F1: Charles Leclerc Fends Off Late Charge From Valtteri Bottas To Win Italian GP

Charles Leclerc fended off attacks from both the Mercedes drivers to win the Italian GP, securing his career's second victory.

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Charles Leclerc crossed the chequered flag, 0.835s clear of Bottas claiming a hard fought win

Charles Leclerc bagged his second consecutive win of the season, beating Valtteri Bottas to win the 2019 Italian Grand Prix. The Scuderia Ferrari racer fended off the late charge from the Mercedes driver in the closing stages, securing his career's second victory in the premier class.  Finishing on the podium was Bottas followed by teammate Lewis Hamilton, while Daniel Ricciardo of Renault finished fourth, his best result so far this season. The Italian GP saw the grandstand at Monza in a sea of red at Ferrari's home race.

Leclerc started the Italian GP on pole and held on to the position for whole of the race with both the Mercedes drivers on his tail. The reigning champion was breathing down Leclerc's neck in the initial stages and was the first to pit for a fresh set of mediums, giving him an advantage. Charles pitted a lap later and swapped for hard tyres, which allowed Hamilton to catch up with the Ferrari. Hamilton chased the Ferrari driver for more than 20 laps, with Leclerc keeping him at bay for most of the race. The duel was intense and the clear highlight of the 53-lap race with some exciting wheel-to-wheel action.

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It was a perfect win for Ferrari fans at the team's home race in Monza

Hamilton had a first real chance to pass Leclerc on Lap 23 after Leclerc made a minor delay to pass Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, forcing the Ferrari into the first chicane. Leclerc defended his position from the W10 and even made contact with the car forcing Hamilton into the run-off. The Ferrari received a black-and-white flag for the move, but no penalty was handed to the driver, despite Hamilton terming the move as "dangerous driving."

Hamilton tried to pass again a couple of laps later after Leclerc had a small lock up at the first chicane and gave Hamilton the lead briefly out of the corner. However, the Ferrari driver blocked Hamilton for the second time, regaining the lead. Hamilton tried once again but couldn't make a successful attempt to pass the Ferrari. It was on Lap 42 that Hamilton took the escape road, allowing Bottas to move into P2 and chase down the Ferrari. With a fresh set of tyres, the move helped since Valtteri was able to eat into the gap over Leclerc and was adrift by just 3s. Bottas managed to get within the DRS range with six laps left and further dropped the margin between the two drivers. However, it still wasn't enough as Leclerc clearly had the better drive for the day and won the race by 0.835s.

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Bottas launched a late attack on Leclerc and also managed to get within DRS range by the closing stages

Hamilton finished a distant third, 35.199s over the race leader, while Ricciardo had a promising race after falling behind teammate Hulkenberg early in the race, only to pass him later and assume fourth after Sebastian Vettel spun. Ricciardo held on to the position over Hulkenberg, who finished fifth ahead of Red Bull Racing's Alex Albon. Racing Point's Sergio Perez secured seventh after starting 18th in the race, benefitting a virtual safety car around his pitstop. Red Bull's Max Verstappen soldiered to P8 after breaking his front wing in the first corner of the race, and had to pit for new parts. The final points were taken by Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi followed by Lando Norris in 10th place after starting 16th on the grid.

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Leclerc locked up into Turn 1 under pressure from Hamilton and misses the apex on Lap 36

Having started fourth, Sebastian Vettel eventually finished 13th after spinning on Lap 6. The driver rejoined unsafely after the spin and clipped Racing Point's Lance Stroll into a spin, who was running at P7 at the time. Stroll too rejoined only to push Pierre Gasly into gravel at the exit of the Ascari chicane. Vettel's unsafe return set of a chain reaction and the driver was handed out a 10-second penalty as a result, which pushed the driver out of the points table. Meanwhile, Stroll was hit with a drivethrough for his unsafe return to the track and finished at P12 behind Gasly.

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Vettel received a 10-second penalty for his unsafe return after spinning on Lap 7

The drivers crossing the chequered flag were Williams' George Russell, Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Robert Kubica of Williams. The race also saw three retirements with Carlos Sainz of McLaren after his car's front right wheel was not attached properly during the pitstop. Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat also came to a halt due to mechanical issues after running inside the top 10. The last retirement was Kevin Magnuessen after locking up at Turn 1.

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Despite the third place finish, Hamilton continues to lead the championship by 63 points over Bottas, while Leclerc has had a huge jump with two back-to-back wins and stands fourth, three points off Verstappen. With the next race scheduled in Singapore, it will be interesting to see how both Leclerc and Verstappen perform with the stakes higher than ever.

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