F1 Raceweek: Leclerc must fight Hamilton to end Ferrari's Monza pain

By Sports Desk September 07, 2019

After waiting all season for a race victory that arrived in Belgium, Ferrari are now eyeing up a second win in as many weeks that could end nine years of hurt at their home race.

The Italian Grand Prix will see Charles Leclerc, last week's winner at Spa, line up on pole position, with the Scuderia looking to end a run that has seen them fail to win at Monza since Fernando Alonso triumphed in 2010.

Mercedes have won at Ferrari's home circuit for five consecutive years – the best run of any team ever in Italy – with Lewis Hamilton claiming four of those victories, adding to one he took for McLaren earlier in his career.

And it is a confident five-time world champion Hamilton who will lead the fight to Ferrari again as he starts second.

On the second row, Valtteri Bottas, who trails Hamilton by 65 points in the drivers' championship, heads Leclerc's team-mate Sebastian Vettel. 

The German expressed his frustration at his misfortune and the team's tactics after qualifying. He has now been out-qualified by Leclerc for seven consecutive races.

Despite the Q3 chaos where none of the leading drivers crossed the line in time to set a final flying lap as they scrapped for the ideal slipstream, the margin between the top two teams is small, with Ferrari's advantage on another well-suited track not as pronounced as last week.

Hamilton, who ended up just 0.039seconds adrift of Leclerc, felt he would have got pole had Kimi Raikkonen not crashed right in front of him on the flying lap he was able to set, an incident that also hindered Bottas.

Level with Michael Schumacher on five Monza wins, Hamilton is eyeing double delight in claiming the outright record and extending Ferrari's drought.

"I have to be grateful that I'm on the front row," said the 34-year-old.

"We get to have a fight with the Ferraris on Sunday which is nice; we split them, so as a team, it's a really good position for us to be in. It's great to separate the Ferraris. 

"We can work together as a team, try to overhaul Charles and fortunately not have the Ferrari – Vettel - in the way this time.

"Charles did a great job, but honestly, just to be up here on the front row, we can give Ferrari a good fight. We managed to get quite close to them which is awesome. We improved the car bit by bit over the weekend. I love that it is that close between us."

Last week was the first time in five races the driver on pole won and only the fourth time all season, so Leclerc knows he will be challenged as he looks to make it back-to-back triumphs.

"To see so many people feels absolutely amazing," Leclerc said of the Ferrari fans. "It feels unbelievable, incredible support. Obviously the feeling I got when I went out of the car, hearing the crowd cheer so loud is absolutely amazing.

"The pace was actually quite good during the race simulations in FP2 so it's looking positive on that - we are pretty confident. It looks a little better than in Spa. 

"The Mercedes were quick, but I think we were very quick too. My first timed Q3 lap was not special as I was way too close to Nico Hulkenberg - obviously the slipstream was amazing but in corners I was losing a lot so it was not ideal.

"But it's obviously going to be very, very difficult [to keep Mercedes behind] because, first of all, they are quick, secondly, slipstream and DRS are very important here. So it's going to be difficult to lead.

"It is a long way from the start to the first corner so a very good start from myself and also from Seb will be very important.

"A bit of a shame for the team that Seb couldn't do his second timed lap; he was very quick. I felt like a 1-2 was an opportunity even though Mercedes were extremely quick and it was very, very close."

Bottas is also hoping to be in the mix having not won since Baku in April.

"I was quite unlucky - the last run was kind of a mess for everybody - and I also had the yellow flag at the last corner in the first run, so I had to lift off and I believe I missed the pole on that," said the Finn, who was just 0.047s behind.

"But the pace was good and I'm happy to still be very much at the front because it is Sunday that counts. Top three gives you a good chance here."
 

VERSTAPPEN STARTS FROM THE BACK

A power issue meant Max Verstappen could not complete a lap in Q1, but the Red Bull star already knew he would be starting from the back of the grid having taken a new engine to incur a penalty.

Verstappen retired for the first time in 22 races last week and is optimistic about charging through the field to record a high points finish, with the possibility of rain another factor that could work in his favour.

"I still have a target to get into the top five," said the Dutchman. "For sure, we'll try to go forward

"I definitely hope it is wet. The dry will be really tough as the cars in front will pull away massively in the early laps. When it is wet the differences would be a bit bigger normally and you can definitely come to the front. But even if it is dry we will try to make a good race."

Alex Albon starts eighth in the second Red Bull after he was unable to set a time amid the qualifying chaos.

THE GRID

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) 
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) 
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) 
8. Alex Albon (Red Bull) 
9. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) 
10. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Lewis Hamilton
2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Lewis Hamilton

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 268
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203 (-65)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 181 (-87)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 169 (-99)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 157 (-111)

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Mercedes 471
2. Ferrari 326 (-145)
3. Red Bull 254 (-217)
4. McLaren 82 (-389)
5. Renault 51 (-420)

WEATHER FORECAST 

Practice had wet spells, qualifying was dry and race weather could be a combination of the two. Sunday temperatures will be around 17 degrees Celsius but the biggest element the teams will be watching is the rain. 

Showers are almost certain in the morning in Monza, though the chances decrease as the day progresses. They are presently down to around a 33 per cent possibility of rain at the time of the race, a figure that is likely to change regularly as the start gets closer.

Related items

  • Blaney pips Newman to victory at 1000Bulbs.com 500 Blaney pips Newman to victory at 1000Bulbs.com 500

    Ryan Blaney beat Ryan Newman by mere inches in an incredible finish at the 1000Bulbs.com 500.

    Everyone expected the "Big One" at Talladega Superspeedway to cause havoc for NASCAR's playoff drivers on Monday after Sunday's race was rescheduled.

    Yet no one could have foreseen the carnage or the type of finish as Blaney pipped Newman at the finish line for his first victory of 2019 and third of his career.

    The margin of victory – 7/1,000ths of a second – is the sixth-closest finish of all-time in NASCAR's top series.

    While the victory clinches Blaney a spot in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR playoffs, other playoff drivers were not so fortunate, as all 12 were involved in one or more multicar crashes or other mayhem.

    William Byron won the first stage of the race on Sunday before wet weather postponed the finish to Monday. 

    Clint Bowyer won Stage 2 after he managed to avoid "the Big One" on lap 106 when Alex Bowman – who was running in second place – got turned around on the backstretch while trying to block a charging Joey Logano.

    Playoff drivers Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson were also caught in the crash.

    The yellow flag came out with 36 laps remaining after Bowyer went for a solo spin off Turn 4 and needed a wrecker to help get his car unstuck from the steep banking. A few laps later, another big crash erupted when a chain-reaction pileup in the lower drafting line got Byron loose, and he turned into Logano, as the two collected several other cars. While Logano returned to the track, Byron was finished for the day.

    With less than 10 laps remaining, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski were involved in another big crash, which saw Brendan Gaughan go briefly airborne.

    Blaney led the way on the restart with two laps remaining and held off the rest of the field as yet another multicar crash broke out on the final lap.

  • F1 Raceweek: The joy of six - how Mercedes broke constructors' record F1 Raceweek: The joy of six - how Mercedes broke constructors' record

    It was only a matter of time before Mercedes broke Ferrari's record by sealing a sixth consecutive Formula One constructors' titles.

    The Silver Arrows were celebrating yet again after achieving that feat at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Valtteri Bottas took the chequered flag ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finished third.

    Mercedes have held the title since dethroning Red Bull in 2014, dominating the sport with Hamilton winning four titles during that time and standing on the brink of another this season.

    We look back on the level of dominance the Brackley-based team have enjoyed.

     

    2014 - A sign of things to come

    Red Bull had taken the title for four years in a row before Mercedes ended that sequence in 2014.

    Hamilton claimed his second world title - and his first for the team - ahead of colleague Nico Rosberg and the Silver Arrows duo amassed 701 points to win by a margin of 296.

    They won 16 races and secured 31 podium finishes in a dominant season which was the sign of things to come.

     

    2015 - More of the same with a marginal gain

    Mercedes bettered their tally for the season by two points as Hamilton retained his title, Rosberg once again runner-up.

    They matched the number of victories secured in 2014, as well as the incredible total of 18 poles for the campaign.

    There was an additional podium finish for the back-to-back constructors' champions by 275 points ahead of Ferrari as rivals were left trailing in their wake.

     

    2016 - Rosberg reigns as Mercedes move to another level

    The Silver arrows took their dominance to another level in 2016, winning 19 of 21 races. 

    While Mercedes were never in danger of losing their constructors' title, finishing 297 points better off than Red Bull, Hamilton and Rosberg fought it out in an enthralling battle for the drivers' crown.

    It was Rosberg who came out on top on this occasion by just five points and the German retired after a season that saw Mercedes fail to secure pole only once and amass 33 podiums.

     

    2017 - New line-up, no let-up

    A new driver line-up did not stop Mercedes from adding another constructors' title to their haul two years ago.

    Normal service was resumed as Hamilton regained the title, denying Vettel by 46 points with Bottas third in the standings after taking Rosberg's seat.

    There were 12 wins, 15 poles and 26 podium finishes for Mercedes in 2017 as Ferrari were more competitive, although the Scuderia were still as many as 146 points adrift of the constructors' champions.

     

    2018 - Ferrari close the gap, but Mercedes clean up again

    A promising start for Vettel and Ferrari last season proved to be a false down as Hamilton claimed his fifth world title.

    Ferrari finished with 84 points fewer than Mercedes as Hamilton and Bottas took the chequered flag 11 times between them.

    Mercedes were not quite as prolific in qualifying, taking pole 13 times as their points tally was down at 655 from 668 12 months earlier.

     

    2019 - Six of the best

    With four races remaining Mercedes already have one title in the bag, with Hamilton closing in on another.

    A win for Bottas in Suzuka and Hamilton's third place has the champions on 612 to Ferrari's 433.

    Mercedes have only failed to win five of 17 races, which makes for grim reading for their rivals.

  • NASCAR's 1000Bulbs.com to resume on Monday due to rain NASCAR's 1000Bulbs.com to resume on Monday due to rain

    Rain halted NASCAR's 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway after the first stage on Sunday.

    William Bryon was leading when the race was stopped with 57 of the scheduled 188 laps completed.

    The race will now be completed in Alabama on Monday.

    NASCAR red-flagged the race with Byron leading. Byron, who entered the playoff race eighth in the standings, won the first stage.

    Dryers were brought out in an attempt to dry the track, but more rain was forecast, forcing the decision to postpone the event's finish.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.