Leclerc sets the pace in Ferrari’s home Grand Prix

Ross Houston
September 10, 2019

The 21-year-old Formula One sophomore has already made a bit of Prancing Horse history by becoming the youngest Ferrari driver to win a Grand Prix, a feat he achieved last weekend in Belgium.

But Monza won't be a slam dunk for Ferrari.

Binotto admitted the performance gap between Mercedes and Ferrari was "too big" to close this season. 'In life, you have moments with difficulties but I am sure he has all the characteristics to come back, I hope in a few days'. "We know we can do well here in Monza but only if we have a flawless weekend".

Fresh from his first F1 victory last weekend at a Belgian Grand Prix overshadowed by the death of French Formula Two racer Anthoine Hubert, Leclerc lapped the "Pista Magica" with a best time of one minute 20.978 seconds. So much so that it has waited until this weekend to deploy its last engine upgrade of the year after its customer teams did the groundwork with the new components last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. My first Formula 1 win came at this track in a Ferrari-powered auto in 2008. Leclerc topped the time sheets in a wet first practice session on Friday. It takes a very long time to shift belief.

"Definitely it is surprising". I love the colour [of the car], you see the passion of the crowd, of the team when they're down below the podium, it's different to any other place. "Honestly, I just didn't know what to expect this weekend, apart from them being quick on the straight, which they are, but there are enough corners in which we're able to gain it back", added Hamilton. They're not really that quick through the corners so it kind of balances it out.

At the same time, Leclerc did not hide the fact he felt his job was to change the team's mind about his No. 2 status, sooner or later. Monza's long straights mean all drivers look to benefit from the vehicle in front punching a hole in the air so they face less wind resistance and maximise top speed.

But Leclerc is up against a four-time world champion with an identical vehicle and a point to prove and a five-time world champion in a silver arrow who has dominated this race in recent years and who rarely makes a mistake.

"Everybody will go for the tow [in qualifying]", Hamilton said on Thursday. If he gets outclassed again, it's going to be most uncomfortable for him. "It was just incredible and very, very impressive to see so many people coming together for us and for Ferrari".

"In FP2 they didn't have the chance to do the lap time when the conditions were at their best, and they did a very strong lap time when it was raining a bit".

The rain that interrupted Friday practice is expected to stay away for qualifying, but then return for race day, however Hamilton says Mercedes will not make any compromises in their search for absolute speed.

Hamilton, last year's race victor to boos from the unhappy crowd, was fourth in the morning with Vettel only eighth quickest and 2.6 seconds off the pace. Leclerc was still fastest, but with a considerably slower lap of 1:27.905.

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