Monaco Grand Prix: ‘Charles Leclerc achieves ultimate dream’

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Leclerc achieved his sixth victory in his career in Monaco

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

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said he had “tears in my eyes” on the verge of completing what he described as the “ultimate dream” and winning the Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc seemed destined to win this race for a long time – but somehow fate stood in his way for a while. As it turned out, that helped make the moment even sweeter when she finally arrived.

Leclerc was born in Monaco. The 26-year-old grew up on the streets where he masterfully drove throughout the three days of this year’s event. As a child, he watched racing from the balconies of friends whose apartments overlooked the track, and his ambition to become a Formula 1 driver was born.

He lost his father, Herve, to cancer, a year before he arrived in Formula 1 for the first time. Before that he had been on pole twice in Monaco, which in Formula 1 they say is 90% of the way to winning the race, but events snatched the grand prix from his grasp.

“My father did everything for me to get to where I am today,” Leclerc said. “Our dream was to race and win at Monaco in Formula 1. When I was younger I never imagined that one day I would race for Ferrari and win this race, so obviously that was the ultimate dream before becoming world champion.”

“I felt like I had completed not only my dream, but my father’s dream as well. And my mother who has supported me in everything I’ve done since and who was an incredibly strong woman when we all lost my father.

He said his family was in the pits, and he had friends watching all around the track. It all made for a “very, very special feeling.”

Monaco submits to his will

Leclerc took complete control of the race, taking advantage of the fact that overtaking is largely impossible in Monaco to make one set of hard tires last the entire distance after the race was stopped and then restarted after a first-lap collision.

But the emotions almost overwhelmed him at one point.

“I actually realized two laps before the end that I was struggling to see out of the tunnel just because I had tears in my eyes,” Leclerc said. “And I said to myself: ‘Charles, you can’t do this now.’ You still have two laps to go.”

“Especially at a track like Monaco, you have to stay in it until the end.

“It was very difficult to contain those feelings, and those thoughts back, to the people who helped me get to where I am today.

“It’s just a win. The season is still very long. It’s 25 points like any other win. However, emotionally, it means a lot.

“And I also think the fact that we’ve had two pole starts in the past and we haven’t been able to get the win for one reason or another, and we haven’t been able to really dominate, not in our control, makes this one even more special.

Ah, yes, those two lost victories.

The first was in 2021, when he put what was not a competitive Ferrari at all on pole on his first qualifying lap, then crashed on his second.

The Ferrari team inspected the car before the race and decided that everything was fine, but it was not. They failed to discover that the driveshaft had broken and broken as it left the pits to make its way into the net.

A year later, he was back on pole again, with teammate Carlos Sainz alongside him. It was supposed to be a smash hit, even with the race starting on a wet but dry track.

But Ferrari got their strategy wrong, as they did so often that year. Somehow they dropped him from the top spot to fourth place.

Redemption – finally

This year, it looked like another win. On what is arguably the most demanding track on the calendar, Leclerc put in a thrilling performance all weekend – as is often the case on street circuits.

From the start of Friday’s testing, he had been flying the Ferrari around Monaco, bending the car and the track to his liking, lap after lap, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

His competitors were impressed. After Leclerc’s first lap in the second practice, he recorded a lap of 1 minute and 11.5 seconds on the medium tyres.

When McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who was due to qualify and finish second, returned to the pits after his run, he looked at the timing sheets and asked his team: “Is Leclerc’s time real?” After the session, Max Verstappen said Leclerc was “miles ahead”.

It was no surprise that he started from pole position, and from there all he and Ferrari had to do was not mess up. Under new team manager Frederic Vasseur, the strategic fragility has more or less disappeared, and they have performed admirably.

After the race, many of his competitors congratulated him and expressed their happiness that he had finally achieved the victory he had deserved for so long.

“As much as we are rivals, we sometimes feel sorry for each other and a few of them have repeatedly told me how sorry they are for the two missed occasions in the past and that they are happy for me today, which is great to see and it means a lot,” Leclerc said.

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Ferrari is finally starting to compete at the top on some street circuits

Will the Ferrari Challenge be revived?

This is Ferrari’s second win in seven races this year, after Sainz won in Australia last March. After a tough weekend for Red Bull, whose car simply wouldn’t run on the bumps and barriers in Monaco, Leclerc reduced Max Verstappen’s lead in the championship from 48 to 31 points.

Red Bull suffered the same problem as it did in Singapore last year, when Verstappen also suffered in a similar way. The car appears to have been optimized to handle better at a lower front ride height, and with the stiff suspension, this is a characteristic that makes it not particularly suitable for street circuits.

In contrast, the Ferrari is designed to run normally with a higher front ride height. This gives two advantages.

Firstly, in low-speed corners, the car naturally has a higher ride height, so Ferrari will automatically have an advantage there because the car is getting closer to its natural sweet spot, and thus not sapping aerodynamic force as the car rises.

Second, because they can allow the car to ride higher while maintaining speed, the suspension can also be softer, providing a benefit for pavement and bumpy ride.

Perhaps this explains Ferrari’s strength on bumpy street circuits recently – in Las Vegas last year, Australia this year, and now Monaco. And why Red Bull has struggled comparatively.

As Verstappen said this weekend: “We’ve had this problem since 2022. Over the last couple of years, I think we’ve had the car advantage. And then it gets eclipsed a little bit because we gain in the corners where the curbs and bumps aren’t as much of a restriction.

“But with everyone locked down, which is the reality, you can’t hide anymore and you will be discovered and that’s what happened this weekend. We will have difficulties on all the street circuits where the roads are very bumpy.”

But of course not all tracks are like this, and there will be other tracks where Red Bull’s natural qualities shine again. For this reason, Leclerc had been advising caution since before the start of the Monaco weekend.

“I hope this will lead us to more victories,” Leclerc said. “But we shouldn’t get carried away.

“I’m not thinking about the Championship at the moment anyway and it’s still very early in the season. I think the promotions we’ve brought [at the last race] At Imola, we still have to see how well they work and where it takes us. So it’s all about making the most of all your weekends and then hopefully we’ll get there little by little.

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