Charles Leclerc says Italian GP win beyond all his Ferrari dreams
"It's gone beyond all the dreams I had as a child," says Leclerc - who has been heralded as a 'national treasure' in Italy
By Matt Morlidge at Monza
Last Updated: 09/09/19 12:14pm
Charles Leclerc has admitted that the Italian GP and the wild celebrations that followed exceeded all of his childhood dreams, with Ferrari's new hero hailed as a 'national treasure' after his stunning victory.
Leclerc was roared on throughout his epic drive at Ferrari's home race and, after a huge exhale of emotion upon the chequered flag, the 21-year-old was greeted by a sea of red and the famous Tifosi as he stepped on the podium as the Scuderia's first Monza race-winner since 2010.
Leclerc, a self-proclaimed Ferrari fan from the age of five, grew up dreaming of winning races in red - but nothing quite prepared him for this.
"It's gone beyond all the dreams I had as a child," said Leclerc. "To see all the people for one team, singing altogether - it's amazing.
"I've never been on a podium with so many people underneath it and to see that the whole straight was full of people - 99 per cent red - it was great to see. Hearing them cheering, singing... there was just a lot of emotions."
Leclerc has been heralded as a future world champion after his Monza masterclass, with the youngster withstanding a Mercedes barrage as Lewis Hamilton, and then Valtteri Bottas, threw everything at the pole-sitter to get past.
Even Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insisted: "Ferrari have an upcoming great."
Leclerc admitted his defence from Hamilton was "very on the limit", but also that he'd do anything to not let this opportunity pass. A Ferrari driver on top of the podium in front of the Tifosi is one of F1's great scenes, and Leclerc understandably found it difficult to stay focused in the closing stages of the race.
"On the last two laps I started to see in the grandstand that there was quite a lot of agitation, that all of the fans were jumping," he said.
"So yeah, I was telling myself 'stop looking at the grandstand, look at the track, focus on what you are doing as a driver and then you can enjoy whatever there is outside.'
"But it was quite difficult to stay focused on driving, seeing how much movement there was in the grandstand."
Leclerc added to Sky F1: "It's the first time in my career I actually look at the grandstand while driving, which is normally not so good but I just had no choice.
"They were just jumping and cheering all race long, it was amazing to see. Just to win here feels very, very special."
Leclerc the 'national treasure'
Leclerc's Ferrari victory didn't only earn praise from fans, drivers and team bosses - but also from Italy's newspapers on Monday.
La Gazzetta dello Sport heralded him as a 'national treasure'.
Corriere dello Sport crowned 'king' Leclerc, while also claiming the Leclerc era had started.
Too young for Ferrari? Think again...
Leclerc became the second-youngest driver in Ferrari's history when he joined this year following a dazzling rookie season in F1 and said wins like Monza showed he was "more ready than some people thought".
"It's not been an easy start to the season, there's been a few mistakes," he told reporters on Sunday night. "But I think I've grown.
"I understood the critics of last year, me being too young. Second year in Formula 1 and already in Ferrari was early, for sure.
"I thank Ferrari for believing in me. I'm very happy to have these kind of results to show that I was maybe more ready than some people thought.