In Bahrain this year, Charles Leclerc was extremely unlucky not to achieve his first victory in Formula 1 due to a short circuit in the injection system control of his Scuderia Ferrari. Later, in Austria, an aggressive overtake by Max Verstappen deprived the Monégasque of the top step of the podium. However, Spa-Francorchamps finally brought Scuderia Ferrari and Leclerc their first victory of the season and now having followed that up with such a dominant solo display in Monza (due to the errors befallen by Sebastian Vettel), Leclerc is well and truly the number 1 of Ferrari…at lest he is in the eyes of the Tifosi.
Monza was awash with red, as it always is when the F1 circus comes to town, on this occasion though (for the first time in 9 years) the top step was claimed by one of their own. A much loved, multi-talented, Italian speaking and fearless racing driver. Titles that previously would have been directed towards 4-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel. On Sunday though, it very much seemed, to all in attendance and the millions watching across the world, that a changing of the guard had taken place and in front of the Tifosi no less.
Tifosi, in simple terms, is an Italian word to describe a group of fans. For anyone associated with motor racing, Tifosi represents the millions of loyal fanatics of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 Racing Team. This past weekend saw Ferrari celebrate 90 years having been founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929 and it is fair to say that their loyal fan base has existed for an equal amount of time. The Tifosi have become as identifiable for the Ferrari brand as the prancing horse icon itself due to their unwavering dedication and vocal support for any associated with the Italian manufacturer whilst also transforming grandstands into a sea of red. Irrespective of whether still at the team or not, in the eyes of the Tifosi, once a member of Ferrari you are always a member of Ferrari.
Kimi Räikkönen, having won the 2007 Formula One World Championship in his first season at Scuderia Ferrari, was unsurprisingly celebrated whenever seen on screen or driving past the crowds as he navigated the Monza circuit. So too was Daniil Kvyat, Ferrari’s 2018 development driver. Also present was two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso in attendance as an Ambassador for McLaren yet cheered by thousands in red. Finally, seen man waving the chequered flag, Jean Alesi who famously left the powerhouse of Williams for the allure of (an extremely unsuccessful) Ferrari. One victory at Canada in 4 seasons with the team but still beloved by the Tifosi.
Whilst Charles Leclerc’s recent performances may have changed the mind of the Tifosi with regard to who they view as number 1, Leclerc’s lack of a more serious penalty in Monza, for moving under braking at the Roggia chicane, may have also changed the way racers let battle commence.
Lewis Hamilton announced to the media after the race:
“I don't think there's an issue, if that's how we're able to race then I'll race like it. As long as we know you're allowed to not leave a car's width, and you don't have to do that now. As long as you're not contradicting us, as long as we've got a clear message, that we're allowed to run wide if someone's there and you only get a warning flag. Then you only need that once to potentially keep the guy behind you.”
If the racing style of Charles Leclerc results in Formula 1 having more wheel to wheel racing incidents, it will not just be the Tifosi taking the Monégasque to the hearts as this could be the long awaited revival of on track battles that motor racing fans the world over have been desperate to see. Also, we would not have to wait for the infamous, yet unknown, 2021 regulations.
Whether Ferrari has brought success to the driver or not, in the eyes of the Tifosi, once a Ferrari man – always a Ferrari man. Charles Leclerc, has all the talent and all the expectation that he could be THE Ferrari man of the next generation. Sebastian Vettel, having claimed four F1 world titles, has now seen his rival Lewis Hamilton capture five and almost rubber stamped a sixth. Vettel knows that F1 is a fast moving sport and he must recapture his form – or risk getting left behind.
Never by the Tifosi though, they never leave one of their own behind and the sport is all the better because of that.
Sebastian Vettel has more worries than just the speed of his teammate though...