Charles Leclerc and the Monaco GP, the story of a curse

In five appearances at his home Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc has never managed to secure the podium in Monaco, with three retirements and two finishes. Back in videos on a curse that sticks to the skin of the Monegasque.

Published on 22/05/2024 à 16:20

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Charles Leclerc and the Monaco GP, the story of a curse

Charles Leclerc seems cursed in Monaco... © DPPI

Four participations in the Monaco Grand Prix, three retirements and a sad 4th place. To Charles Leclerc, the numbers are stubborn to evoke his performances on the streets he used in his youth. Additional pressure linked to the home race? Series of bad luck for which he is not responsible? Just coincidence? Or even a curse for the less Cartesian among us? From 2018 to today, a look back at the main acts of the “curse” that haunts the pilot in No. 16…

2018: Brake failure and accident

Just FIA champion F2 in 2017, during which the Monaco round was already a nightmare for him (abandonments in the Main Race and Sprint), Charles Leclerc presents himself in the Principality for his first full season in F1 under the colors of Sauber. After two consecutive entries in the points (6th in Baku, 10th in Barcelona), the rookie arrives in full confidence in front of his audience. He qualified 14th on the grid during a qualifying session marked by the absence of Max Verstappen, the rival of his younger years in karting, crashed in EL3. On the 72nd lap, he struggles with Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) for the gain of 11th place. At the exit of the tunnel, his left front brake broke and he was unable to avoid the collision with the New Zealander. “ Four laps before the crash, I said on the radio that my brake pedal was starting to get really long. It was difficult to deal with, explains Leclerc. It's a shame that this happens to me, but that's how it is. » He is not at the end of his sentence.

2019: Start from the back of the grid, puncture then retirement

The following year, Charles Leclerc changed dimension by exchanging his seat at Sauber (which became Alfa Romeo) with that of Kimi Räikkönen at the Team. The driver from the Ferrari Driver Academy confirmed the full extent of his talent from the start of the season, especially in Bahrain, where only a loss of power prevented him from signing a hat-trick (pole, fastest lap and victory). ). The Monegasque, armed with a Ferrari that has become a conqueror again, arrives home fully revved up.

Unfortunately, the Scuderia will be betrayed by its excess of confidence in itself. The Reds go completely astray during Q1 of the qualifying session. Best time in Free Practice 3, Charles Leclerc only made one timed attempt, Ferrari wanting to save a set of tires. Noticing the sudden improvement of the track, and of the times of its opponents, Ferrari highlights Sebastian Vettel emergency. The German saves his skin... at the expense of Charles Leclerc, ejected into the elimination zone. A snub! Haggard and stunned in the Ferrari stand, Leclerc had to start 15th, on a narrow circuit where overtaking is notoriously complicated.

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On Sunday, the Ferrari driver spit in his gloves and made a stunning start to the race. Gaining a place at the start, he settles the rookie Lando Norris (McLaren) inside the Grand Hôtel hairpin before surprising Romain Grosjean (Haas) at the Rascasse. The Monegasque tries to do it again, in the same place, on Nico Hulkenberg (Renault). Missing, his right rear tire hits the wall, causing him to spin and puncture, damaging his flat bottom. Relegated to the bottom of the ranking after his change of tires, Charles Leclerc was forced to retire, his car having suffered too much damage. Once again, Monaco refuses to accept him.

2021: Accident in qualifying, retirement during the formation lap

 

It is often said that the pole sitter in Monaco has a good chance of winning the Grand Prix. He still has to start... Now Grand Prix winner and leader of a resurgent Ferrari, Charles Leclerc surprises everyone by setting the fastest lap of Q3. Setting off again for his second attempt, he made a mistake by touching the rail at the Swimming Pool, breaking the suspension of his right front tire, taking off on the curb before running aground along the rail. The yellow flag signals the end of Max Verstappen's hopes of improvement and the session is stopped as is. The pole-sitter is nevertheless concerned about the state of his gearbox following the crash, Ferrari assures him that his SF21 will be thoroughly inspected before the start.

Sunday, shortly after 14 p.m., Charles Leclerc leaves the garage to do his reconnaissance lap. As soon as he enters the fast portion of the tunnel, he realizes something is wrong. “ No, no, no, no… the gearbox guys“, he whined in a helpless voice. Now in slow motion, Leclerc drags his pain and his car into the Ferrari stand. She won't come out. The repair will take too long. The abandonment is confirmed even before departure. The native of the Rock leaves the garage alone, and on foot, where pilots try to comfort him. Finally, it was a transmission hub that failed, weakened during the accident the day before but which appeared to be impacted during the inspection.

 

2022: Brake failure at the Historic GP

Even far from the pressure of competition, the curse continues to strike Charles Leclerc in the Principality. A prestigious guest at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix (May 15), the then leader of the F1 world championship took to the circuit at the wheel of the legendary Ferrari 312 B3, notably driven by Niki Lauda in 1974. The Monegasque concluded his escapade… in the Rascasse wall! When it doesn't work... Charles Leclerc is in no way responsible because a brake disc had detached from the car, causing this to go off the road. “ I braked, the pedal was hard and it went to the floor. I was lucky to get it at that time, because I think if it happened in any other place it wouldn't have been pretty.", explains the Monegasque.

2022: Poleman… but 4th after a failed strategy

One year after the heartbreak of 2021, where Charles Leclerc was unable to start his home Grand Prix despite the pole position, the Monegasque takes his revenge and signs a second consecutive pole position on the Monte-Carlo track. The next day, during the formation lap, a deluge fell on Monaco, forcing the marshals to bring out the red flag and postpone the start of the race.

On the 17th lap, the Grand Prix will experience a first turning point for the driver of the Team. Several drivers at the back of the peloton, already wearing intermediate tires, began to drive faster than the leaders. Red Bull, in ambush behind the two Ferraris, tries it and calls Sergio Pérez to the pits. Ferrari responds a lap later... a lap too late for Charles Leclerc, who emerges behind the Mexican on intermediate tires.

Five rounds later, Carlos Sainz stops in turn... but to move directly to slick tires. In a total imbroglio, Ferrari asks Charles Leclerc to return to the pits, even though his teammate is also in the pits! The engineer may shout “Stay Out!” » (“Stay on the track!”) on the radio, it is already too late and this provokes hysteria and anger from the pole-sitter, who finally finds himself 4th after the pit stops, far behind the winner of the day, Sergio Perez.

2023: Penalty in qualifying and poor strategy

In 2023, Charles Leclerc is experiencing a difficult start to the season, marked by two retirements (in Bahrain and Australia). Pumped up for his home Grand Prix, the Monegasque intends to launch his season in earnest. A victory or a podium at home would finally put an end to his curse which has followed him for many years already.

During qualifying, Charles Leclerc set the 3rd time and failed to reach 0″106 from pole position. However, he will not start from this position on Sunday since he will receive three penalty places at the end of qualifying. after hindering Lando Norris, in Q3, in the Tunnel. The Ferrari driver will therefore start from 6th place on the grid. Yet another blow to the head of Leclerc who sees his hopes of a podium disappear.

During the race, nothing will help the situation. The Monegasque fails to overtake Lewis Hamilton in front of him and is condemned to remain in 6th place. Then, when the rain appeared a few loops from the end, a great opportunity presented itself to Ferrari: to try a strategic move to hope to secure a podium. Esteban Ocon and Mercedes who are in the battle for the podium will dive into the pit lane on lap 55. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz returned one lap later, it was one too many. 6th at the finish, an infuriating result since Ferrari had the possibility of taking its protégé to the podium in its home race...

ALSO READ > Is the pole sitter really still assured of victory in Monaco?

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Yves-Henri RANDIER

21/05/2024 at 07:02 a.m.

2024 ... or finally the alignment of the planets for Charles Leclerc? All the best we wish him for this GP at home!

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