Left to fend for himself with his teammate struggling, Charles Leclerc held off a pair of hard-charging Mercedes to win the 2019 Italian Grand Prix.
Withstanding the efforts of both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Leclerc managed to record the first win for Ferrari at Monza since Fernando Alonso did so in 2010.
His second win in as many races, Leclerc triumphed in a nail-biting battle with the Silver Arrows that will go down as one of the Scuderia’s all-time great home victories.
Coming out of his only pit stop with hard tyres while Hamilton and Bottas opted for mediums, the Monegasque had to withstand 32 laps of his pursuers hovering around DRS range, with the final margin of victory a narrow 0.835 seconds.
First Hamilton, and then Bottas had their chances to pass, but both times Leclerc held firm, albeit not without controversy in his duel with the former.
Drawing alongside the Ferrari as they approached the della Roggia chicane on lap 23, Hamilton found himself forced to leave the track as Leclerc failed to leave sufficient space for both cars in the corner, earning him a warning from the stewards.
Hamilton managed to close up again when Leclerc locked up at the first chicane on lap 36, but found he didn’t have the straight-line speed nor the life left in his tyres for a sustained assault.
On lap 42, Hamilton locked up into the same chicane, and teammate Bottas — on seven-lap younger tyres — was given his chance.
Unfortunately for the Finn, his efforts went similarly unrewarded, a final charge on lap 51 scuppered as he too locked up into the first chicane.
“I’m gutted. I was trying everything to get him. I think it’s the best we could do today. We were trying everything we could” said Bottas afterwards.
Continuing his perfect record after the summer break, Leclerc’s performance is sure to further stoke the fires of speculation surrounding his standing within the Scuderia, particularly with Sebastian Vettel enduring a wretched afternoon.
Fourth on the grid, the German was passed on the first lap by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, and while he quickly managed to regain his place, his problems were only just beginning.
On lap 6, he spun going into the Ascari chicane, an error he compounded by clipping the Racing Point of Lance Stroll as he rejoined the track.
As a result, he was given a 10 second stop-and-go penalty and needed a new front wing, from which he could only recover to 13th at the flag.
Report in progress…