Il leone, Il Grande John… Il Bambino?
It seems just a matter of time before Charles Leclerc earns a Ferrari sobriquet after he won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last month.
The young Monegasque resisted intense pressure from both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to secure Ferrari’s first home victory since Fernando Alonso won in 2010. It played out in front of an ecstatic home crowd who have clearly taken Leclerc to heart – a fact cemented when he answered podium questions in Italian rather than English.
It also raised yet more questions over the future of Ferrari team leader Sebastian Vettel, who spun on his own and then clipped Lance Stroll’s Racing Point when rejoining, copping a stop-go penalty that left him a disappointing 13th.
Leclerc, who took his first victory at Spa in the previous grand prix, now joins an exclusive club of just eight other drivers – Hamilton, Mansell, D.Hill, Häkkinen, Ascari, Collins, McLaren and Arnoux – who have doubled up immediately after their maiden victory.
His drive earned favourable comparisons with arguably Ferrari’s most famous son, Michael Schumacher.
According to Ross Brawn, who was technical director of Ferrari for 10 years during which Schumacher won five world titles, Leclerc’s combative drive brought to mind the single-mindedness of the brilliant German. “The Ferrari man did not back down and was on the limit of what the rules allow, as great champions always are and always have to be,” said Brawn. “The thing that impresses me most about him is how quickly he learns from everything he does, getting better all the time, as a driver and as a man.
“The last Ferrari driver to do this [win Spa and Monza back-to-back] in these two races was Michael in 1996. Maybe history is beginning to repeat itself.”
Schumacher dominated Formula 1 for Ferrari between 2000 and 2004. Leclerc, who turns 22 this month, has time on his side.
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