This review of the 2019 Italian Grand Prix was written by Nick van der Meulen
If you are a Ferrari fan, like I am, there was a tear shed with what happened at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2019. Firstly, Jody Scheckter was asked to do a demonstration run to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his victory at Monza, in front of the screaming Tifosi, to claim his world championship. The older generation relived the sound of the flat 12 Ferrari engine howling around the circuit, while youngsters got to hear the sound for the first time…
Leclerc on form
It was a fairytale weekend for Ferrari, as well as their legion of fans. Charles Leclerc, fresh from his maiden victory at Spa, took pole position in a bizarre qualifying event and followed that with a virtual lights-to-flag victory. While this may be a simple overview of the race event, the young Monegasque had to endure immense pressure from multiple world champion Lewis Hamilton, along with his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.
Leclerc had to flex his muscles in his defence of the lead, holding firm and leaving Hamilton to take evasive action (he received a warning for this action), along with running dangerously wide at the exit of the Parabolica onto the main straight – for lap after lap. His determination was rewarded with his second victory on the trot and, probably, one of the most memorable race victories of his career, be it past, present or future. It is not often that a young racer charges to victory at Monza in a Ferrari to the cheers of the Tifosi and he has cemented himself into Ferrari lore.
Defending champs Mercedes still charging hard
Mercedes, despite being outgunned by Leclerc, scored well on race day and still extend their lead in the constructors’ title. Hamilton destroyed his tyres chasing Leclerc and ran down the escape road at Turn 1, ceding the position to team mate Bottas who, in turn, chased Leclerc to the chequered flag.
The two Renaults performed strongly at Monza and took their best team result in 11 years by finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, Daniel Ricciardo heading Nico Hulkenberg across the finish line. Alexander Albon (Red Bull Racing-Honda) had an eventful race and worked hard to finish sixth ahead of Sergio Perez (Racing Point-Mercedes), Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing-Honda) – from the back of the grid , Antonio GIovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) – the first Italian to score points at Monza (since Giancarlo Fisichella) in a decade, and Lando Norris (McLaren-Renault).
Controversial calls from the officials
The stewards were under scrutiny for some of their decisions at the Italian GP. Hamilton questioned how Leclerc wasn’t penalized for his actions, which the FIA responded to post-race. The big question was why Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for rejoining the circuit dangerously after a spin at the exit of Roggia chicane, clipping Lance Stroll (Racing Point-Mercedes) into a spin in the process, while Stroll received a drive-through for the same offence rejoining the circuit and forcing Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso-Honda) off track.
Two points worth considering as we leave Monza. Firstly, how on earth did Alfa Romeo overlook the tyres fitted to Kimi Raikkonen’s machine for the race? The Finn’s race was destroyed when he was called in for a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, however, he could easily have been disqualified for the trangression. Secondly, what of Sebastian Vettel? For the second race running, he was outclassed by his young team mate, this time making a cumbersome mistake which led to panic and a penalty. The German multiple world champion had a disastrous weekend in front of the Tifosi, the place where you don’t want to make mistakes and face criticism. While it was claimed he had a role to play in helping Leclerc take victory at Spa, he did not help Leclerc at all at Monza and the young Monegasque was seen to fend off the two Mercedes on his own.
There have been rumours floating around that Vettel may announce his retirement: a rumour refuted by the German. Following his relatively lacklustre performances while his team mate posted two victories (and losing ground to Leclerc in the world championship title chase), one wonders whether this rumour will be revisited…