Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix 2019

Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix 2019

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is on somewhat of a roll over the past two weeks, claiming his second career F1 victory at Ferrari’s ‘home’ circuit, putting his four-time world champion teammate in the shade.

Before I write about the race, I have to say that qualifying 3 was a shambles with nine drivers jockeying for position to get a tow down the long straights to maximize performance. But, ultimately, only one driver managed to get to the line before the chequered flag, meaning eight of the nine drivers on track failed to start a final flying lap, meaning Leclerc, who set the fastest time before the red flag, qualified on pole.

Leclerc made a good start to lead into the turn 1 chicane, followed by the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel. Although Vettel did lose out to Nico Hulkenberg around Curva Grande into the second chicane before Vettel returned the favor on lap 2 using his Ferrari’s superior power unit on the main straight to move back into fourth place.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen suffered some more start line pain for the second week in a row, starting from 19th place after failing to set a time in qualifying for mechanical reasons. The Dutchman made a good start, but clipped the back of Sergio Perez’ Racing Point in the braking zone for turn 1, which broke his front wing, forcing a pit stop on lap 2 to replace the damaged wing, relegating him to 20th and stone last.

Not much was happening at the front in the first third of the race, other than Sebastian Vettel spinning all by himself at Variante Ascari, before rejoining the  track in an unsafe manner, causing Lance Stroll to run over Vettel’s front wing, tipping the Canadian into a spin, who in turn rejoined the track in an unsafe manner, causing Pierre Gasly to take avoiding action, driving into the gravel trap. Both Vettel and Stroll were handed penalties, a 10 second stop/go penalty for Vettel and a drive-through penalty for Stroll.

Hamilton pitted for fresh tires on lap 20, trying the undercut on Leclerc, switching to a set of medium tires. Leclerc pitted on lap 21, but, unlike Hamilton, switched to the hard tire, maintaining the effective lead. Bottas did not pit for tires until lap 28, and like Hamilton switched to the medium tire. After the pitstop shakedown, the top three positions remained the same, Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas.

Hamilton was all over the gearbox of Leclerc on lap 23 and put himself in a position to overtake coming out of Curva Grande into the second chicane. But, Leclerc defended robustly, squeezing Hamilton onto the grass and onto the runoff area at the chicane. For which, Leclerc was shown the black and white flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, which is kinda like a yellow card in football, a great call by stewards IMO.

There was a period of two virtual safety cars on laps 29 and 30, temporarily calling off the battle for the lead to recover Sainz’ McLaren after the team sent him out with a loose wheel. Then a second VSC to recover the Toro Rosso of Danill Kvyat who stopped after the turn 1 chicane with a power unit issue.

After the VSC ended, Hamilton started piling the pressure on Leclerc again for the lead, forcing the young Monégasque into a mistake at turn 1, going across the chicane, retaining the lead, staying ahead of Hamilton by making his Ferrari very wide through Curva Grande going into the second chicane.

The decision by Mercedes to put Hamilton onto the medium tire came back to bite Hamilton on the posterior as his tires started to fall off the cliff, with the Briton locking up into turn 1, going across the chicane, around the polystyrene boards, handing second place to Bottas, who tried his best to hunt down the Ferrari of Leclerc, but ran out of tires before he could get into a position to pass the Ferrari driver.

Hamilton elected to make one final stop for soft tires on lap 50, to challenge for the fastest lap point, which he earned with a time of 1:21.779, the very next lap, to lose only 2 points to Bottas in the WDC.

It was the best result of the season for Renault, finishing the race and 4th and 5th places, Daniel Ricciardo winning the inter-team battle. Max Verstappen, although not seen on screen, recovered well from his first lap incident to finish in 8th place, just 15 seconds off his new teammate, Alex Albon in 6th place.

I am really liking the ‘let them race’ mentality from the FIA in recent races. During the first part of the season, Charles Leclerc would have almost certainly been handed a penalty for his defensive move squeezing Hamilton onto the grass. Since the change of stewardship policy, nearly every race has been amazing, reigniting the passion of fans and drivers for Formula 1, I say, long may it continue.

Italian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Charles Leclec (Ferrari) 1:15:26.665
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.835
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +35.199
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +45.515
5. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +58.165
6. Alex Albon (Red Bull) +59.315
7. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +73.802
8. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +74.492
9. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +1 LAP
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1 LAP

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