It is been a pretty hectic return to action with back to back races in Belgian and then Italy, during this period Chares Leclerc became an instant superhero in his Red Cape as he steered Ferrari to winning ways finally.
It has been a long drought – Kimi Raikkonen won for them in Texas late last year but it does seem an age away. So much has changed at the Scuderia since then and the result is that their Little Prince has risen to become King of Maranello as the demise of his predecessor Sebastian Vettel continued in freefall at the worst time and place possible.
Monza on Sunday was the German’s darkest race day and, cruelly, Charles’ finest day to date and a massive victory for Ferrari and the team boss Mattia Binotto.
It might’ve been a perfect day for the Reds…perfect would’ve been Seb not making another one of his silly mistakes and the pair taking a one-two in front of the tifosi. But the older guy did not stick to the script.
Although the driver battle is super intriguing, the reality is that Ferrari are back to their winning ways and the sport dearly needs that. The magnificent might of Mercedes is finally being challenged, perhaps it is track specific but for the first time since the birth of the hybrid-turbo era, I felt Mercedes had no more ammo to give their drivers.
Valtteri Bottas observed that even with DRS wide open on his car, plus the slipstream, The Merc was unable to keep up with Leclerc without the Ferrari’s DRS deployed. That’s some serious horsepower. If Renault are boasting 1000bhp with their package, what is the SF90 hitting I wonder?
Mercedes may have well met their match in terms of the power stakes. In the aero department, team chief Mattia Binotto has to pull the rabbit out of the hat in the two weeks between highspeed Monza and the confines of Marina Bay Street Circuit.
We cannot expect a similar advantage, but I would venture that young Charles has found the sweetspot with the car and he will make the difference, much as he did at Monza. It’s tough to overtake at the Temple of Speed, but Singapore is worse. If the #16 Ferrari can start from pole, Merc might have a problem.
In terms of the championship, Mercedes has the F1 constructors’ all but wrapped up for an incredible sixth successive year, having done the business in the first half of the season. Similarly, Lewis Hamilton has his one hand on the 2019 title, and it is just a matter of where the coronation will take place. Probably Mexico or USA…
Having said that, I was very surprised that at Spa and Monza the silver cars did not have more party-mode to unleash when needed in qualy and then in the race. Be sure they won’t be happy to wrap up their titles without a hard fight, but they do have a comfort zone to work within.
The biggest strength Mercedes have is they don’t know how to lose so they will do whatever it takes to avoid doing so. It will be interesting to see what their ‘war-factory’ at Brackley will unleash to counter the cavalinos.
Most regulars know that personally I am not a Ferrari fan as my F1 has always been about the drivers. So I fancied Lotus because of Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx; Brabham (because of Carlos Reutemann and designer Gordon Murray); and then McLaren because of how Ron Dennis transformed Teddy Mayer’s hardware store style team into the benchmark outfit in F1 for many years. And of course Ayrton drove for them…
But on Sunday, I got the old goosebumps when Charles sent Monza, make that the whole of Italy, into a frenzy of happy celebration. That’s box office stuff that we sorely needed to whet the appetite for the second half of the campaign whereby the title race is all but decided. Netflix have hit the jackpot just when the plot was going all silver!
The debate that F1 can survive without Ferrari crops up on occasions and, for the doubters, days like this are evidence that the heart of F1 is indeed Maranello, from where pumps the passion that makes the pinnacle of the sport irresistible – whether you are a Red or not.
And for the young generation out there, cherish what you experienced in this past week because when you are old one day these are the F1 races that will return to enchant you and your mates.