“Not our day but still strong points for the team. We pull away from Ferrari in the constructors’ championship and that’s what really matters.”
Leclerc’s win sees him leapfrog teammate Sebastian Vettel in the overall standings, while Max Verstappen, who started from the back of the grid at Monza having received a penalty for excessive engine usage, remains third after moving through the pack to finish eighth.
Vettel, who last won here as a Red Bull driver in 2013, finished outside the points after losing control on lap seven. He collided with Lance Stroll as he returned to the track and was subsequently handed a 10-second penalty.
The championship resumes in Singapore in two weeks’ time.