Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton have been all set to do battle back as they discuss a”box-office” front at Sunday’s Italian GP, together with home favourites Ferrari trying to finally end Mercedes’ Monza dominance.
Leclerc, Ferrari’s brand new superstar who only hauled off Hamilton one week back in Spa, starts on rod and will have the weight of a country on his shoulders as the in-form young Monegasque bids for the Scuderia’s first triumph before their ardent’Tifosi’ fans since 2010.
The race starts at 2.10pm on Sky Sports F1, with build-up at 12.30pm.
“Seeing all the fans as crazy as [Saturday] was unbelievable,” Leclerc advised Sky F1 after rolling out a eccentric qualifying session. “I actually hope to see them that way [on Sunday] under the podium.”
But with Sebastian Vettel just fourth in the Ferrari that is sister, Leclerc is exposed.
Hamilton begins behind the 21-year-old and will lead Mercedes’ charge before Valtteri Bottas, and the Silver Arrows are confident considering they’ve been considerably nearer to Ferrari than they ever anticipated the fastest track of F1.
“I really like that it’s that close and it is not several tenths,” said Hamilton, just 0.039s away Leclerc on Saturday.
Mercedes have won the past five races together with Hamilton the victor on each of those events. He handed Vettel to the first lap before hunting down team-mate Kimi Raikkonen’s following Ferrari’s qualifying one-two.
He is in a much greater position in 2019.
“I certainly think we can keep up with them,” added the championship leader, who will try to expand his 65-point advantage. “Whether or not we can close the gap and overtake them, time will tell.
“I need to be grateful that I’m on the front row. We expect to get a struggle. We have split them, so as a group it is a excellent position for us to be in.”
Leclerc stated:”It is going to become very, very difficult because, first of all, they’re fast, secondly, slipstream and DRS are extremely important . For certain it is going to be tough to keep them behind, although I think that the race pace is very good in Spa.
“I feel an excellent start from myself and from Seb will probably be extremely crucial for the fantastic result.” .
The possibility of Leclerc vs Hamilton enthuses the Paul Di Resta of sky F1 .
“It has box office,” said Di Resta. “Ferrari on pole gets the crowd going. They’ve embraced Charles.
“Lewis has to perform some overtaking to acquire this raceas he did this past year. Tricky circumstances, it should be useful.”
Vettel, without a victory in over a year, will start with Daniel Ricciardo before Nico Hulkenberg following their superb ahead of the Renaults. Carlos Sainz and Red Bull’s Alex Albon share the row.
And keep an eye out for a thrilling Max Verstappen series, together using the Dutchman behind Lando Norris along with Pierre Gasly who also have motor penalties.
Italian GP Provisional Grid
1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
5) Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
6) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault
7) Carlos Sainz,” McLaren
8) Alex Albon, Red Bull
9) Lance Stroll, Racing Point
10) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
11) Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
12) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
13) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
14) Romain Grosjean, Haas
15) Sergio Perez, swaying Point
16) George Russell, Williams
17) Sergey Sirotkin, Williams
18) Lando Norris, McLaren
19) Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso
20) Max Verstappen, Red Bull