Leclerc scores hat-trick of pole

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc achieved his third consecutive Formula 1 pole position after edging out Lewis Hamilton by 0.191 seconds.

With the Scuderia’s aerodynamic upgrades giving it a significant boost in performance around a street circuit that even the team expected would not suit it, Sebastian Vettel set the pace on the first runs in Q3.

But Vettel’s second attempt was messy, resulting in him aborting to the pits, leaving the way for Leclerc to claim pole.

After the lap, Leclerc claimed over the radio that he lost control three times on the lap in what was a superb attacking performance.

Vettel’s final-run struggles allowed Hamilton to secure second position on his final lap, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ending up fourth and almost four tenths behind Vettel.

Valtteri Bottas was fifth for Mercedes ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon, with neither driver able to threaten their teammates.

McLaren led the way in the midfield battle, with Carlos Sainz taking seventh place ahead of the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo.

Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Renault, 0.065 seconds quicker than the McLaren of Lando Norris.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez jumped up to P11 at the end of Q2, but missed out on beating Hulkenberg to a Q3 spot by four hundredths of a second.

Perez has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change thanks to damage sustained in a practice crash, meaning he is currently set to start P16.

Behind him, Antonio Giovinazzi and Pierre Gasly both failed to improve on their second runs and ended up P12 and P13 respectively but both well within a tenth of Perez’s time.

Gasly reported over the radio that he was struggling with the rear after completing his final lap, during which he grazed the wall.

Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen was P14 after setting his best time on his second Q2 run, having slapped the wall with both left-hand-side wheels on his first attempt.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was slowest of those in Q2, lapping eight tenths behind Raikkonen.

Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was the quickest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16 having failed to improve on his time set during the first runs.

He was up after the first sector, but lost time thereafter meaning he was unable to recover from Perez bumping him into the drop-zone – although he was only 0.015 seconds slower than Magnussen, who did make it through Q1.

Lance Stroll was P17 after only finding 0.209 seconds on his second run in the Racing Point after several light brushes of the wall, which was enough to put him three-tenths clear of Haas driver Romain Grosjean.

George Russell had to abort his final attempt after running wide at the exit of Turn 7, although his first-run time was good enough to put him P19 ahead of Williams team-mate Robert Kubica by three tenths.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in achieving a hat-trick of pole positions. The Ferrari driver is on a winning form with this qualifying result and it will be fascinating if he can score another victory at Marina Bay.

Kudos to Ferrari in upstaging the Mercedes and Red Bull by going quickest in qualifying. The Scuderia admitted that this street circuit won’t suit the SF90 as it requires downforce but the red car of Leclerc surprised everyone with this pole position. Bring on the race!

Singapore Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:36.217
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.408
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.437
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:36.813
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:37.146
6 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:37.411
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1:37.818
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:38.095
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:38.264
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:38.329
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:38.620
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:38.697
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:38.699
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:38.858
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:39.650
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:39.957
17 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:39.979
18 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:40.277
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:40.867
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1:41.186

Leclerc takes popular Monza victory

Charles Leclerc soaked up the big pressure from the Mercedes pair to win at Monza, sending the passionate Tifosi into party mode at the Italian Grand Prix.

This is Leclerc’s second victory in Formula 1 and follows on from his maiden at Spa.

Leclerc fought single-handedly for victory at Ferrari’s home race after teammate Sebastian Vettel had a spin early on while running fourth.

Hamilton gave chase for more than 20 laps in the middle of the Italian Grand Prix before Bottas took over Mercedes’ attack at the end, but Leclerc kept both at bay to win again just seven days after claiming his maiden victory.

Leclerc kept Hamilton at length through the first stint but came under attack after stopping one lap later than his pursuer – and taking hard tyres to the Mercedes driver’s mediums.

Hamilton’s earlier stop brought him out within striking distance of Leclerc straight away and two engaged in an ultra-intense cat-and-mouse chase for more than 20 laps.

During that time, Hamilton got close enough to launch two serious attacks.

First, on lap 23, Hamilton used a minor delay as Leclerc passed Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault at Parabolica to force the Ferrari driver to defend into the first chicane.

Leclerc defended again into the chicane chicane but moved back across to the right, made light contact with Hamilton and forced his rival onto the run-off.

Leclerc was given a black-and-white flag warning for that move, and was perhaps fortunate to get away with what Hamilton described as “dangerous” driving on lap 36.

A small lock-up from Leclerc sent him over the run-off at the first chicane and gave Hamilton a run out of the corner.

As Hamilton looked to the outside through Curva Grande, Leclerc moved to the left to block his path – leaving Hamilton annoyed.

Over the next few laps Hamilton remained in close range but failed to launch another attack before locking his front left into the first chicane at the start of lap 42.

Hamilton took to the escape road, allowing Bottas through into second after he crept up to the lead two with his long first stint giving him an eight-lap offset on fresh tyres.

Bottas picked up the chase, three seconds adrift of Leclerc, and almost got within DRS range with six laps to go before losing a bit of time in the final sector.

His best chance came three laps from the end when he got to just half a second behind Leclerc, but Bottas ran deep into the first corner and dropped back.

Bottas got within DRS range again on the final lap, but made a small mistake at the second chicane and Leclerc won by 0.8 seconds.

Hamilton finished a distant third after pitting for fresh tyres to set the fastest lap and score a bonus point, meaning his championship advantage over Bottas stands at 63 points.

While Leclerc held on to win his first Italian Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver, Vettel had a miserable race and finished outside of the points in P13.

He ran fourth early on but spun after striking the kerb on the entrance to the Ascari chicane on lap six.

Vettel then rejoined the track while cars were flash past and clipped the Racing Point of Lance Stroll, who was seventh, into a spin.

Stroll got going again but rejoined as Pierre Gasly was exiting Ascari, which forced the Toro Rosso driver through the gravel.

Vettel received a 10-second stop-go penalty for his unsafe return to the track, the harshest possible penalty short of disqualification, while Stroll’s was deemed slightly less severe and he was hit with a drive-through.

In the absence of Vettel – and also Max Verstappen, who started at the back following an engine change and had his race compromised by a first lap clash – Daniel Ricciardo scored Renault’s best result of the season in fourth.

Ricciardo had fallen behind teammate Hulkenberg in the early laps but quickly repassed his teammate and assumed fourth when Vettel spun.

He held a commanding advantage over Hulkenberg until the end of the race, while Hulkenberg held onto fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon to give Renault a massive haul of points.

Behind Albon, Sergio Perez benefitted from a well-timed virtual safety car around his pitstop window to finish seventh, despite starting P18.

Verstappen made it back to eighth after stopping on lap one for a new front wing, having broken his when the field bunched up at the first corner.

Antonio Giovinazzi scored points in his home race in ninth, while Lando Norris completed the top ten having started P16.

Three drivers retired from the Italian Grand Prix, two shortly after making their pitstops.

Carlos Sainz lost a likely strong points finish when his McLaren’s front right wheel was not attached properly at his pitstop.

Daniil Kvyat, also running well inside the top ten, pulled his smokey Toro Rosso to a halt exiting the first chicane after his own stop.

Kevin Magnussen was the final retiree. He had already dropped out of the points when he locked up at Turn 1 and took to the run-off.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in achieving this fantastic result at Monza. To win for Ferrari in front of the passionate Tifosi crowd is just epic. The last Scuderia driver to be victorious was Fernando Alonso back in 2010, so for Leclerc to win in his first appearance at Ferrari is truly special.

Italian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:15:26.665
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.835
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 35.199
4 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 45.515
5 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 58.165
6 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda Red Bull 59.315
7 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:13.802
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:14.492
9 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 lap
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1 lap
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1 lap
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1 lap
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1 lap
14 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 lap
16 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1 lap
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 2 laps
– Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda
– Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault

Leclerc take Monza pole in farce end to qualifying

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc achieved his fourth career pole position at Monza, scene of the Italian Grand Prix though the ending scenes was a complete farce.

Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole with a lap of one minute, 20.126 seconds on his first run in Q3, giving him an advantage of 0.039 seconds over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

But with the tow crucial at Monza, ahead of the second runs the ten Q3 drivers engaged in a ‘slow race’ for the ideal position to start their flying laps, with most failing to make to the end of the lap before the chequered flag.

This meant no driver was able to improve their lap time on the second run, with Hamilton complaining that the Ferrari drivers had held everyone up and “just timed everyone out”.

The stewards are investigating “the last lap of qualifying”, with drivers having previously been warned about slow out-laps.

To witness this makes the sport a laughing joke. With just two minutes to the end of Q3, the teams/drivers left until the final moment and with all that slipstream tactics coming into play, it was not a surprise to see all the drivers unable to complete a lap.

Valtteri Bottas, who just completed his first lap before the red flags flew in Q3 for Kimi Raikkonen spinning into the wall at Parabolica, was third fastest, just 0.0004 seconds slower than his teammate.

Sebastian Vettel was fourth quickest for Ferrari, a tenth off Bottas and ahead of the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo.

Nico Hulkenberg was sixth fastest ahead of Carlos Sainz, who was the slowest of the seven drivers to set a time in Q3.

Alex Albon, Lance Stroll and Raikkonen were classified eighth, ninth and tenth respectively with none of them having posted a time.

While Raikkonen’s was thanks to his first-run crash, the other two were unable to complete a lap thanks to the late-session chaos.

Antonio Giovinazzi showed how big a difference a tiny gap can make and ended up as the fastest of the five drivers eliminated in Q2 despite lapping just two thousandths slower than teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

The Alfa Romeo driver jumped Haas driver Kevin Magnussen with his final lap, with K-Mag ending up a tenth slower in P12 after failing to improve on his first Q2 run time.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was P13, with the rear stepping out at the exit of the second chicane on his final attempt and leading to him taking a bite of the gravel.

That lap was his fastest and was enough to put him ahead of two drivers who didn’t mount serious Q2 attempts thanks to having back-of-the-grid penalties for power unit changes – McLaren’s Lando Norris and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

Romain Grosjean was quickest of those eliminated in the first segment of qualifying in P16 despite lapping just 0.658 seconds off Q1 pacesetter Leclerc.

The Haas driver was in trouble after the first runs in Q1, which were separated by a four-minute red flag caused by Sergio Perez’s Racing Point stopping on track, but did improve on the second attempt.

This temporarily put him into the top 15, but improvements by Sainz and Stroll meant he missed out on advancing after lapping 0.061 seconds slower than Kvyat.

Perez, who ground to a halt at Curva Grande after suffering a loss of power at the end of his first run, ended up P17.

The red flag didn’t cause much disruption as it fell between the first and second runs of the drivers, although Vettel was on a lap that was set to improve on mediums that he had to abandon and subsequent did go out on softs as a precautionary measure and did not set a time.

George Russell won the intra-Williams battle for slowest driver in qualifying, 0.556 seconds faster than Robert Kubica.

That put them P18 and P19, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen not setting a time after reporting a lack of power on his run.

Verstappen was always set to start at the rear thanks to being one of three drivers with a back-of-the-grid penalty, along with Gasly and Norris.

So a bizarre end to qualifying with the drivers playing games on how to position themselves for slipstream. The final result was missing out as the Q3 session ended.

At least Charles Leclerc continues to impress with yet another pole position and looks the favourite in scoring a win at the Scuderia’s home track.

Italian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:19.307
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.346
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:19.354
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:19.457
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:19.839
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:20.049
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 1:20.989
8 Alexander Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:20.021
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:20.515
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:20.498
11 Antonio Giovinazzo Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:20.517
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:20.615
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:20.630
14 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:21.068
15 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:21.125
16 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:20.784
17 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:21.291
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:21.800
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1:21.356
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda –

Leclerc scores maiden victory at Spa

Charles Leclerc held off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton to score his maiden Formula 1 victory and secure Scuderia Ferrari’s first win of 2019 in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Leclerc missed out on victory in Bahrain because of an engine problem and Austria after a late fight with Max Verstappen, but suffered no such repeat as he finally did it on his third attempt.

The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas completed the podium after Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel slipped back from second position following tyre struggles and an extra pitstop.

Hamilton rapidly closed on Leclerc in the final laps but crossed the line 0.9 seconds adrift.

The Belgian Grand Prix was almost immediately placed under the safety car after Verstappen’s race ended in the barrier at Eau Rouge on the first lap.

Verstappen had a slow start and was passed by Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez on the run to La Source, but dived inside both under braking.

The Red Bull driver passed Perez cleanly but hit Raikkonen as The Iceman swept across to the apex of the corner, pitching the Alfa Romeo into the air – and the two made contact again on the exit of the corner.

The front left of Verstappen’s Red Bull was damaged in the accident and broke completely as he entered Eau Rouge, which caused him to slide helplessly into the barriers on the outside.

Raikkonen continued after a trip to the pits, as did Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault picked up some floor damage in a separate incident behind.

The safety car was due to return to the pitlane on lap three but was stayed out on track before making it back to the pits, because Carlos Sainz stopped at the exit of the Bus Stop chicance after a loss of power in his Renault-engined McLaren.

When the race did resume on lap five, Leclerc was gifted an immediate advantage as Vettel locked up at La Source.

Leclerc remained in control through his first stint, surviving a minor scare when he locked up at Les Combes and took to the run-off.

That incident was noted by race officials, after a pre-event instruction to drivers to obey specific instructions if they went wide there, but Leclerc ended up escaping investigation.

Vettel kept Hamilton at bay despite coming under pressure through the first half of the race, and the Ferrari driver was first to stop on lap 15.

Leclerc, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas stayed out for many more laps, and by the time the race leader pit on lap 21 he had lost too much time to Vettel to maintain the position.

Vettel’s efforts on new tyres handed him a five-second margin when Leclerc emerged from the pits, but Leclerc reduced that time difference with fresh rubber.

Leclerc was within DRS range with 18 laps still to go and Ferrari instructed Vettel to let his teammate by, which he did after a short delay in order to give Leclerc a tow on the Kemmel Straight and minimise the time loss.

Ferrari’s strategy call gives Leclerc the win but it left Vettel vulnerable to the Mercedes drivers, and he soon slipped to fourth as his medium tyres fell away.

Leclerc seemed safe until Hamilton closed rapidly in the closing laps, but the championship leader was unable to mount an attack – and in any case, second place extended his lead over Bottas in the championship to 65 points.

After being passed by Hamilton, Vettel was told to stay out if he could keep Bottas behind but reported “negative” almost immediately and dived in for fresh tyres, in order to set the fastest lap and gain a bonus point.

New Red Bull recruit Alex Albon recorded a surprise fifth place on his debut with the team after a fine charge from the back of the grid.

He was promoted to the best result of his F1 career after last-lap drama, as Lando Norris retired to hand Albon sixth and then nabbed fifth from Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

Norris was on course to be rewarded with his own career-best finish, after leaping up the order on the dramatic first lap.

The McLaren rookie passed his midfield rivals with ease but reported a sudden loss of power as he was starting his final lap, and pulled over on the start-finish straight.

That promoted Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat to seventh late on, before further drama occurred when Antonio Giovinazzi crashed out of what would have been eighth position.

Nico Hulkenberg thus finished eighth after passing teammate Ricciardo during a late charge, while Pierre Gasly battled to ninth in his first start since being demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso.

Lance Stroll completed the top ten as Ricciardo’s badly-worn tyres meant he slipped to P14 behind the two Haas drivers, who ran sixth and seventh early on but faded badly as the race progressed.

So congratulations to Ferrari and Charles Leclerc in winning their first race of the season. The straight-line speed helped on this Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Such a nice gesture from Charles to dedicate this victory to Anthoine Hubert, who lost his life in the Formula 2 race during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. Respect to the motorsport community in putting on a good show with a popular winner.

Belgian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23:45.710
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.981
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 12.585
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26.422
5 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:21.325
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:24.448
7 Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:29.657
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:46.639
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:49.168
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:49.838
11 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault –
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1 lap
13 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1 lap
14 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1 lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 lap
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari
19 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault –
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda –