By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) - Ferrari junior driver Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, was an F2 winner at Monza on Saturday to lighten some of the gloom for Formula One's oldest and most glamorous team at their home Italian Grand Prix.
A year on from Charles Leclerc securing pole in front of the massed ranks of tifosi, the feverish fans who fill the former royal park in their tens of thousands, it was a very different story at the top.
Ferrari are going through one of their worst slumps, and potentially their worst season in 40 years.
Leclerc qualified only 13th, extracting the most he could from a car lacking straight line speed at the fastest track on the calendar, while four-times champion Sebastian Vettel was 17th.
It was the first time since 1984 that Ferrari had failed to qualify a car in the top 10 at Monza and followed a similar nightmare in Belgium last weekend that resulted in a race without points.
"We expected it a little bit coming into the weekend. We knew that Spa and here are probably the two worst tracks for us... but for now it's like this," said Leclerc, last year's winner.
"It’s tough, because once you do a good lap and you end up P13 it doesn’t feel good.
"It hurts even more as this is our home race but it’s the reality at the moment for us, unfortunately."
Sporting director Laurent Mekies agreed but welcomed Schumacher's success at a track where his father once delighted the fans, who were sadly absent on Saturday due to COVID-19 restrictions with the race run behind closed doors.
"On a difficult day like this, there was one ray of sunshine... with Mick Schumacher taking his first win of the season," he said.
"It’s great to see that, at the moment, the top three in the series, leader Robert Shwartzman, Callum Ilott and Mick himself, are all products of our Academy."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)