Charles Leclerc says he is going into his first Italian GP as a Ferrari driver with a weight having been lifted from his shoulders after claiming his first Formula 1 at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend.
Ferrari looked quick in pre-season testing but had failed to take opportunities to win in Bahrain, Canada and Austria before Leclerc’s victory in Belgium last weekend.
“It was a very tough weekend for different reasons – obviously with what happened on Saturday, but also because we knew with the performance we had in the race it was going to be difficult because Mercedes were very, very strong with their race pace so it was a tough weekend,” Leclerc said. “But in the end we managed to put everything together.
“I think there was great teamwork between myself and especially Seb (Vettel), who did the job of keeping Lewis behind for a few a laps that have been very helpful for me towards the end of the race.
“Looking back, obviously I am very happy that this first win is done. It’s always difficult to do this first step, but once you do it, it takes quite a bit of weight off your shoulders, and of that I’m very proud. Not much time to actually think about it, because we are already four days later here in Italy and we need to focus fully on the job that we have to do here.”
Vettel himself has been winless for over a year, but says he has not been surprised by how well his young teammate has performed since being promoted to Ferrari in only his second season in F1.
“No, I think it’s positive that he’s surprised probably a lot of people outside, but inside I think we (knew),” Vettel said. “He’s been with Ferrari, with the Driver Academy for a while, and it was clear to see that he has a lot of potential. I think he had a very strong rookie season with Alfa, so it’s good to see that he’s right on the pace straight away.
“From a team point of view I think the most important is that we work together, not against each other. That seems to work, so that’s important. Otherwise it would be a bit of a waste of energy. So I think those are the key things.
“It’s obviously good. It was a big weekend for him last weekend, even though it was shadowed by the circumstances, the passing of Anthoine (Hubert), so not great but as he said, obviously it was his first one and I’m sure he’ll be around for a while so there will be a lot more.”