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How Leclerc cemented his place as Ferrari's new star
Fending off Michael Schumacher for a whole race at Imola in 2005 cemented Fernando Alonso's claim to F1 greatness. The way Charles Leclerc resisted Mercedes' Monza attacks was Ferrari's new star's equivalent
The 2019 Italian Grand Prix was Formula 1 at its best – at least for the first 41 laps. Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton didn't trade the lead once, but from the moment the race started until the Mercedes driver's mistake on the brakes at Turn 1 on lap 42 through to Valtteri Bottas's late chase, it was a race on a knife edge. Tense, tight, briefly explosive and relentless, it had echoes of the legendary Michael Schumacher versus Fernando Alonso battles at Imola in 2005-6.
For 63 minutes, Leclerc could not let up. Save for the two laps on which first the Ferrari driver and then Hamilton pitted, there was never more than 1.589 seconds between them at the end of the lap. On average, the gap at the line was just 0.951s. Leclerc's first win at Spa the weekend before might have been the breakthrough, but it was his victory at Monza under the most intense pressure from one of grand prix racing's true greats that signalled he has come of age in a race where teammate Sebastian Vettel made yet another costly error.
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