Leclerc’s phenomenal victory
7 days on from an emotional maiden win at Spa following the tragic death of his friend Anthoine Hubert, Charles Leclerc followed it up with a truly special victory in front of the Tifosi at Monza.
After the mess that was the end of Q3, his first lap put him on pole position, ahead of the two Mercedes’ and Vettel. The German’s spin in the early stages of the Grand Prix left Leclerc to fight Hamilton and Bottas off on his own.
The Monegasque driver had a straight-line speed advantage over the Mercedes – and while that was critical, the W10 was the faster car on the day with superior grip and tyre life.
Hamilton pushed, hassled and harried Leclerc throughout the race and very nearly made him crack. Leclerc’s defensive driving into the second chicane against Hamilton on lap 23 was right on the limit; it showed he won’t be pushed around like he was in Austria.
The Brit ran out of tyres and made an error which gifted Bottas P2. The Finn never got close enough to try and make a move, though. To soak up so much pressure for 53 laps was remarkable.
Leclerc’s victory yesterday has to go down as one of the greatest of the V6 era. An extraordinary victory from a special young talent.
Vettel’s nightmare run continues
Sebastian Vettel’s consistent errors since Germany last year show no sign of stopping.
He was probably the star of Q3 as a terrific lap without a tow put him 4th. With a tow, the German would have probably taken pole.
It all went downhill fast in the race yet again, though. A bizarre spin on lap 6 in the Ascari chicane left him on the grass. He rejoined the track in a very unsafe manner and took out Lance Stroll. Vettel was lucky not to be black flagged.
Whilst the four-time World Champion is still extremely quick, he’s now on the back foot in terms of mistakes and his standing within the team. Leclerc is very much the golden boy right now.
The German’s dream of winning a title with the ‘Prancing Horse’ looks in tatters right now. A complete reboot is needed for Vettel.
Renault finally delivers
Grid penalties and a chaotic turn 1 hid Renault’s true pace in Belgium. At Monza, they maximised everything on both sides of the garage. For the first time this year, they had a clean weekend.
Ricciardo and Hulkenberg annexed the third row of the grid. The German made a tremendous start to pass his team-mate and Vettel on the opening lap. The Ferrari and Aussie soon both regained the positions they lost.
Vettel’s spin gifted the Renaults P4 and P5 – and that’s where they finished. It’s the first time since Japan 2008 that Renault finished a race with two cars in the top 5.
The 22 points they scored yesterday has moved them to within 18 of McLaren for P4 in the Constructors’ Championship. Game on.
Red Bull’s difficult back-to-back events
Spa and Monza were expected to be tough races for the Milton Keynes team – and that’s exactly how it transpired.
While Alex Albon finished 5th and 6th across the double-header, his true pace vs Verstappen is still unknown. Nonetheless, we’ve seen some serious aggression from the Thai during both races and has shown more than Gasly ever did during his time at the senior team. Albon’s fastest race lap was 0.2s slower than Verstappen’s yesterday.
Verstappen had a nightmare. Contact with Raikkonen at Spa ended his race – and despite being extremely cautious into T1 yesterday, he lightly touched the rear of Perez’s car which broke his front wing. The Dutchman managed to recover to 8th, but four points from two races is not ideal.
The good news for Red Bull is that their very weak tracks are out of the way. Expect them to be Mercedes’ closest challengers in Singapore.
Costly retirements for Toro Rosso and McLaren
It was a day of disappointment for Italy’s second team and McLaren as their leading drivers in the race both retired from excellent positions.
As usual, Carlos Sainz was driving excellently and looked set for a very solid 6th place in the McLaren to bag eight more points for the team.
However, he was released from his stop without one of the wheels being attached properly and the Spaniard was forced to pull over and retire. They were valuable points lost in both championships.
Sainz’s retirement and the subsequent VSC opened the door for Daniil Kvyat to make a free stop under it and he moved up to P6 from 12th on the grid.
Unfortunately for the Russian, an oil leak moments later meant he had to pull off on the circuit at the exit of the first chicane and his day was done.
Sergio Perez’s 7th place finish has left Toro Rosso only five points ahead of Racing Point in the standings. Kvyat’s DNF could hurt them quite badly at the end of the season.