The Curse of Monaco: Charles Leclerc’s First Home Finish Foiled By Ferrari Blunder
Across 2017 to 2021, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has become…
Across 2017 to 2021, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has become infamous for his inability to finish a home race at Monaco, one of Formula 1’s most iconic historical circuits. While Sunday’s race finally saw Leclerc past the checkered flag, the 24-year-old Monagasque certainly wasn’t celebrating.
In an incident that’s sprouted a ton of memes and jokes aimed at Scuderia Ferrari, Leclerc was let down by his team for the second race in a row, following a strategic blunder that saw both Ferrari cars stacked up in the middle of the pits, costing Leclerc a hard-won lead that seemed destined to result in a first-place finish.
The Curse Continues
Sure, Leclerc may have exorcised some of the demons that kept him from finishing a race at Monaco, but it’s yet another unhappy day back home for the championship runner-up. Leclerc’s rough history with his home track is well-documented, with the first instance in 2017 while racing for Prema Powerteam.
That year, Leclerc started off strong before nosediving with two weekend DNFs—one due to mechanical problems, and the other as a result of colliding with Norman Nato.
A similar pattern followed in 2018, when driving for Sauber. Leclerc performed well in qualifying with a P2 start, only for his front left brake to fail during the race, sending him into the rear end of Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso car.
2019 was a promising Ferrari year early on, but after a blazing practice session, Leclerc found himself knocked all the way back to P16. Determined to fight back, he ended up pushing too hard on the Rascasse corner, making contact with Nico Hulkenberg. This sent Leclerc spinning and damaged his right rear tyre, forcing a DNF.
By 2021, Leclerc and Ferrari weren’t really expecting results—their car was significantly weaker than top dogs Redbull and Mercedes. Somehow, Leclerc pulled a P1 finish for qualifying, but ended his result with a serious crash into the swimming pool chicane.
This resulted in perhaps the worst Monaco race yet for poor Charles. who found himself unable to even start the race, stuck with a broken gearbox.
‘Sorry,’ says Binotto
This time, Charles Leclerc followed the script, starting the race off strong. After a hour-long delay caused due to heavy rainfall on the track, he used his pole position to generate a solid five-second lead on his teammate, Carlos Sainz.
Everything seemed to go according to plan. By lap 18, Leclerc switched to intermediate dry tyres as a result of the weather clearing up. Three laps later, however, disaster struck.
Sainz—who was still on wet tyres—was called into the pits for a fresh pair of hards along with Leclerc. Ferrari realized their mistake too late, asking the latter to stay out of the pits after he had entered them. Leclerc’s total time in the pits stood four seconds longer than his team mate’s as Ferrari double-stacked the pair, which saw him fall to P4 behind eventual winner Sergio Perez, Sainz and the second Red Bull of title rival Max Verstappen.
We could say a lot of things about Leclerc’s state of mind after this incident, but we think he puts it across best in his own team radio snippets:
“No words – the season is long but we cannot do that,” said Leclerc immediately after crossing the finish line, with Team Principal Mattia Binnoto muttering a weak ‘…sorry’ as Charles Leclerc continued his cooldown lap.
Leclerc continued to display his irritation with the P4 finish in his post-race interview. “It was a freaking disaster today. The win was clearly in our hands; we had the performance, we had everything. I just don’t really understand the call that I had and I need explanations for now. I couldn’t do much, I was called just before the last corner, so I couldn’t react or ask for any information, but that was clearly the wrong choice… We need to get better.”
The loss came in even harder with rival Verstappen’s lead stretching by another six points, putting him nine ahead of Leclerc.
That said, Carlos Sainz certainly outdid himself during this race, showing phenomenal pace while consistently beating off Verstappen’s advances throughout multiple track conditions.
Will Charles’ woes continue? Has Ferrari begun to take their admittedly excellent drivers and car for granted? We’ll find out on June 10th, as we count down towards the exciting mix of open straights and tight turns of the Azerbaijan GP.
(Featured Image Credits: FIA, Formula 1, @scuderiaferrari/Twitter)