F1 Raceweek: Leclerc targets Monza glory as Ferrari chase home win

By Sports Desk September 05, 2019

Charles Leclerc believes his breakthrough win at the Belgian Grand Prix can be the first of many as he and Ferrari eye Monza glory this weekend.

The 21-year-old is riding high on the back of his Spa success, and hopes are high among the 'tifosi' that Ferrari will roar to a home triumph at Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

With so many supporters backing Leclerc and team-mate Sebastian Vettel, the team have good reason to be confident at a track that, like Spa, is expected to play to their strengths.

The long straight sections will allow Ferrari to use their superior pace, and Leclerc will aim to strike a first blow in Friday's practice, having dominated last weekend from start to finish.

"I am very happy that this first win is done," Leclerc said at Thursday's news conference.

"It's always difficult to do this first step but once that's done it takes quite a bit of weight off your shoulders.

"I'm very proud but have had not much time to think about it because we're here four days later in Italy, and we have to focus on the job we have to do here.

"I haven't done much to celebrate. Hopefully I'll be able to celebrate after this one.

"It's something that until you get it, it feels far away. But once you have it, it feels obviously very, very good and it gives you a bit of a confidence boost. Now I can focus on the future and hopefully many more will come."

The death of Anthoine Hubert on the Saturday of the Spa race weekend will always overshadow Leclerc's maiden F1 win, but four-time world champion Vettel also anticipates many more victories for the man from Monte Carlo.

"I think it's positive that he's surprised a lot of people outside [the team]," Vettel said. "But inside he's been with the driver academy for a while and it's been clear he has a lot of potential.

"It's good to see he's right on the pace straightaway. From the team point of view the important thing is we work together, not against each other - that's important otherwise it would be a bit of a waste of energy.

"It was a big weekend for him last weekend even though it was overshadowed by the passing of Anthoine, so not great, but it was his first one and I'm sure he'll be around for a while so there will be a lot more."

The bond between the Ferrari pair was obvious during the news conference, with Vettel winding up Leclerc at one stage when the younger driver was asked whether he had treated himself by buying himself a present after Spa.

Vettel suggested to Leclerc he had bought a boat to celebrate, briefly confusing his team-mate, before Leclerc saw the funny side. For the record, Leclerc declared he has yet to buy himself anything to mark the career landmark.

Leclerc said there was "great teamwork" on show at Spa, and both men feel that will be the key to Ferrari establishing themselves as the team to rival Mercedes.

When asked how the relationship with Leclerc compares to that with his former team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel said, to laughter: "More words."

"The key is we work together to try to push the team," he added. "Our car is not where we want it to be - I said earlier we didn't have the car and ability to win every race and that is our objective. It serves both of us to push in that same direction because I believe one day we will have that car and we can fight it out."

As for whether Ferrari will be celebrating come Sunday evening, Vettel sounded a note of caution. Ferrari last won the Italian Grand Prix in 2010, when Fernando Alonso was the toast of the team.

"We're not the clear favourites," Vettel said. "I think we have to be carefully optimistic and realistic. There are a lot of elements during a grand prix that can make a difference.

"One [qualifying] lap is one thing but there's a lot of laps on Sunday. Plus the weather. I see it as a chance, simple as that.

You always have a chance if you're on a grid, no matter where you start from. We want to make sure we start from the front which gives you a higher chance and then carry that into the race."

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