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The Leclerc era begins at Monza, with Vettel's Ferrari time up

The Leclerc era begins at Monza, with Vettel's Ferrari time up



The Leclerc era begins at Monza, with Vettel's Ferrari time up

The Leclerc era begins at Monza, with Vettel's Ferrari time up

Alberto Ascari, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Ludovico Scarfiotti, Clay Regazzoni, Jody Scheckter, Gerhard Berger, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso.

And now Charles Leclerc, too.

There can surely be few thrills in all of sport that come close to winning an Italian Grand Prix at Monza and the 21-year-old from Monaco is just the 11th person to have lived out that particular dream.

A second win in eight days has not only ticked a big one off Leclerc's bucket list, but it has provided the fork in the road for Ferrari's future.

Surely now, the team is Leclerc's to lead, with the Sebastian Vettel era coming to its conclusion in the clumsy manner that has characterised it for the past year.

Vettel was perhaps justified in his frustrations when he missed out on a proper hot lap in qualifying and was lumbered with fourth place on the grid, but his performance from there was indicative of a wider struggle that has gone on too long now and has surely escaped 'blip' status.

Hopes of recovering a podium finish were hampered in dropping behind Nico Hulkenberg early and, although the Renault was quickly dispatched, a spin at the Ascari Chicane under no pressure was the latest in a catalogue of mishaps.

After the chequered flag the contrast was all the more stark. Leclerc cruised home with marshals bowing to him, radio messages of congratulations from the team and of course the moment on the best podium in F1 above a sea of red.

Vettel walked through parc ferme with his visor down and is now beneath Leclerc in the drivers' standings for the first time. It may not just be symbolic, but truly seismic in the Scuderia's future.

Before a lap had been raced this year, Leclerc was speaking of his determination to reverse the "priority" bestowed on Vettel, which caused chaos in the early races of the season when the Monegasque showed he would not accept his place in behind Vettel as Kimi Raikkonen had done for four years prior.

Since a rueful Monaco Grand Prix, in which Leclerc was let down by Ferrari's qualifying strategy and then angrily raced his way to a DNF on his home streets, the 21-year-old has been re-energised, outqualifying Vettel in all but one race and outscoring him by 140 points to 106.

Leclerc has now moved ahead of Vettel in the standings, and would have overtaken Max Verstappen for third place too, had the Red Bull not recovered so well to eighth at Monza.

But it is the other milestones that mark out Leclerc's ascension above Vettel.

Breaking Ferrari's duck in a dismal 2019 season, securing the first win at Spa, and then ending a drought at Monza that Vettel had been powerless to quench in the face of Mercedes dominance.

Perhaps Leclerc took to the car just at the right time, given the SF90 is finally quicker than Mercedes' car, in a straight line at least, but he has delivered where Vettel has so often failed in the past season and a half.

The unflappable nature of this win in the face of enormous pressure from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will serve Leclerc well in the years to come.

Whether we will see a Hamilton-Leclerc title fight remains unclear. The hints of a Leclerc-Verstappen battle that we have seen this year certainly whet the appetite.

But it seems crystal clear now that the future of Ferrari is wedded to Leclerc and Vettel may soon be little more than a frustrating figment of its past.


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