Italian Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc says choosing the hard tyre for the second stint proved decisive in defeating the Merc drivers.
Charles Leclerc took a very popular and emotional victory for Ferrari at Monza in front of a jubilant home crowd on Sunday. Having weathered pressure from both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas throughout the race, Leclerc’s use of the Hard tyre for the second stint played a crucial role in his eventual victory.
While the Hard tyre meant he came under strong initial pressure from the chasing Hamilton on Medium tyres after their pitstops, the tyres faded on Hamilton’s car as Leclerc resisted the Mercedes driver’s attacks. Eventually, Hamilton made an error into the first chicane and fell down to P3 as Bottas took up the mantle of attack. Also on Medium tyres, he too would make a similar error with Leclerc going on to clinch the win.
“I think the strategy was good.” said Leclerc after taking the win. “Obviously we were in a tricky situation because we had the two Mercedes behind and I was the only Ferrari and they could play the game of going long with one car and earlier with the other. It was very tricky but in the end I think we made the right choice with the hard.”
“The hard were quite difficult to manage. From the beginning, apart from the first two laps, or, no maybe a bit more, maybe three, four laps, I felt quite good, but then there was like a drop off of grip from all four tyres and then I’ve been struggling a little bit with front locks, and towards the end I’ve started to lose the rear, and that’s where the performance started to… where I started to slow down a little bit. They were not in a very bad shape. I believe they could have stayed where they were for quite many laps still – but yeah, I was just struggling with the rear left especially.”
Having endured 53 laps of relentless pressure from the Mercedes drivers, Leclerc said that making minimal mistakes was his focus throughout the race: “It’s quite difficult – a lot going through my mind, during the race, after the race. A lot of emotions. Obviously it was very difficult during the race. Lewis was behind me. I think the biggest gap there was was maybe 1.7 or 1.8 seconds, so right behind me.”
“I knew that Lewis rarely makes mistakes, so obviously I had to stay on it. I did a few, which never cost me a position – once was very, very close. It was crazy and then finally in the last two laps I started to believe that the win was possible. I think that with the traffic Valtteri dropped a little bit and that helped me to get a little bit of space. And then finally going on the line, I let go all my emotions through the radio. I don’t think you can understand anything that I have said on the radio, but it felt absolutely amazing, and the podium also. It’s going beyond all the dreams I’ve had since I was a child. To see so many people cheering for one team, singing all together, it’s amazing.”