What a race! We've now had four races since that wet weather masterclass in Germany where we've actually been intoxicated by Formula One. OK, we have to be truthful - we haven't actually changed anything, so it doesn't solve the problem we faced at the start of the season, but still, I'm happy to put changes on hold until it bores out again. I have to admit, I missed the final two laps of the grand prix because of a group outing, but I was intensely listening to the Radio 5 Live coverage, and leaping in the air like a moron when Leclerc crossed the line.
But anyway, here are the power rankings for this weekend at Monza:
1: CHARLES LECLERC (9.5/10)
Yes, young Leclerc did win in Spa last weekend, but that was partially down to the support of his now rear-gunner Vettel, but it was this weekend where we really saw why Ferrari promoted him to the big team after just one season in the sport.
After the Vettel/Stroll incident, Mercedes had endless strategy opportunities to gun down Leclerc, and to be fair to them, they did utilise this. Bottas went for more than half the race distance on his starting tyres, meaning he had fresh medium tyres for the end whilst Leclerc would be on old, hard tyres at the end, but surprisingly I have to hand it to Ferrari for their strategy - it was pure genius!
But the twenty-one year old Monegasque has to fend for himself, repeatedly putting off Lewis Hamilton lap after lap despite the Mercedes driver being within one second (the straight line speed of the Ferrari did help though), and eventually when Hamilton faded away, it was Bottas who was the new challenger, but to Leclerc, it was just another driver. He held out in the end by about seven tenths of a second, and he truly deserves all the credit he gets.
2: DANIEL RICCIARDO (9.5/10)
Whilst Leclerc pretty much had the perfect weekend with the win and the pole position in front of Ferrari's home crowd, Ricciardo had the best race of his Renault career. The 29 year old Australian has been struggling with the adjustment to the midfield, but qualifying fifth was a pretty solid start.
At the start of the race, he lost out to his team-mate, but came back and overtook him six laps later, and though Hulkenberg kept him on his toes, and yes, he did hugely benefit from the VSC, he never looked under pressure.
Thanks to the Vettel/Stroll incident, he inherited fourth place, and kept it for the whole of the race, finishing just 45 seconds behind race winner Charles Leclerc. It was a huge points haul for the Aussie who now stands eighth in the drivers championship and means Renault are only 18 points behind McLaren.
3: NICO HULKENBERG (8.5/10)
The man without a seat for 2020 just had a pretty good audition tape for Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso. Throughout Friday and Saturday, it seemed Ricciardo had better control of the car, probably because it was set up for more of his driving style. Nevertheless, The Hulk locked out the third row alongside his team-mate, and had one of the best starts of the 2019 season, taking his team-mate instantaneously, then swooping around Sebastian Vettel in the second chicane to temporarily hold fourth place outright.
Hulkenberg did admit he struggled with the car in the opening dozen laps or so, part of the reasoning behind him dropping behind his team-mate, but it should be mentioned before Ricciardo gained about 10-12 seconds from the VSC, Hulkenberg was consistently only about 3-4 seconds behind his team-mate.
And when it came to the final five laps of the race, the German did not crack under pressure when the faster Alexander Albon came around knocking on the door, holding out for fifth place, his best finish since Germany in 2018.
4: VALTTERI BOTTAS (8/10)
Sure, questions were surrounding Valtteri Bottas throughout the Summer break, whether or not he would be retained by Mercedes or not, but after it was announced he would be entering his fourth season with The Silver Arrows next year, his performance slowly but surely began to pick up.
A solid third place in Spa helped, and qualifying just 0.008 seconds behind arguably the best qualifier in the sport was solid. Once Vettel dropped out of contention, Bottas lagged about 3-4 seconds behind his team-mate in order to give him breathing space, and, thanks to some great tyre management, was able to play an alternative strategy, staying out longer to have fresher tyres nearer to the end.
In the end, it half worked. Hamilton's tyres faded in the pursuit of Leclerc, and this is where Bottas got his chance. Ultimately he didn't overtake the Ferrari driver, but he did consistently put pressure on the driver with older tyres, staying under one second behind. In the end, a second place was a fair result and showed why Mercedes perhaps needed him for 2020.
5: DANIIL KVYAT (8/10)
The twenty-five year old Russian was having an extremely quiet race when an oil leak stopped him from looking like he'd be able to collect some big points for Toro Rosso in their fight for fifth place with Renault.
Starting, 12th, Kvyat made up a few positions in the opening laps, and thanks to the pretty solid tyre management on the Toro Rosso and the Russian's overtaking abilities, he was able to get into sixth place behind the Renault's before his engine went kaput.
It would be likely that Albon would have overtaken him, leaving Kvyat to take seventh place, but when talking to my brother throughout the race, we were both remarking how Kvyat and Albon, one in the junior team, the other in the senior, were completely in the wrong positions. Kvyat was in sixth place for a majority of his time in the race, whilst Albon was in eighth place at the time. I'd be scratching my head if I were Horner or Marko to come up with a reason not to give the three-time podium taker the Red Bull seat in 2020.
6: SERGIO PEREZ (7.5/10)
It was another great race for Sergio Perez as Racing Point continue their resurgence before they get a huge upgrade in Singapore. After taking a relatively simple sixth place in Spa last weekend, Perez entered the weekend on expectations of more points, but starting eighteenth wasn't part of the plan when the car had the pace to get into Q3.
However, the Mexican, who renewed his Racing Point contract for the near future, worked his way up the leaderboard before benefitting hugely from the VSC like Ricciardo, and thanks to the retirements of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat, he was able to take a solid seventh place.
It should be mentioned whilst this all sounds rather easy, he did have to fend off Max Verstappen in the closing laps of the race, which says it all really.
7: LEWIS HAMILTON (7/10)
Though Lewis Hamilton may have wrapped up his sixth title, a fact that almost nobody cares about anymore, he seemed off guard throughout the weekend. Though the pundits were expecting Ferrari to waltz this one, deep down I knew that the Mercedes was actually the faster car around Monza, even in qualifying.
Second place wasn't a bad situation, and though Hamilton put pressure on Leclerc, when he went for his overtakes, he didn't look like he was fully committed, something that is very rare when it comes to Hamilton. Sure, he had a title fight to think about, but since France, he has only won two races. In fact since France if the championship started then, he would have only scored one more point than Charlie Leclerc. Says a lot doesn't it?
8: ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI (6.5/10)
I think Giovinazzi will be pleased with this weekend. When looking back at his first full season in Formula One, you would think that he should have scored more than one point by now. He should have scored in Baku when he qualified eighth thanks to a 10 place penalty, he should have finished eighth in Germany if it wasn't for the technical DSQ, and he should have finished ninth in Spa last weekend.
Qualifying tenth... well... eleventh, Giovinazzi had a strong start to the race, holding sixth place for quite some time before his tyres went and could not defend against the two Red Bull's and Sergio Perez. Nevertheless, a ninth place is still a strong result for the Italian.
There are three shout-outs I think that should be said. First off, we have George Russell. The Williams driver qualified fourteenth thanks to the penalties from quali, but, even thanks to the retirements during the race, managed to finish a remarkable 14th place, and even more impressively, just one lap down on the race leader. Another driver that should be mentioned is Pierre Gasly, who finished eleventh even though he lost multiple places due to the Stroll incident. Carlos Sainz as well. The Smooth Operator didn't have the best of times due to the pit stop error on McLaren's part, and would have likely finished in the lower reaches of the top ten, but nevertheless, the Spaniard was on for points.
As for the worst performers, it would have to go to the trio of Sebastian Vettel, Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll.
So what do you think? Did Charles Leclerc just drive the race of his career, or did Daniel Ricciardo have the better race overall? And what of the worst performer? Was Vettel's antics earlier on in the race enough for him to claim the wooden spoon, or was the mediocre racing by Grosjean or Stroll enough for them to be at the bottom? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.