Charles Leclerc ended Ferrari’s nine-year wait for victory at its home circuit as he held off the Mercedes duo to win Formula One’s Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Leclerc secured his second successive F1 race win in the process, having recorded his first ever in last week’s Belgian GP.
“It really means so much to me,” said Leclerc in Italian, as he spoke from the iconic podium at Monza, above a sea of red as thousands of Ferrari fans wearing that colour chanted his name and waved flags.
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“It was already a dream come true at Spa, winning here is 10 times more. I don’t have words.”
Leclerc, who started from pole position, was roared on by the passionate Ferrari tifosi and he let out an equally joyful cry as he crossed the line 0.8 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas and 35.1 seconds ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton.=
“In the last two laps I started to believe that the win was possible. I let all my emotions on the radio, I don’t think anyone could understand what I said,” said Leclerc with a laugh.
Ferrari’s last win at Monza came in 2010 through Fernando Alonso.
“Charles did a great job,” Hamilton said. “He came under a lot of pressure from Valtteri and I.
“I did the best I could, but following so closely for so many laps, the tires just went off the cliff. It was not our day.”
Hamilton hounded Leclerc, especially after pitting at the end of lap 19 and emerging on medium tires.
Leclerc pitted a lap later and although he managed to come out in front of Hamilton, he was on hard tires.
Shortly afterward, Hamilton almost got past but Leclerc held him off in a move that ended with the Mercedes on the grass.
Leclerc was given a black and white warning flag for that but no penalty.
Another defensive move from Leclerc later in the race had Hamilton saying on team radio: “Some dangerous driving going on here.”