F1 Italian GP: Can Ferrari Cling Onto Second In Both Championships? 

As the Italian GP approaches, Ferrari will be hoping for a stellar showing in their homeland, Rhonan Colquhoun reports.

(Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ferrari are approaching their home grand prix at the Temple of Speed in Monza but after a bruising Dutch GP, their lead driver in the championship has admitted that title success this season is “looking difficult”. 

After missing out on an eighth Pole Position of the season by only 0.022 of a second, Charles Leclerc kept in touch with eventual Dutch GP winner Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during the first stint of the race. After falling to fourth, a late switch to fresh rubber saw the Monegasque overtake Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for a spot on the final step of the podium. 

If it wasn’t for the deployment of the Safety Car for the stricken Alfa Romeo of Valterri Bottas, it was looking likely that the Scuderia wouldn’t have had a car on the podium having started the race in second with Leclerc and third with Carlos Sainz Jr. 

Leclerc, who led the championship after the first five races, recorded only his second podium in ten races and now finds himself level with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on 201 points each, however the pair trail Verstappen by an incredible 109 points.  

The Monegasque now admits that the odds of overturning the almost insurmountable points deficit is “looking difficult”. Over the next couple of race events, the Ferrari driver needs to start to heavily outscore Verstappen for the slimmest chance of title glory.  

If the cards fall his way, Verstappen will be crowned Champion if he scores well over the next two races – Monza and then Singapore. If the Dutchman leaves the night-race with a lead of 138 points, he’ll become a double World Champion.  

Winner of the 2019 Italian GP, his second career win, Leclerc doesn’t rate his chances of giving the Tifosi (fans of Ferrari) the result they want this weekend. The layout of the high-speed Monza circuit is unlikely to suit the F1-75 with Leclerc stating on F1.com: “On paper, it is not our best track unfortunately, but I’m looking forward to going.” 

Leclerc’s doubts about giving the Tifosi something to cheer and chant about were echoed by Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto. The leader of the Prancing Horse since 2019 said: “We will do our utmost to make our supporters proud of us, even if we already know it won’t be an easy race, given the performance level of our competitors.” 

However, there will be celebration among the Tifosi as the legendary car manufacturer celebrates their 75th Anniversary since the inception of the company. The Scuderia will run a special livery with splashes of yellow on different parts of the car with the companies “second colour” also appearing on the driver’s race suits.  

Most in the F1 Paddock believe that Verstappen has already wrapped up this year’s title and it would need a complete implosion from himself and his Red Bull team to throw away such an advantage. The attention switches on the battle to finish second to the Dutchman which is hotly contested.  

With more wins this season, Leclerc occupies second despite being level on points with Perez. The duo are only 13 points ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, who’s the highest driver in the championship having not won a race, and 26 ahead of Sainz.  

Not only is there a chance that the early championship protagonist could not even finish runner-up, that Ferrari could lose out to Mercedes who have yet to reach the top step of the podium this season. 

The Scuderia, who have won two of the last nine races, find themselves 135 points behind Red Bull but more alarmingly, there’s only 30 points separating them and the resurgent Mercedes.  

Mercedes have stuck around in the title fight for the majority of this season despite not having a car that matches the likes of the RB18 or the F1-75. However, their consistency and reliability has meant they’ve picked up the podiums and points when their rivals have faltered.  

The Silver Arrows were on course for a potential victory round Zandvoort with Hamilton and Russell attempting a one-stop strategy from Mediums to Hards. If it was a trouble-free race, the British duo would have desperately tried to hold off Verstappen’s charge but had the pace on the Hard tyre to have secured a two-three finish instead.  

The amount of pace that both Hamilton and Russell demonstrated on the Hard compound tyre was evident but it came as a surprise to Leclerc. The Monegasque said: “The surprise is mostly Mercedes on the hard tyres, they were extremely quick today.” 

There’s now a real threat that Ferrari might not even finish second and given their early season pace, it’ll come as a huge disappointment if they aren’t to finish at least runners-up.  

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