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REPORT: Leclerc lays Monaco demons to rest with victory

Matt Clayton
Monday, 27 May 2024

Charles Leclerc controlled the Monaco Grand Prix from starts – plural – to finish, finally getting some luck at a home race where he’s memorably, and cruelly, never had any.

In the picturesque seaside playground of high-rollers, Charles Leclerc’s Formula 1® luck was finally in. The Ferrari driver has been brutally unfortunate at the Monaco Grand Prix in recent times, but finally broke through for a win at home as the sport’s most enduring track delivered a result that was both popular, and highly unusual.

As always at Monaco, qualifying is 99 per cent of the race result, and Leclerc put himself in the box seat with a scintillating pole lap on Saturday, one that edged McLaren’s Oscar Piastri by 0.154secs. He had to survive two starts on Sunday – the initial race was red-flagged after a shunt between Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Sergio Perez (Red Bull) that also eliminated Magnussen’s teammate Nico Hulkenberg – but once he got through Turn 1, Leclerc was able to control proceedings to take his first victory since Austria 2022, and his sixth Grand Prix win in all.


The two race starts added 45 minutes to the schedule but made no difference to the results, with the top 10 qualifiers finishing where they started. McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium, Sainz the biggest beneficiary of the red flag after he’d crawled to a halt with a puncture after contact with Piastri at the first corner of the first start, the stoppage allowing him the chance for a race reset.

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It was a miserable weekend for F1 benchmark Red Bull, with Perez’s early exit from 18th on the grid seeing him fall to fifth in the drivers’ standings, and Max Verstappen starting and finishing sixth after the RB20 struggled with Monaco’s bumpy surface and aggressive kerbs. “This is really boring, I should have brought my pillow,” he commented in the early stages …

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Oscar Piastri’s third career podium was one earned on Saturday with a superb qualifying lap, and one born from strong pace in Miami and Imola that didn’t generate the results he deserved through little fault of his own.

From second on the grid, Piastri only had to hold station to match his best F1 result from Qatar last year, and while he fell away from Leclerc late to come under pressure from Sainz and Norris, he had enough in reserve to take 18 world championship points, a coveted trophy and a chance to stand on the sport’s most unique podium.

Daniel Ricciardo knows the view from that podium – the 2018 Monaco winner has four Monaco rostrum results on his CV – but the RB driver was a long way from that on Sunday, starting and finishing in 12th place after a lacklustre qualifying condemned him to a long afternoon being bottled up behind Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) for the majority of the 78 laps.

In FIA Formula 3® action, Australia’s Christian Mansell experienced the highs and lows of Monaco in a 24-hour period, the 19-year-old finishing a superb second in Sunday’s feature race after being taken out on the first lap of the sprint on Saturday.

Mansell, who didn’t score a point at Imola seven days previously, set up his Monaco weekend with a brilliant qualifying lap to start on the front row alongside Alpine Academy junior Gabriele Mini. The ART Grand Prix driver kept the pressure on the Italian throughout a 27-lap race interrupted by three safety car interventions to finish 0.802secs adrift and bank a second podium finish for the season, after he finished in the same position in the Bahrain feature race back in March.

Starting Saturday’s sprint from 11th, Mansell was part of a multi-car accident at Casino Square, just four corners into the first lap of the 23-lap race. Mansell was hit by Arvid Lindblad (Prema), the British driver swinging across Mansell’s bow before the pair made contact, the resultant chain-effect reaction eliminating five drivers on the spot.

After eight races in the F3 season – which has featured eight different winners – Mansell’s fourth podium in the series sees him jump to ninth place in the standings with 38 points, Mini taking over at the top after his second feature win at Monaco in as many years.

Mansell’s compatriot Tommy Smith matched his best result in F3 with 12th in the Monaco feature; the Van Amersfoort Racing driver finished in the same position in the Albert Park feature race in 2023.

Smith, who started from 18th, was 8.9secs behind Mini at the chequered flag, and finished 13th from 19th on the grid in Saturday’s sprint. The 21-year-old is 24th in the series standings ahead of the next round in Spain on June 22-23.

Unsung hero

Two drivers scored their first points for the season on Sunday, Pierre Gasly (Alpine) getting off the mark with 10th place after surviving an assault from teammate Esteban Ocon on the opening lap that left Alpine management incensed, a contrite Ocon out of the race, and with a five-place grid penalty for the next Grand Prix in Canada.

But the biggest hero among the minnows in Monaco? That’s Alex Albon, who qualified and finished ninth for his first points of the year – and the first points for Williams, which left Sauber as the only team yet to score points this season.

Number to know

13: Leclerc’s win was the first time he’d taken victory from his past 13 pole positions.

Monaco Grand Prix: top 10

  1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 2hrs 23mins 15.554secs
  2. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +7.152secs
  3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +7.585secs
  4. Lando Norris (McLaren) +8.650secs
  5. George Russell (Mercedes) +13.309secs
  6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) +13.853secs
  7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +14.908secs
  8. Yuki Tsunoda (RB) +1 lap
  9. Alex Albon (Williams) +1 lap
  10. Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +1 lap

Standings (top 5)

Drivers' championship

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 169 points
  2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 138
  3. Lando Norris (McLaren) 113
  4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 108
  5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) 107

Constructors' championship

  1. Red Bull Racing (276 points)
  2. Ferrari (252)
  3. McLaren (184)
  4. Mercedes (96)
  5. Aston Martin (44)

Next race

Round 9: Canada, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal (June 7-9)