Charles Leclerc didn’t just secure his first F1 win at the 2019 Belgium Grand Prix – he did so whilst resisting an onslaught of late-race pressure from five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
And the Mercedes man is predicting many more champagne moments from the driver now installed as F1's third-youngest winner.
Hamilton drove an inspired final 10 laps of the Belgian Grand Prix to erase a seven-second gap to Leclerc down to under one second at the line. But an equally-inspired Leclerc kept his head to record his maiden F1 victory, drawing praise from a dignified Hamilton.
“He’s been really unlucky in quite a few races this year – it could easily have been the third win today,” said Hamilton, referring to Leclerc’s near-misses for victory in Bahrain and Austria this season. “So there’s a lot more greatness to come from him and I’m looking forward to seeing his growth and racing alongside him. It was fun today, trying to chase him. He was just a little bit too quick.”
Leclerc’s performance – particularly coming in the aftermath of the death of his friend Anthoine Hubert in Saturday’s Formula 2 Feature Race – also drew praise from Leclerc’s Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto, who advised those in the paddock to start learning the Monaco national anthem, predicting that the Hymne Monegasque would be on heavy rotation on the podium in the coming years…
“He drove very well today, pushing from the first lap to the end, and he drove very well the entire weekend,” said Binotto. “And I think for him as well, it was important to win for Anthoine today, so he was very committed for that. He was willing it, so I’m happy.
“[He’s had] opportunities this season so far, we missed them and to win here in Spa – true it’s not probably the best time, let me say, for our very first victory, but [it’s] an important one as well… the first win for Charles, which is not the last one. We heard the [national anthem] of Monaco for the very first time here and we need to learn it, I’m pretty sure.”
Leclerc’s victory moved him to within 12 points of fourth-placed teammate Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ standings, with Max Verstappen a further 12 points away in third place, as F1 now heads to Ferrari’s home race at Monza.
Drivers' standings post-Spa
|1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||268|
|2 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||203|
|3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||181|
|4 Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari||169|
|5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||157|