Leclerc destined for greatness: Hamilton

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium): Lewis Hamilton on Monday he predicted more success for his triumphant Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc and tipped the Monegasque driver as the favorite for this week Italian Grand Prix in Monza

After finishing second behind Leclerc at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, a race weekend eclipsed by the death of the French Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert a day earlier, Hamilton predicted that, having finally secured his first victory, Leclerc would now get more victories.

Ferrari are going to have a happy weekend at Monza, said the defending five-time champion and current series leader.

They are much faster than us and Monza is straight ahead ... We will do our best, but it will be hard work to match them.

Hamilton increased his lead in this year's title race to 69 points ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who came home third, and rushed to praise Leclerc, 21, for his low performance. Pressure.

Leclerc, who started from pole and resisted Hamilton's intense pressure while chasing him in the final laps, dedicated his victory to his late friend Hubert.

He did a great job, Hamilton said. Even if we had different strategies, it would have been difficult to defeat him. He deserved to win.

Leclerc, widely tipped as a future champion, performed with grace and humanity on and off the circuit during a stressful race weekend that saw him move within 12 points of his Ferrari team-mate and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' standings .

He has now out-qualified Vettel at six races in succession, leaving the German battling to retain his status as Ferrari 's lead driver.

On Sunday, Vettel was asked to stop and allow Leclerc to pass mid-career to finish fourth. It has been more than a year since his last victory, ironically in Belgium in 2018.

I think his results speak for themselves, Hamilton added, referring to Leclerc, who has achieved five podiums in his last seven outings.

It's not easy for any driver to jump into a top team, let alone Ferrari ... and then to be continuous from race one, out-perform, out-qualify and out-drive a four-time world champion is not easy to do.

So I think that speaks for itself. He has been really unlucky in many races this year. It could have been easily the third victory today.

Therefore, there is much greater greatness to come from him and I am eager to see his growth and run alongside him ... Today, it was fun, trying to chase him. It was too fast.

While Leclerc finally achieved victory, another young driver was impressed by finishing fifth: Red Bull rookie Alex Albon rose from 17 to ensure a good result in his first race with the team after the promotion of Toro Rosso.

I am very impressed with Alex's performance and made a great recovery in his first race, said Red Bull team leader Christian Horner of the London-born Thai driver.

His Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen had a bad start and retired after crashing in the first round.

I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed this race, Albon said. I started the weekend very nervous and if you had told me that I would finish the fifth race I would be very happy, but now I am a little more relaxed.