Ferrari heads to its home race at Monza with some breathing space, after Charles Leclerc took his maiden victory in Belgium. The Monegasque F1’s 108th race winner, and no doubt a deserving one.
But the pressure remains to win two-straight at the historic Autodrome, where it will again have an advantage and local fans and media will be on top of its each and every move.
…especially if the Prancing Horse again shoots itself in the foot, as it did in 2018, when it told polesitter Kimi Räikkönen, before the race, it would not be renewing his contract.
On lap one, Räikkönen predictably blocked Sebastian Vettel’s attempts to take the lead before the German spun at the della Roggia chicane, desperate to keep Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton behind. He dropped down to 18th, but was fifth at the flag, Hamilton lifted the win.
…for an altogether embarrassing episode for the Scuderia, one that Italy’s Gazetta dello Sport newspaper dubbed an “own goal”.
All with the fastest car, one that secured Ferrari’s first front-row lockout at Monza since 2000, 18 years prior.
SOUNDBITE (Italian) MAURIZIO ARRIVABENE,
FERRARI TEAM PRINCIPAL 2014-2019:
“It is an exceptional Ferrari. As a reference, as good as the one from 2002 and 2004, when the Reds would basically end the season many times in advanced positions.”
2019 began with plenty of promise, Ferrari topping the pre-season timesheets and the squad re-energised with a new team principal Mattia Binotto, a Scuderia lifer with a far more collaborative approach.
SOUNDBITE (English) MATTIA BINOTTO,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, FERRARI:
“Our team is very, very unique. I think it’s very well integrated and empowered. Each single individual, each single person knows exactly what he has to do. And I think if I look at the last three, four years, each single year we’ve done a step forward. And I fully trust them. We are on the right way.”
And the win chances were there before Belgium. In Bahrain, Leclerc was in control before suffering an injection system control unit failure.
In Canada, where Vettel finished first on the road but was penalised five-seconds, dropping him behind Hamilton, for going off-track on Lap 48, and unsafely returning to defend his place.
And at Austria’s stunning Red Bull Ring, where Leclerc was again in total control… but home-team hero Max Verstappen chased him down to take the lead two laps from home. Ferrari’s strategy too focused on Mercedes, instead of the galloping Red Bull.
SOUNDBITE (English) NICO ROSBERG,
2016 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Looking back at the race in Austria, for example, what a spectacular race. How much fun did we have watching that, so awesome. So that is what we want - some mixing things up, that’s what F1 needs. So I really hope that Ferrari and Red Bull step it up.”
Leclerc’s sensational Spa win was exactly what Ferrari had to do, with a significant power advantage. But the Scuderia is yet to be strong on all tracks, with a tight and twisty circuit ahead at F1’s original night race in Singapore.
The storied squad still searching for strength, which it had under its late former chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne.
SOUNDBITE (English) JARNO TRULLI,
F1 DRIVER 1997-2011:
“Ferrari has struggled since Marchionne has passed away. This is unfortunately a strong sign of who Marchionne was in Ferrari and what he was capable of. A strong man being capable of taking strong decisions.”
Monza ahead is an important chance to release some more pressure, but in front of a home crowd with massive expectations.
It’s a recipe for high emotion either way…