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Charles Leclerc holds off Mercedes pursuit to give Ferrari Monza win

Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Monza, Italy Sep 08, 2019, 08.17 PM (IST)

Charles Leclerc secured Ferrari’s first victory at their home Italian Grand Prix since 2010 on Sunday when he resisted race-long pressure from both Mercedes rivals to claim his second successive Formula One triumph.

The 21-year-old Monegasque, who dedicated his maiden win last Sunday to the memory of his late friend Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in an F2 race a day earlier, was exultant as a vast army of ‘tifosi’ in an estimated crowd of more than 150,000 celebrated deliriously.

"What a race!" said an exhausted Leclerc. "I have never felt so tired in a race. It was so difficult. For me, it is a dream to win here like this in front of the ‘tifosi’ – thanks to everyone!"

Lelcerc came home narrowly ahead of second-placed Valtteri Bottas and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who pursued the victor for most of the race until his tyres let him down. 

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After a late pit stop, Hamilton then claimed the fastest lap of the race.

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel endured a torrid and disappointing day, finishing 13th after spinning off and taking a penalty for rejoining in a dangerous fashion. 

Hamilton apologised to Mercedes and said his tyres "had gone off the cliff…. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to pull it off," he said.

The defending five-time champion now leads his Mercedes team-mate Bottas by 63 points in the drivers’ championship.

Daniel Ricciardo came home fourth ahead of his Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, Red Bull new boy Alex Albon, Sergio Perez of Force India and Max Verstappen, who finished eighth after starting from 19th in the second Red Bull.

Local hero Antonio Giovinazzi came home ninth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Lando Norris of McLaren, who continued his impressive rookie season.

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Hamilton, who finished third in Monza, still leads the drivers' standings with team-mate Bottas, second on Sunday, his closest challenger