What a race the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO HEINEKEN D’ITALIA 2019 was! In front of a record crowd – 200,000 people over the course of the weekend: the Autodromo di Monza had never seen so many visitors during an F1 grand prix event – Charles Leclerc sealed the second grand prix win of his career. This followed in quick succession after his debut win a week ago at Spa, thus providing a perfect way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari. For the Maranello team this was its 19th win at its home race, and number 237 in its history.
The young Monegasque talent saw off two great rivals in the form of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who were permanently on his gearbox from the first lap to the last. Leclerc not only displayed remarkable sang froid but also extraordinary determination, above all in moments during his duel with the five-time world champion, when he pushed right to the limit without ever going over it. None of the three contenders was immune to small errors but, in the end, the Ferrari driver was the one who made the least, despite being the one under pressure. He was also helped by his team, which didn’t follow the choice by Mercedes to use Medium tyres after the first stint when all three drivers were on the same Softs.
At the chequered flag the fourth expected major player in this battle, Sebastian Vettel, was missing. Having started from fourth place on the grid, the German Ferrari driver made a serious error on lap 7, spinning at Ascari and then clashing with Stroll as he tried to get back on track. After a combination of the enforced pit stop to change his damaged front wing and the subsequent 10-second stop-and-go his race was effectively over already. His eventual 13th place reflects a weekend that was very difficult for him.
At the start, Leclerc got away brilliantly to outpace the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Bottas off the line and down into Turn 1, with Ferrari teammate Vettel holding station in fourth while under pressure from Ricciardo’s Renault. Further back an incident involving Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Max Verstappen, who had started from the back of the grid following a penalty for an engine change, resulted in the Dutchman pitting at the end of the first lap with front wing damage after being forced onto the grass.
There were cries of despair from the Italian crowd on Lap 7 as Vettel, under no real pressure, spun into Ascari. As the German returned to the track he pulled across Lance Stroll and was fortunate to only come away with damage to his front wing after clipping the Racing Point machine as it moved to avoid him. The Canadian, in turn, then forced Pierre Gasly to run wide into the gravel as he too rejoined. Vettel dived into the pits for a new nose and returned P19 to be given a 10 second stop/go penalty which promptly dropped him to last place. For his part Stroll was handed a drive through penalty.
Leclerc continued out in front with a gap of 1.5s, and Mercedes looked set to make a stop on Lap 16 with a set of hard compound tyres, only to think better of it. Four laps later Hamilton dived into the pits for fresh medium rubber. Ferrari responded immediately to try and prevent the undercut, the Monegasque coming in the following lap and switching to the hard compound. The gamble paid off after a good job by the Italian team saw Leclerc rejoin in fourth, less than a second in front of the Briton.
Bottas inherited the race lead, with Ricciardo and Hulkenberg behind, but all eyes were on Leclerc and Hamilton as they scrapped side-by-side into the second chicane. The pair quickly caught and passed both Renaults as the thrilling battle continued. Bottas then came in on Lap 27, dropping from first to fourth with a new set of medium tyres and Leclerc took the lead once again. McLaren then struggled to change Sainz’s front right, it wouldn’t take, and the Spaniard was forced to pull over after leaving the pit lane and the virtual safety car was deployed. Three laps later it was deployed again as Daniil Kvyat parked his Toro Rosso on the grass with smoking brakes.
The gap between the front two barely rose above 0.5s, before Leclerc looked to have succumbed to the pressure on Lap 36. He locked up into the first corner, was forced over the kerbs, and Hamilton looked set to pounce but the Monegasque clung on to the lead as Bottas closed the gap on the pair.
With 12 laps to go it was Hamilton’s turn to lock up heading into the first chicane, much to the delight of the home faithful. The Mercedes man was forced to slalom his way through the exit road as Bottas darted past into second. Ricciardo and Hulkenberg led the rest of the field in fourth and fifth, more than 30 seconds behind the front three. The gap between Leclerc and Bottas by Lap 44 was 1.6s and closing as the Finn was told to hunt the Ferrari down. Elsewhere the HAAS of Kevin Magnussen is retired in the pits with a hydraulic problem.
With laps running out for Bottas, the Finn struggled to stay within DRS range of Leclerc. Every time the Mercedes appeared to have the Ferrari in its grasp, the Monegasque pulled away again. Hamilton meanwhile, with a free pit stop back in third, came in on Lap 50 for fresh softs and promptly set a 1:21.779 to take the fastest lap points.
Leclerc’s arrival at the chequered flag was greeted by a roar from the 93,000 watching fans, who proceeded to make their way under the podium to celebrate the success by the new idol of Ferrari’s passionate tifosi. It was truly a fantastic weekend for the Italian public, which also had the chance to watch live another great protagonist of the Scuderia’s history: Jody Scheckter. It was here on 9th September 40 years ago that Scheckter won the Italian Grand Prix and thus sealed the world championship.
Leclerc’s double victory still hasn’t threatened Mercedes’ leadership of both championships. In the drivers’ leaderboard Hamilton stays in front with 284 points, 63 more than his team-mate, while the battle for third is hotting up: Verstappen, who finished eighth today despite having started from the back of the grid, is now just three points ahead of Leclerc (185 to 182) while Vettel is fifth with 169.
In the constructors’ championship Mercedes has now made it over the 500-point mark while Ferrari has consolidated its second place (351) increasing its advantage over Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (266). Behind the top teams the Monza race offered a boost to Renault, which secured its best result of the season with Daniel Ricciardo’s fourth place and Nico Hulkenberg’s fifth place. The French team is now back in fifth place overall (65 points) just behind McLaren, which has only taken one point from the last two races thanks to Norris’s tenth place today. But Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda leaves Monza empty-handed (sixth place with 51 points) and is now being hounded by SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team, which is up to 46 points thanks to Perez’s seventh place. There was also a memorable race for Antonio Giovinazzi, whose ninth place finish in his home race was his best result, allowing Alfa Romeo Racing to go up to a total of 34 points.
In a thrilling Formula 2 Sprint Race, Jack Aitken fought off the unrelenting Jordan King to snatch his third victory of the F2 campaign and move within two points of third-placed Luca Ghiotto in the Championship. The British duo exchanged first and second three times during the race, but the unwavering Campos driver eventually forced his way over the line to take the chequered flag in P1.
FROM THE DRIVERS
Leclerc once again demonstrated maturity under extreme pressure to win for the second weekend in a row, despite being on the defensive for the majority of the race. He led from the off, and after the pit stops had Hamilton in his mirrors. Despite one mistake - locking up in the first chicane - he held onto the lead all the way to the flag and was able to fully celebrate his victory. As for Vettel, he spun of his own accord and was penalised for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner after collecting a portion of Stroll's Racing Point in his haste. A day to forget for the German, who also came home outside the points. Charles Leclerc, 1st “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. “When I arrive at a race weekend, I usually don’t think about winning, I just try to do the best job possible and tell myself that the results will come. But to be honest, seeing all of the support from our tifosi here in Monza this weekend, the only thing I could think of was winning and that’s what we did, so I am very happy. “The race was exciting. The first stint was quite controlled, but the second stint was a bit less strong on my side, because I had to focus on the car behind me a lot as the gap was closing. It was very difficult and I had a lot of pressure on me. “I’d like to thank the whole team for all their hard work. Nothing would be possible without them. It was a shame for Seb, who definitely had the potential to be on the podium with me. For the next few races, we have to keep our focus, our motivation, and hopefully the results will follow.”
“It’s been a good day for Charles, so congratulations and well done to everybody. Obviously my day did not go well. On lap 6 I lost the rear, which was my mistake, which is why I am not happy with my day. I got a good start, but then I had nowhere to go and so I lost the position, before getting it back again and catching up to the cars ahead of me. “Then came the spin on lap 6 and the race was obviously ruined for me. Then I struggled to rejoin the track as I was on the grass and I couldn’t see Lance. “I still love what I do, but of course when you don’t do well, knowing what you are capable of, then you can’t be happy.” Mattia Binotto, Team Principal “This is probably the best podium of the whole Championship and you’ve got such a view of it from the pitwall that you cannot miss it. This is something you’ll remember for years. It’s not the first victory I have experienced in Monza, but it’s something you never get used to. It’s so special with all our fans and even more so after such a long race defending and battling. “Coming here we knew we could be competitive, but we also knew there was no margin for error. “Again today we have seen how close it is between us and our competitors and so I am happy we were first past the chequered flag this afternoon. Two wins in a row after such a difficult start to the season, really means something for the team. “Charles drove fantastically and defended very well, making very few mistakes. If anything, pressure is a boost for him. The win is very well deserved! “It’s a shame for Seb who could have had a good race today, as he was closing the gap to Bottas. He made some mistakes, but that’s Monza. You drive at such high speed and you have such a light car because of the low downforce package and braking is so difficult. “The whole team did a flawless job, also in terms of strategy, because I think switching to hard tyres was a brave decision. It proved to be the right choice, and it paid off.”
"Congratulations to Charles today, he did a great job, especially considering the pressure Valtteri and I were putting on him. The Ferrari was very quick in a straight line, so it was difficult to stay close to them. I think it just wasn't our day today, it's always disappointing to follow another car so closely but not be able to take the lead. But in the end, we're leaving Italy with more points in the Constructors' Championship and ultimately that is what matters. I'm not looking to the next race thinking it will be easy for us; instead we're going to go to the factory next week and go through the same process, looking for ways to improve our car, improve our processes over a race weekend, and I hope that I can do a better job in Singapore. I personally cherish this battle between Ferrari, Red Bull and us, so I want it to continue."
"I was trying everything to get close enough to Charles to make a move on him in the final laps, but the Ferraris were very quick on the straights this weekend, so it was difficult to get close enough. I was pushing as hard as I could, but every time I got really close, I started to lock-ups the fronts. While it's disappointing that we didn't win, our performance today was actually quite promising. We came to Monza expecting this to be one of the most difficult races of the season for us, but we could really challenge the Ferraris, so that's good to see. It was a good race overall from that perspective and I think we can leave Italy with a positive feeling. On paper, the upcoming races should play a little more towards our strengths and I'm looking forward to a good fight with Ferrari and Red Bull over the next weeks."
“I’m very pleased after that result. It feels nice to have a finish like this and hopefully it will bring some momentum for the remaining seven races. The team deserve it as it’s been a tough year for us with some difficult results and moments. It’s a nice reward for everyone involved for the hard work. For me, it was a straightforward race. I made a strong start with two overtakes and managed to hold good track position. From there it was about maintaining that, making no mistakes and keeping calm. I had some pressure at the end but I managed to fend that off. It was largely quiet and controlled and a very good team result with Daniel just ahead!”
“We deserved that today. It matches my best ever result here in Monza and to do it with Renault is great. I saw the battles happening at the front and I thought there could be a big opportunity to score strong points. I’m really happy for myself and also for the team. To get the team’s best result since returning to Formula 1 in fourth and fifth at a power circuit really complements Renault and their hard work. The race pace was really good and it’s a nice reward for the team. The result is long overdue this year; I’m very satisfied now!”
“I got front wing damage under breaking into Turn 1 as everyone slowed up and I clipped Sergio’s rear tyre. We then pitted for a new front wing and the race was still on as I had really good pace in clean air. I managed to pass quite a few cars but we got unlucky with the virtual safety car as it came out the lap after I pitted and three or four cars which I had already overtaken were back in front of me. I passed them all again but it was pretty painful on my tyres and then at the end I got stuck behind Perez for the second time in the race. I just couldn’t get past him as he was so quick on the straights. We have made some steps forward with the pace of the power unit but we will of course keep working hard to improve even further. With what happened at Turn 1 coming through to eighth isn’t too bad and these things are always more likely to happen when you start at the back. The last two races were always going to be difficult for us and now I’m looking forward to having a more normal race weekend and starting closer to the front.”
“There were positives for me even though the race didn’t go as planned. It isn’t the easiest track for us and we had quite an unlucky weekend in the qualifying. I didn’t have a great start and had to fight my way back though the field. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace on the straights to overtake so I had to do my manoeuvres on the corners. That resulted in a lot of side by side action and at one point I just lost a bit too much grip going that wide so it started to get messy. I had a few offs and took a five second penalty. However, my race pace is getting better with the car and I feel I have made a good step up from Spa so personally speaking I am happy. Hopefully Singapore will be better for me as there will be more downforce and more corners. I think there is a lot more to come and I’m feeling more competitive.”
“Well that was a *** weekend. First my mistake in qualifying which unfortunately meant that we had to change gearbox. Then we decided to also change engine and start from the pitlane, but we had the wrong tyres on and with the penalty my race was more or less over. Looking forward to Singapore, as it can’t get worse.”
“It’s a shame to end the day that way. We obviously need to analyse what we could’ve done better in the pit-stop as a whole team, but honestly, this year the pit-stops have been great; our guys have been doing an outstanding job on the pit-wall and in the pit-box, so nothing to be concerned about. Heads up high. “We’ve lost a potential P6, but we’ve gained a lot more this year with good strategies and good pit-stops. Let’s analyse and come back stronger.”
“A decent race and a point is alright considering where I started, but you always want a little bit more. We got a bit unlucky: we boxed, we had the undercut on Perez, but then the Virtual Safety Car came out and he got a bit lucky to stay ahead and went on to finish in P7. “I’m not suggesting we definitely would’ve finished there, because I think they still had better pace than us, but we could’ve finished better without the VSC. In the end, I didn’t think we had all the pace but we hung on, managed to finish the race and got a point – which was a good thing after last weekend in Belgium.”
“I had a hydraulic problem at the end, so we had to retire unfortunately. Until then, it had been going okay. I was fighting to keep people behind, which is normal for me these days. That said, we had been in a good position and a lot of other people were having problems. It was just bad luck to have our problem at the end. On the positive, we were in the Top 10 from beginning to end – of our race at least. It wasn’t a true picture but at least we were going for it. It looked like we could do something, but obviously I’m gutted we had to retire at the end.”
Italian Grand Prix Final Classification
1st Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 53 1:15.26.665
2nd Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 53 +0.835
3rd Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 53 +35.199
4th Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team 53 +45.515
5th Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 Team 53 +58.165
6th Alexander Albon Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 53 +59.315
7th Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 53 +73.802
8th Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 53 +74.492
9th Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 52 +1lap
10th Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 52 +1 lap
11th Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 52 +1 lap
12th Lance Stroll SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 52 +1 lap
13th Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari 52 +1 lap
14th George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing 52 +1 lap
15th Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 52 +1 lap
16th Romain Grosjean Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 52 +1 lap
17th Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing 51 +2 laps
NC Kevin Magnussen Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 43
DNF NC Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 29
DNF NC Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 Team 27
1 L. Hamilton 284
2 V. Bottas 221
3 M. Verstappen 185
4 C. Leclerc 182
5 S. Vettel 169
6 P. Gasly 65
7 C. Sainz 58
8 D. Ricciardo 34
9 A. Albon 34
10 D. Kvyat 33
11 N. Hulkenberg 31
12. K. Raikkonen 31
13. S. Perez 27
14 L. Norris 25
15 L. Stroll 19
16 K. Magnussen 18
17 R. Grosjean 8
18 A. Giovinazzi 3
19 R. Kubica 1
20 G. Russell 0
1.Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 505
2.Scuderia Ferrari 351
3.Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 266
4.McLaren F1 Team 83
5.Renault F1 Team 65
6.Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 51
7.SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 46
8.Alfa Romeo Racing 34
9.Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 26
10.ROKiT Williams Racing 1