Charles Leclerc saw off both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to claim his second straight Formula 1 victory in the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, ending Ferrari’s win drought at its home race.

Pole-sitter Leclerc defeated Hamilton in a frantic battle that saw both drivers make mistakes and go off the circuit at points, with Bottas entering the fight for victory through the closing stages after an error by his teammate.

But Bottas was unable to get close enough to Leclerc, allowing the young Monegasque driver to sweep to his second victory in the space of a week and send the tens of thousands of Ferrari fans at Monza into raptures.

Leclerc was Ferrari’s sole runner at the front after teammate Sebastian Vettel spun early before being penalised for dangerous driving, leaving the German driver outside of the points.

Vettel’s race-shaping error came on Lap 6. Pushing hard through Ascari as he tried to cut the gap to third-placed Bottas, Vettel lost his car midway through the chicane, spinning off the circuit. Once his car had come to rest, Vettel tried moving back onto the track, only to make light contact with the oncoming Lance Stroll and damage his front wing. This sent Stroll into a spin, who in turn forced Pierre Gasly to take evasive action as he returned to the circuit.

Vettel was forced to pit for a new front wing before returning a few laps later when the stewards slapped him with a 10-second stop/go penalty for unsafely rejoining the circuit, dropping him to the rear of the order. Stroll was also sanctioned for the same offence, receiving a drive-through penalty.

With Vettel out of content, Leclerc was left fighting both Hamilton and Bottas alone for Ferrari. Both Mercedes drivers ran within a couple of seconds of Leclerc at the front through the opening stages of the race, giving the German team the chance to split its drivers’ strategies.

Hamilton was brought into the pits at the end of Lap 19, taking on the Medium compound tyre. Ferrari had no choice but to respond with Leclerc one lap later, fitting his car with Hards that would prove more durable but offer less performance initially.

Leclerc emerged from the pits still leading, but Hamilton quickly latched onto the rear of the Ferrari as they picked through traffic. Leclerc passed Hulkenberg through Parabolica, only to give Hamilton a double-tow that allowed the reigning world champion to get a run as they came through Curva Grande on Lap 23.

Hamilton moved to the outside entering the Roggia Chicane, only to be squeezed out by Leclerc, forcing the Mercedes to take to the escape road. Hamilton quickly complained that he had not been left a car’s width at the side of the track, with the stewards agreeing. They showed Leclerc a black-and-white flag – F1’s equivalent of a yellow card – to warn him against a repeat move.

Mercedes looked to bring Bottas into the fight as well as by pitting him on Lap 27, mirroring Hamilton’s strategy with a set of Mediums. Hamilton continued to tail Leclerc closely at the front, but complained he was struggling to keep up on the straights given the Ferrari’s engine advantage.

Hamilton was given a second chance to get ahead on Lap 36 when Leclerc locked up his front-left tyre at Turn 1, forcing him to run across the kerbs. Hamilton closed up once again at Curva Grande, only for Leclerc to make another bold defensive move to retain his lead. Race control noted Leclerc had missed the apex by running off the circuit, but the stewards decided it was not worth investigating.

Ferrari warned Leclerc not to move under braking at the chicane for fear of a penalty, with Hamilton also airing frustration over the late defensive moves. Hamilton was also becoming concerned about his tyre life as teammate Bottas grew larger in his rear-view mirrors, closing to within a second of his teammate.

Any dilemma Mercedes may have faced over swapping its drivers resolved itself when Hamilton locked up at Turn 1 on Lap 42, forcing him to snake through the bollards before rejoining the circuit. This allowed Bottas to move up into second place, leaving the Finn to hunt down Leclerc with his seven-lap fresher tyres.

But Bottas struggled to put them to good use, with Leclerc’s more durable Hard tyres holding up well so he could match the pace of the Mercedes’ behind. The race was all but settled with three laps to go when a lock-up at Turn 1 saw Bottas run deep, giving Leclerc more breathing once again.

Leclerc crossed the line 0.8 seconds clear to record the second win of his F1 career, coming one week after his maiden success at Spa, and become Ferrari’s first Monza winner since Fernando Alonso in 2010.

It also sees him overtake teammate Vettel in the drivers’ championship with seven races to go this season.

Bottas was left to settle for second place, taking two points out of Hamilton’s championship lead to cut the gap to 63 points at the top of the standings. Hamilton took a free pit stop late on to pick up a bonus point for the fastest lap, completing the podium in third place.

Renault drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg stayed out of trouble to finish fourth and fifth respectively, marking the team’s best result of the season so far.

Alexander Albon finished sixth for Red Bull, having lost time early on during a battle with Carlos Sainz before receiving a five-second time penalty for an incident with Kevin Magnussen. Both Sainz and Magnussen retired from the race due to issues with their car.

Sergio Perez took seventh for Racing Point ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who recovered to eighth place after starting last on the grid and reporting early power issues.

Antonio Giovinazzi recorded the best result of his F1 career to date by taking ninth for Alfa Romeo, marking an impressive return to Monza for an Italian driver. Lando Norris rounded out the points in 10th place for McLarne.

Pierre Gasly finished two seconds behind Norris in 11th ahead of Stroll and Vettel, both of whom finished a lap down following their penalties. George Russell took P14 for Williams ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, with Robert Kubica taking 17th as the last classified finisher.

Besides Magnussen and Sainz, Daniil Kvyat was the only other retiree, parking up with an issue on Lap 30.

 

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