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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer
Charles Leclerc demonstrated on the way to his Formula 1 victory that was overdue – that the strength of nature and strength that’s an indispensable part of the make-up of a grand prix driver – on Sunday.
The 21-year-old took a triumph – in the Grand Prix under intense pressure from Lewis Hamilton – which should have come before the backdrop of the passing of a man he’s known and hurried against for much of his life.
One of his opponents was Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in an accident of dreadful violence at Saturday’s Formula 2 race in the circuit when Leclerc took a part in his first race.
Leclerc stated – of himself, Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly along with Mercedes book Esteban Ocon -“we have been kids dreaming of F1 and we’ve grown up together. To lose him was a very major shock for me and everybody else in motorsport and an extremely gloomy day”.
It even took the shine off what should have been one of the happiest times of the life of Leclerc . To say the least.
“it’s quite tricky to enjoy this first win with the scenario that we had yesterday. Overall it signifies a dream come true. I have been looking a Formula 1 driver, that occurred to F1, dreaming of being first up and then driving for Ferrari this year and also the win now.
“It is a good day but on the other hand losing Anthoine yesterday brings me back to 2005, my first French (karting) championship has been him. It’s quite tricky to enjoy it completely today but hopefully in two or three months I will realise exactly what happened today.”
Coping with these types of events is a part of the job description to get a racing driver, as explained in my post. But that doesn’t mean it is easy or trivial.
It isn’t the very first time he’s suffered a loss of someone close to him in his career. As is well recorded, he was the godson of the F1 driver Jules Bianchi, who suffered head injuries in an accident in the Grand Prix five decades back.
Leclerc has clarified many times how the passing of Bianchi – that, at only eight years older than himwas like a big brother, and that had been instrumental in directing him through his formative years at the sport – simply made him more determined to succeed.
Nevertheless, it is 1 thing to say , and quite another to really go out and perform it, and risk your own life at precisely exactly the exact identical action that killed someone close.
After the race, on Sunday, Hamilton Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas offered some insight.
“For everybody, I suppose, but for me it was the first situation like that where we lose somebody on a track where you want to race the day later,” Leclerc said. “It’s obviously quite challenging to close the visor and proceed through this exact same corner at the identical speed you did earlier, but that is what you have to do ultimately.”
Hamilton said:”You compartmentalise it, move forwards, get in and do your job. In the racer’s and also an athlete’s point of view, you switch to a zone, and it’s quite simple to switch inside that zone”
“When you visit the zone,” Bottas added. “There are not any distractions.”
Their replies were subdued and short, and delivered understandably from the conditions. Perhaps it pays not to need to talk about it too much when the wounds are raw, the feelings so perceptible and conflicted.
On Saturday,” Hamilton had posted an eloquent message on social media, the way it can not be safe, and underlining his profession’s potential dangers. Following the race, his crew manager Toto Wolff explained the background into the world champion’s choice to do that.
“it’s quite difficult to relate to what is happening in a car when you haven’t ever driven a race car at these speeds,” Wolff said.
“Whether it’s in junior formulae, all the way to F1, at GT cars, or even prototypes, it is still a’ gladiators’ game. It is about courage, skill, risk-taking. But through a camera lens you will never realise exactly what it seems like.
“We were fortunate enough for many years not to have these types of mishaps and maybe forgotten how dangerous the game is. And that is what Lewis wanted to say. I can totally relate to this.
“Should you push towards Eau Rouge using 260-270km/h, that resembles a 90-degree corner and you also just take it level, it is beyond knowing that these men do what they do and it could end fatally, just like it did yesterday.”
Leclerc would certainly not have picked such situation for his first win, and he would probably have done with an easier race, for that was a success difficult won, but against the competition.
Their prodigious speed easily making up for their relative weakness in comparison to Mercedes in the corners of the centre sector of Spa, qualifying had been dominated by ferrari.
However, their use was going to make matters difficult from the race, and, as anticipated, Hamilton mounted an attack on the cars that nearly came off.
Hamilton turned up the pressure on the German, that struggled with his pace and his tyres as Leclerc constructed a tiny lead at the first 10 laps over Sebastian Vettel.
Into pitting Vettel sooner than they might have wanted, and from that moment his race was given Ferrari’s tyre administration hamilton’s proximity forced Ferrari.
It gave Vettel the lead when Hamilton and Leclerc pitted a couple of laps later, and briefly Leclerc wondered whether – again – a win would slip through his hands, following releases in Azerbaijan Bahrain and Austria.
However, it soon became apparent that Vettel was in no fit condition to maintain him off. Ferrari ordered him to let his team-mate go, Since Leclerc closed in a lap .
Still, though, Vettel managed to have a hand within his team-mate’s win. He was able to maintain off Hamilton giving an opportunity to construct a little advantage on the Mercedes, which it became apparent he desired to Leclerc.
Had either Vettel never held Hamilton back for as long as he did, or’d Mercedes pitted Hamilton on the same lap like Leclerc, the entire world champion might have won the racegiven he ended up on Leclerc’s tail. But the Monegasque did.
“If you would have given me a second and next in Spa,” Mercedes team supervisor Wolff explained,”I would have taken it prior to the race because we understand that our package compared to the Ferraris using the straight-line rate is poor.
“Having said this, if we had optimised our race, which you may only do post-race by being super-intelligent and saying exactly what could have been, maybe we might have pitted one or even 2 laps earlier. The pit stop might have been a tiny bit faster and we’d have been in his gearbox for the previous two laps.
“However there are many ifs which I’m happy with second and third.”
Traditionally, a triumph is that an F1 driver declares themselves as a real rival in F1. For Leclerc, though, it’s different. That came.
It’s been evident that this was a guy who was likely to turn into a part of F1 over the next ten years. His debut year for Sauber last season was outstanding, and his skill is still raw in certain factors, and although a couple errors have been made by him, his second from the pressure of Ferrari has been no less so.
Many suspected that he would provide a run for his money this year to Vettel and thus it’s proved.
Leclerc has the four-time champion for the past six races in a row. Over the season up to now , he is faster than Vettel over a lap on average by 0.13secs. He has three pole positions into the one of Vettel, and now he has come to be the first Ferrari driver to win a race.
Vettel must have won in Canada, but due to subsequent controversial penalty and his mistake, but had his season gone differently that this might happen to be the third or maybe fourth triumph of Leclerc.
He is slowly but surely establishing himself as Ferrari’s lead driver, a scenario that’s very uncomfortable for Vettel, awarded general status and his statistical achievement in the game. And Vettel currently faces a considerable job sustaining his position.
The admiration between Hamilton and Leclerc has become clear Since the season has progressed. Leclerc clearly equaling Hamilton because of his talent and his success. And Hamilton, who’s treated the guy with warmth, hasn’t troubled to conceal his regard for Leclerc’s talent and potential.
“His results speak for themselves, actually,” Hamilton stated. “It’s not easy for any driver to jump into a leading group, let alone Ferrari, against a four-time world champion, God knows just a little more experience. To continuously from race one out-qualify and out-drive a four-time world winner isn’t easy to do.
“He’s been very unlucky in many races this season. Can easily have become the third win today. There’s a whole good deal more shame to come from him and I’m looking forward to seeing his growth and racing together with him. It was fun today. He was only a tiny bit too fast.”