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F1: Charles Leclerc goes back-to-back with Italian GP victory

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One week after claiming his first Formula One victory, Charles Leclerc is a winner once again.

The 21-year-old Ferrari driver led all but eight laps in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, claiming the first victory for the legendary constructor in their home country since Fernando Alonso’s victory in 2010.

However, Leclerc didn’t simply run away with the victory. Instead, he spent the majority of the race holding off the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, both of whom challenged Leclerc for the lead of the race.

Leclerc kept Hamilton at bay early on in the race, but first came under pressure from the defending World Champion following the first set of pit stops.

After pitting a lap later than Hamilton, Leclerc changed to the hard tire compound before reentering the track just in front of the Briton

With Hamilton on the faster medium tire compound, he attempted to make a pass on Leclerc after both cleared Nico Hulkenburg.

Under Pressure from Hamilton entering the Turn 1 chicane, Leclerc defended his position but then moved across the track to the right, making contact with Hamilton and forcing him into the run-off area.

Leclerc was given a black-and-white flag warning for the move, which Hamilton described as “dangerous””, but still retained his position.

He would then lock up upon entering Turn 1 shortly after, cutting the second part of the chicane, which allowed Hamilton to challenge once again.

But with his softer tire compound quickly wearing off, Hamilton was unable to put up a proper fight.

Hamilton continued to remain just behind Leclerc for the next several laps, before locking up his front left tire when entering the chicane on Lap 42, forcing him on to the escape road and surrendering second place to teammate Bottas.

With Bottas now in second, he attempted to pick up the pace and put pressure on Leclerc, coming as close as a half second behind the leader.

However with too few laps remaining, the Finn could not make a pass for the lead and the Mercedes duo would have to settle for the second and third positions on the podium, as Leclerc took the checkered flag to claim his second victory in seven days.

“What a race!” Leclerc said following the second victory of his F1 career. “I’m very happy with this!”

The race was also a great one for the Renault duo of Daniel Riccardo and Hulkenburg, as the teammates finished in the fourth and fifth positions, respectfully.

Red Bull’s Alex Albon finished the race in sixth, while Max Verstappen, Antonio Giovinazzi and Lando Norris rounded out the Top 10.

The race was a disappointing one for Sebastian Vettel, who finished 13th after being handed a 10-second stop/go penalty for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner.

Vettel spun in the chicane on Lap 6, and pulled out in front of traffic, hitting Lance Stoll.

Full race results are below. The next race of the 2019 Formula One World Championship is the Singapore Grand Prix on September 22.

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Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”