Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monza, 2019

Ferrari’s new hero Leclerc single-handedly beats Mercedes at Monza

2019 Italian Grand Prix review

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Less than a year ago, Ferrari announced it was appointing a bright new star to its Formula 1 team. At the time, there was some scepticism over whether a tender 20-year-old, with just 14 F1 starts to his name, was ready for the chance to drive for the sport’s most famous team.

Last weekend, Charles Leclerc fixed his star in the firmament over Maranello. It wasn’t just that he won at Monza on his first visit as a Ferrari driver. Or that he ended Ferrari’s nine-year wait for a home win – the longest in their storied history.

It was because he single handedly saw off a two-pronged attack from Mercedes, winners of the last five races at this track, on a day when his four-times title-winning team mate was embarrassingly out-classed.

Hamilton’s ‘undercut’ fails

Start, Monza, 2019
Leclerc converted his pole position into the lead
The anticipation could scarcely have been higher before the start of the race. Until Leclerc’s breakthrough win at Spa seven days earlier, 2019 had been a barren season for Ferrari in terms of wins.

But after Spa the team knew that if its dragster-like SF90 could win anywhere it must be at Monza. No other track would offer as great an opportunity. Leclerc knew he had to seize it.

Qualifying left him stranded at the sharp end of the grid. The two Mercedes drivers separated him from his team mate. And at first Vettel slipped further out of contention: While Leclerc held his lead from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the start, Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault nipped past Vettel into fourth.

Vettel reclaimed the place immediately, the Ferrari’s prodigious horsepower ensuring he got the job done on the start/finish straight as lap two began, without the assistance of DRS. Clearly, anyone hoping to pass a Ferrari would need a strong power unit and an efficient car.

Sure enough, while Leclerc couldn’t shake Hamilton in the first stint, not could the Mercedes driver draw close enough to attack. Hamilton had been in the same situation at Spa, on which occasion Ferrari brought Leclerc into the pits first. This time Mercedes got the jump, calling Hamilton in for his sole pit stop on lap 19.

Mercedes gave Hamilton a set of medium tyres. They hadn’t run the hards in practice and the softer rubber would maximise his opportunity to attack on the out-lap. Sure enough, he banged in the fastest sector times so far while Leclerc headed for the pits.

Ferrari had run the hard tyres on Leclerc’s car on Friday and judged they were the better choice. As well as giving him the durability to run to the end, they promised to protect him from Bottas running a longer first stint. Bottas stayed out seven laps longer before pitting for his own set of mediums, but rejoined over nine seconds behind the leaders, and had to take some life out of his tyres to bring them within range.

Leclerc sees off the Mercedes

By then Hamilton had already lost out in his first skirmish with Leclerc. The pair caught Nico Hulkenberg’s third-placed Renault and picked their way around it as they rounded Parabolica. This gave Hamilton a shot at Leclerc, who covered the inside line at the Rettiflio.

Hamilton stayed on the attack up to the Roggia chicane. Here he drew alongside on the outside but Leclerc squeezed him hard, leaving less than a car’s width for the Mercedes. Hamilton, thinking of the championship, took to the run-off and scampered back onto the track.

“He didn’t leave a car’s width there, he pushed me off,” fumed Hamilton on the radio. Gasly was shown the black-and-white flag.

That proved Hamilton’s best chance to overtake the Ferrari. Leclerc appeared to be feeling the pressure, and cut across the Rettifilio chicane at one point. He was playing a risky game: In Saturday’s Formula 2 race the stewards gave Sergio Sette Camara a five-second time penalty for doing the same, ruling that he stayed ahead of Nyck de Vries by doing so.

But as the stint wore on Hamilton’s tyres began to fade. Bottas was drawing the leaders in, and soon it was Hamilton who locked up at turn one. He dodged through the escape road and handed the baton to his team mate.

With four laps to go Bottas suddenly cut deep into Leclerc’s lead, bringing him within half a second. The fight for victory was still on. But as they lapped Lando Norris’s McLaren Bottas ran deep at the Rettifilio. Leclerc edged back out of DRS range. After Bottas closed again, another mistake at the Roggia let Leclerc off for good.

At Spa Leclerc was understandably muted after his victory, which came just 24 hours after the terrible crash which claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert. He hadn’t forgotten his friend at Monza, where he continued to carry ‘RIP Tonio’ stickers, but this time a celebration was fitting, and he roared with relief on the radio after crossing the finishing line.

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Vettel’s moment of madness

Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll, Monza, 2019
This could have ended terribly
Vettel’s only involvement in the fight for victory came when Leclerc and Hamilton lapped him. This was long after the mistake which ruined his race, which he then compounded with an appalling error of judgement.

Heading into the Ascari chicane on lap six, Vettel’s SF90 swapped ends on him. He has been unhappy with the rear balance of the car for several races, but even so this unforced error came as a surprise.

What Vettel did next would have been unfathomable at the best of times. But it beggared belief to see a driver of his experience, just eight days after a T-bone crash claimed the life of one F2 driver and leave another in intensive care, pulling into oncoming traffic in the middle of a fast corner.

Lance Stroll slammed on the brakes and swerved aside yet Vettel’s Ferrari kept rolling forward until the pair made contact. Any sympathy for Stroll quickly vanished as he proceeded to do much the same to Pierre Gasly, who dived off the track to avoid a collision.

A 10-second stop-and-go penalty for Vettel and a drive-through penalty for Stroll followed, condemning both to finishes outside the points. In light of recent events, the stewards should have dealt with them far more severely, as the consequences could have been horrendous.

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Renault’s best race yet

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Monza, 2019
Renault were the class of the midfield
Renault underlined the improvement they have made with their power unit this year, yet also demonstrated their chassis is light on both downforce and drag, as Daniel Ricciardo led Hulkenberg home in fourth and fifth, which was their best result for over a decade.

The Red Bull pair could only manage sixth (Alexander Albon) and eighth (Max Verstappen, 15 seconds behind his team mate despite starting last and breaking his front wing on the first lap). A superb drive from Sergio Perez, who recovered from an engine failure in qualifying to finish seventh, split the pair.

Following his crash at Spa, Antonio Giovinazzi went some way towards redeeming himself with ninth place, and becoming the first Italian driver to score points at home since Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli 13 years ago.

Lando Norris bagged the final point on a frustrating day for McLaren. While Renault cut a huge lump out of their points lead, Carlos Sainz Jnr lost a likely points finish when the team failed to fit his right-front wheel correctly during his pit stop, for which they were later fined €5,000.

Gasly finished within two seconds of Norris, who had passed him when Stroll forced the Toro Rosso wide. Stroll and Vettel came in next, the Ferrari driver having been so badly delayed it took him until his final lap to pass George Russell’s Williams.

Unexpectedly, Russell led a couple of Williams’ rival teams home at a track where the FW42 was expected to struggle: Kimi Raikkonen was 15th after taking a stop-and-go penalty because Alfa Romeo put the wrong tyres on his car, and Romain Grosjean was a distant 16th, followed inevitably by Robert Kubica.

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Leclerc eclipses Vettel

It has taken Leclerc only 12 months to prove his worth as a Ferrari driver. This will come as little surprise to those who observed his rise through the junior categories and cheered Ferrari’s rare gamble on youth.

But the speed with which he has asserted himself as the team’s top driver has surely caught many by surprise. Including, above all, his team mate, who now trails him both in terms of wins and points this year.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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71 comments on “Ferrari’s new hero Leclerc single-handedly beats Mercedes at Monza”

  1. Daniel Sherman
    9th September 2019, 17:21

    The only reason Charles won was because the stewards/FIA gifted him the win by not giving him the penalties he deserved for either of his two transgressions.

    1. When Hamilton was Leclerc/Verstappen age, he was an extremely dirty and aggressive driver. He’s calmed down recently with age.

      But at the end of the day, Lewis is only getting a taste of his own medicine.

      1. @kingshark OK, I’ll bite: name a race where he did similar to Leclerc pushing him off track in his first few years.

        1. Well, Monza 2008 for instance, where he pushes of both Webber and Glock

          1. Very tenuous, nobody held Hamilton to blame for Webber outbraking himself and it’s doubtful he knew Webber was there. Webber missed the first corner, ended up overtaking HAM and had to give the place back. So nothing like the Leclerc incident where the latter was B+W flagged.

          2. @david-br
            The Webber incident in 2008 was identical to Verstappen/Bottas last year. Hamilton pushes Glock straight off the circuit as well.

        2. Spa 2011, crashing with Kobayashi by squeezing him at the end of the Kemmel straight.

          1. Daniel Sherman
            9th September 2019, 21:25

            You seem to have conveniently missed that he accepted 100% blame for that accident.

          2. Quod erat demonstrandum

        3. Jonathan Edwards
          10th September 2019, 2:22

          I’m not interested in the specific argument here, but, in your mind, what is the difference between Leclerc pushing Hamilton off here, or Hamilton’s tendency to push off Rosberg at the first corner, as happened numerous times, with the US GP in 2015 being a notable example?

          1. Lewis was on the racing line around the first corner, everyone said Rosberg was meant to backout in the end lost places to Kyvat and Riccardo

        4. remember the season when Hamilton and Massa continued to run into each other?

      2. @kingshark

        No he wasn’t, not at all. He’s been very fair on the track over his whole career. Naturally, running at the front all of that time here and there will be borderline incidents, but he’s been one of the fairest drivers out there for 25 years.

        1. Before the recent black and white flag revival, the only driver in decades to have been shown it was… (Malaysia 2010).

        2. No he wasn’t. The whole 2008 was him just pushing drivers off track left and right.

      3. When Hamilton was Leclerc’s age he was penalised for everything, he got penalised for leaving skid marks on the circuit.

      4. Richard Cantelo (@)
        10th September 2019, 15:41

        I agree, it’s in a champion or future champions make up.

    2. Hamilton win races, because since 2014 he is using fastest cars with lame teammates. Put Leclerc or Versttapen to the other car and watch amusement of Hamilton.

      1. Daniel Sherman
        9th September 2019, 20:29

        I assume your a Italian Ferrari fan….

      2. @hamiledon

        Could you please explain then how Hamilton was able to dominate cadet karts, formula A karts, formula super A karts, formula Renault, F3, F3 Euroseries and GP2?

    3. That comment is unfair and simply demonstrates the hate that some of the people around this site have in them. Not to mention that the comment does not have a backing, is just words of an amateur that never got to racetrack

      1. Daniel Sherman
        9th September 2019, 21:26

        How do you know who does and doesn’t race?

        1. Comments suggest no track experience, rather a lot of experience from watching TV

          1. well you have no idea what you are talking about so………

    4. Agreed!

      After Vettel tandrum in Canada, Leclerc / Ferrrari knew there was no way the stewards was going to make that call.

      Black and white flagged, new rules for Ferrari when all else fails, clearly introduec to address the Vettel / Canadian call.

  2. Not accurate. The mistake from Vettel helped Ferrari gather data on how the hard would behave, and what sort of pace the Ferrari could achieve with it, helping Leclerc achieve the first place

    Call it destiny if you want

    1. Yeah but then vettel makes it harder for Leclerc to lap him then hamilton. Its almost as if vettel did not want Leclerc to win a be the new favorite Ferrari driver

      1. That’s hardly true. Amusing nevertheless

  3. Who got the black and white flag?

    “He didn’t leave a car’s width there, he pushed me off,” fumed Hamilton on the radio. Gasly was shown the black-and-white flag.

    1. Pierre just can’t catch a break, can he? ;)

  4. I get the feeling the British public has a lot of Vettel hate to release, he outshines Leclerc as we seem to only write about charles in order to further sting the finger wagging german.

    1. Well, speaking as a member of the British public, I’ve been defending Vettel these past days quite vehemently @peartree.

      1. @john-h fine then.
        IMO he needs no defending. We need better journalism.
        Headline “Vettel in shambles as co-worker wins a race or 2 of formula one”.

  5. It seems like the F1 journalist want a hero, since most of them do not like or accept Lewis. Charles won with the help of the FIA, plain and simple. On the other hand, if the FIA ruled in Lewis’s favor, there would have been a riot at Monza.

    1. Daniel Sherman
      9th September 2019, 18:38

      Let the losers riot and show their true colors.

  6. Personally I thought Spa was more impressive. Or at least I liked the win more. Once Leclerc knew the stewards – fearing the Ferrari and Tifosi reaction – would back him for the rest of the race, the weaving and chicane cutting all became options to stay in front. Still for me the best driver of the weekend, but more grudging respect than like this time. More of the same and he’ll start to annoy as another protected Ferrari driver.

    1. For sure… Albon cuts a chicane gets a 5 second penalty. Leclerc cuts a chicane gets a Tifosi home victory. That seems fair back at Ferrari Internal Assistance.

      Oh well… all’s fair in love and racing, for sure.

      1. Albon actually overtook someone by cutting a chicane – Leclerc’s missing of the Rettifilio actually hindered him. It put Hamilton right on his tail going through Curva Grande where before the chicane he wasn’t particularly close.

        Two not even remotely comparable incidents.

        1. For sure, not from what I saw – Leclerc, for sure, kept the position which in this case was as good as gaining a position. He was lucky not to get a penalty for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner as well as penalty for gaining a lasting advantage. ;-)

        2. Leclerc’s missing of the Rettifilio actually hindered him. It put Hamilton right on his tail going through Curva Grande where before the chicane he wasn’t particularly close.

          Keep seeing this blatant lie spouted by Ferrari fans so here’s a reminder of what actually happened.

          Booted it over the sleeping policemen, marginally increases the lead but loses a tiny bit of traction but gains a slam dunk lasting advantage. Monza stewarding ladies and gentlemen.

        3. @kevinc No it didn’t hinder him, I don’t know where this idea comes from. As @RB13 says, by cutting the chicane he kept ahead and maintained some pace. Had he stuck to the track after locking up – by braking to follow round the circuit (as always, imagine a wall there which he can’t simply drive through, forcing him to stick to the circuit) he’d have been so slow, Hamilton would have gone past on the right. That’s why it was a lasting advantage. This should be a no brainer. If you’ve cut the chicane like that, completely, and unnecessarily, when someone is making a pass, then you lose the place.

      2. Albon got a position while cutting the chicane.

      3. georgeboole (@)
        9th September 2019, 21:22

        @jimmi-cynic for sure…I agree with you. But that happens and not only in Ferrari’s favour.
        I m still waiting for Hamilton’s penalty after he cut the pit entry last year. I ‘ll never get it.
        Stewards are humans. It’s like any other sport with referees. They make mistakes. As long as they are unintentional, we accept them.

  7. I can’t really work out how Ferrari came out so far ahead of Hamilton’s undercut. Hamilton did have a minor lock up but Leclerc’s tires were shot and Hamilton was on the mediums. Hamilton’s stop was reported as 2.4s, so Ferrari could have not taken that much out in the stop.

  8. Bit of a stretch to say Leclerc “single-handedly” best the Mercs, though, eh Keith? Pretty clear that he did so only with a healthy helping of FIA stewards’ see-no-evil indulgence where he was concerned.
    He’s lucky that, being in a ferrari, he’ll usually be at the sharp end of the grid, where drivers have a realistic chance of winning the title and so are likely to back out of any dangerous situations rather than crash into him.
    But every once in a while, he’ll find himself next to a Haas or a Racing Point.

  9. Leclerc single-handedly beat Toto and Hamilton at Monza. Perfect title.

  10. If the stewards continue to turn a blind eye by not enforcing leaving space or moving during braking, or cutting chicanes there will be crashes and hopefully no serious injuries. HAM’s lead in the championship is very large. He could afford to go off track, ruin his tires, and settle for third yesterday. If the points become closer and the Red Bulls and Vettel show up it will be a different story. The choice will be, do I save myself, let my opponent win, and settle for 6th or worse or do I stay on the track, my opponent will get a penalty for causing a crash, and hope my car is in good enough shape to finish 6th. So a 6th place finish and my opponent winning or a 6th place finish and my opponent crashed and penalized.

    1. Exactly. Masi seems to have completely blanked out the fact that his argument that no contact = no penalty encourages drivers not to avoid contact if they think that avoiding a collision provoked by the opponent’s move will compromise their race and the other driver won’t be penalized. Hamilton has now threatened/promised that response twice (first as a threat if Vettel’s Canada move were allowed, second as a promise now Leclerc’s move was). You can bet other drivers are already computing the same for the next race.

    2. Jim, your line of reasoning is 100% contrary to drivers like Leclerc. They want to win at all costs.

      Most of the top drivers of all time would rather crash and not finish than lose 1st place. Of course, this sentiment is lessened when viewed in context of the champion, but if Hamilton had already put the title in his bag (or if were out of contention), I bet he’d risk a collision too.

  11. It was a majestic drive. One for the books. Leclerc is now a top echelon F1 driver, no doubt about it.

    Only Verstappen and Hamilton could have coped as well in the same circumstance.

    And with Vettel floundering, a changing of the guard couldn’t have been more marked.

    1. What about Ricciardo? When has he not shown that he can withstand constant pressure?

  12. Whats funny is that if kimi had leclercs seat people would be talking about how good vettel is because he qualified 3rd behind the merc taking everything out of the Ferrari

    1. @carlosmedrano And to be honest I wonder if Leclerc is actually really that good. His qualifying speed is lacking somewhat, his tyre conservation isn’t that good and he makes a lot of mistakes.

      1. I would put Alonso next to Leclerc to see his real speed

      2. Hi yes. At moment LEC won only 2 races vs many tenths of our Blessed-Beloved one, so no match yet. Given age gap, it need wait and weight everything in ten yrs. For the time being he just steals the show.

      3. @f1osaurus he is also straight up poor in the wet.

    2. @carlosmedrano, if Kimi was still there Vettel would have gotten the tow and would probably be pole as he could very likely have been in reality any way had it not been for the Q3 shenanigans. Or maybe Bottas would have been pole considering he had his run affected by Kimi’s crash. Or maybe something completely different would have happened that we have no way of knowing…

  13. “Single-handedly”.

    1. Haha. Yes. Everyone knew only Kubica drive single handed.

  14. I’m wondering why Merc didn’t pit Bottas first as a blocker. Did the think the Renaults would slow Leclerc down? Did they think Leclerc could pass Bottas to easily? Were they worried about Bottas losing a position to Renault?

    1. Mercedes hoped to make the undercut work for Hamilton @slotopen.

  15. It will be interesting to see if Albon can get on top of his errors next race. I suspect the management was happy enough that he had a real attempt at pushing further up even though he made errors, but would like to see that improve markedly over the next couple of races.
    Has he actually executed his attempted passes better, its quite likely he would have been able to nail down 4th fairly easily and made the gap between himself and Max look far more flattering.

    Nice to see him throwing everything he can at it though.

    1. I don’t see why not. His mistake was caused by being overzealous and not by lack of talent.

  16. Vettel helped him to win at SPA last week, and Lec didn’t even try to help Vettel in Q3. Not gentleman gesture. Lec won’t have a long way to go if he continues this behaviour.

  17. leclerc is doing well. but lets how he copes when the true pressure of championships comes into the picture. same for vers. not jst a race here and there. but consistently throughout a year and more

  18. absurd to say Leclerc single-handedly beat the Merc’s, with no help from the team or the power of that Ferrari engine. At the end of the day, it was to be expected that Ferrari would win at Spa and Monza, due to their superior engine power. Lewis couldnt get any close to Charles on the Straight, even with DRS assistance. So yes, Charles drove well, but it was no miracle, it was to be expected.

  19. Great article Keith, an enjoyable read even after I watched the entire thing twice.. and parts of it multiple times..

    I don’t get the claims of inconsistency by Hamilton and many commenters. I saw two incidents worth noting; 1. Squeezing Lewis at the 2nd chicane. Leclerc was ahead, on the racing line and made no contact. He did close the gap to less than a cars width but it was Hamilton who was off the racing line and behind.
    2. Skipping the rettifilio chicane. He made a mistake needed to go through the chicane and in doing so allowed Hamilton to get a run on him at the next chicane, no advantage gained. This has happened many times in other cases where a driver stays in the lead having needed to cut through a chicane. In Canada the issue wasn’t that Vettel held the lead it was unsafe re-entry.

    Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the race as well as this finely written article

  20. Yes single handedly beat the Mercs with the most lenient, biased s hit scared stewarding since they were in the pockets of Jean Marie Balestre and an engine that negates DRS. Good one.

  21. I don’t think it is fair at all to lambast vettel for his error and driving into stroll. The way his car was angled after his spin vettel had absolutely no way at all seeing stroll or anybody coming. Even if you think that should have meant vettel should have stayed put you need to remember that vettel was almost directly in the line of fire. Any car that comes after him could t bone him. He needs to get out of there quickly. He wants to get out of there quickly. He just spun. Little bit of panic sets in. He is thinking he is losing massive amounts of time. Car is starting to overheat with no airflow. He needs to move now.

    The thing with these long cars is that they can’t make tight turns. Issue which was also made worse by the steering ratios. In monaco the cars are set up to make those tight turns. In monza they are not. Vettel was also driving over a kerb sideways to come back to the track. This is typically pretty dangerous in a low car like in f1 car which can easily get stuck from its belly on the high kerbs. Of course we can see from the side camera view that there was no such danger but vettel did not have that camera angle either. He is experienced driver and he knew that danger. Last thing he wanted was to get beached on top of those high kerbs.

    He could have reversed to angle his car better? You don’t want to reverse an f1 car unless you know for sure you have the room and the tarmac behind you. Last thing you want to do is to reverse into a gravel trap. Again vettel has no good visibility. Reversing could also be just as dangerous and driving forwards. If an incoming car had actually taken avoiding action and gone straight to avoid vettel what you would have instead is vettel reversing straight in front of him.

    Sure the spin was vettel’s error once again and that is what he should be blamed for but not what happened after the spin. Every driver would have done the same thing. From outside these incidents look almost comically stupid low skill maneuvers but in reality the driver is blind on those cases. With the hans limiting your head movement and the high side padding of the cockpit and the helmet there is not much visibility out of the car sideways. You can not just turn your head and look. Some blame also goes onto stroll for coming at such high speed there when he can clearly see vettel can not see him.

    In ideal world vettel would have stayed put to wait and wait until team or marshalls give him a go sign. In ideal world doing so he would not be t-boned by other car spinning out in the same corner. Doing that would be very slow and not ideal and would have cost him a lot of time. I think the vettel’s incident is just over blown. He barely clipped stroll’s car with his front wing. Stroll could have also done better job avoiding him. It was very tricky spot.

    1. I actually agree with you and I am certainly no Vettel fan. I thought Moanjeans half donut into the oncoming pack in Spain a couple years back for example was the stupidest most dangerous thing i’ve seen in a long, long time. That opinion still stands. If that didn’t get a black flag then nothing since should either.

      1. I agree that he could not see. People that blame him for “not looking” should try to do few laps or few streets with a HANS strapped to the helmet. If you add that he is a singlesitter, no way he could see. At this stage, pitwall should have helped him, I think that was his only option.

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