‘Charles Leclerc prepares to fulfil childhood Monaco dream’

Comment on the photo, Charles Leclerc finished first three times in his home race in Monaco

  • author, Andrew Benson in Monaco
  • Role, F1 correspondent in Monaco

Charles Leclerc said after finishing pole at the Monaco Grand Prix that he had dreamed of winning his home race “since he was a child”.

The dream is close to becoming a reality – they say that getting first place is 90% of the way to winning the Monaco Grand Prix, where overtaking is almost impossible.

But Leclerc knows better than anyone that that’s not necessarily the case – his and Ferrari’s job now is to make sure they don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the way they did the last two times he qualified at the front of the grid. .

This is Leclerc’s third place in Monaco in four races there. The previous two times something had gone wrong.

He was asked after qualifying on Saturday: Will he be lucky for the third time?

“I hope so,” he said. “I hope you’re right. The best thing I can do now is to focus on the entire process so that I can be as prepared as possible for tomorrow.

“I really hope this is the right thing. We’ve been so competitive here… forever and I’ve never had the final result I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.

He added: “I hope tomorrow is today but in the meantime I have to focus on everything that will put us in the best position to achieve this.”

Leclerc was in fantastic form all weekend, looking more at home on the streets than anyone else, a fact demonstrated by the fact that his margin over McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in second place was greater than that between Piastri and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the Unfamiliar. Sixth place.

Ferrari found themselves in the same pole positions as they were in Singapore last year – when Carlos Sainz was first and Leclerc third, this time with George Russell’s Mercedes between them.

As in Singapore, Verstappen is a long way from being a real threat in a normal race – one in which a driver can control from the front at whatever speed he wants, because overtaking is so difficult.

At Marina Bay, Ferrari went into the race with a strategy of doing everything they could to ensure Sainz’s victory, with Leclerc beating Russell off the line and then backing up the pack before the pit stops to ensure Sainz would not be overtaken. I sacrificed Leclerc’s race, but it was all about Ferrari winning.

The plan will be the same on Sunday, whatever happens at the start, whether Sainz passes Piastri or not.

“The focus will be on what we can do to win the race with Charles,” Sainz said. “He deserves to win Monaco after his career. He has been very strong all week and in the past. Tomorrow is the day I hope it happens.”

Leclerc said he was feeling stressed before qualifying and that he needed to change the engine before it did much to calm him down.

But he put in a stylish performance, setting a lap 0.154 seconds faster than Piastri.

“Monaco qualifying is always very special, because as a driver you have to give everything you can and not leave any centimeters behind,” Leclerc said.

“That means close to the wall. That means the risk of collapse is very, very high next Q3. But that’s what excites me.

“When I get to Q3, I’m thrilled. As nervous as it is, I’m pretty sure I have a smile on my face as I go around the lap, just because the feeling of going around the lap is so amazing.

He said the pressure will not be the same as it is before the race – he will ensure that by focusing on the start, on the strategy and all the little details that have to go right to ensure victory.

“I can’t think how I would feel (if I won),” he said. “I have a lot to gain by focusing on how to get there.”

He could hardly be human, however, if his mind had not at some point wandered from what had gone wrong the last two times he had been in that situation.

In 2022, he was involved in an accident on the last lap of qualifying. The incident secured his pole by ensuring that no one would have the chance to beat him.

Ferrari inspected the car before the race and found nothing wrong. But they somehow failed to detect a driveshaft failure and it broke when he left the pits to go to the grid.

The following year, he converted pole position into a lead into Turn 1, and that was enough to win, even in a race that started wet and was trending dry.

But this time Ferrari made a mistake in its strategy, allowing Leclerc to pass both the Red Bulls and his teammate Carlos Sainz, somehow turning his potential win into fourth place.

Leclerc noted that Ferrari is “a better team now,” referring to the changes that have been evident under coach Frederic Vasseur since he joined for 2023. Since then he has clearly improved many aspects of the team’s operations.

However, Leclerc knows he can’t take anything seriously on Sunday. The race is long and tactical, and even if overtaking is impossible on track, there are countless ways a win can be lost.

“We can only focus on what we can control,” he added. “If we don’t have a good start, we won’t maintain our position into Turn 1, but I’ve had good starts recently so I’m not worried.

“In the past we didn’t have the success we wanted, but I don’t want to think about that anymore, and I’m sure we will have good success tomorrow.”

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