“Finally finish this Grand Prix at home”. “May this year be the good one.” Since his retirement from the Barcelona Grand Prix last week, Charles Leclerc has been repeating this mantra as if to ward off bad luck before the Monaco Grand Pix. The Monegasque Formula 1 driver had never known the satisfaction of bringing his car to the checkered flag at home in five appearances (including two in Grand Prix 2, which became F2).
For his sixth attempt, Sunday May 29, the curse was lifted. But only half. Even though he finally finished “his” Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc, who is fighting for the title of world champion, could not be satisfied with his fourth place.
Starting from pole position for the 79th Monaco Grand Prix, the driver suffered from a poor racing strategy from his team, Ferrari, which was at fault with tire management. His glare and annoyance at the radio matched his disappointment: “I don’t have the words, I don’t have the words. You can’t do things like that. »
It was not his main rival in the world championship, defending champion Max Verstappen (third), who directly benefited but a third thief, Sergio Perez, the Dutchman’s teammate at Red Bull. The Mexican won for the third time in his career thanks to a tactical move: stopping earlier than the other big names to swap wet tires for intermediate tires as the track dried out. Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) took second place.
Rain disrupts Ferrari
This unpredictable scenario is the work of a last-minute killjoy. The rain disrupted in extremis the hitherto perfect weekend of the child of the country. Long uncertain, she first invited herself discreetly a few minutes from the scheduled start at 3 p.m., causing a first delay, before becoming more threatening during the formation lap. Heavy downpours caused a red flag and a delayed departure of more than an hour.
In the often narrow streets of Monaco, it is sometimes claimed that the poleman has a good chance of winning. This is not completely fair because according to the accounts of Auto Hebdo, in 21 races contested since 2000, this scenario has occurred 12 times. That is a conversion rate from pole to victory of 57%, less for example than the 72% of the Spanish Grand Prix. This stat will not improve this year.
However, as in Barcelona last week, Charles Leclerc and his Ferrari once again seemed to be the best performers on the board. And a second time, like in Barcelona, the tandem finally missed out on a victory that was just waiting for them. On Saturday, Leclerc had easily dominated qualifying, ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz and his two rivals from Red Bull, Sergio Perez (3rd) and especially Max Verstappen (only 4th).
The cheers of the public and the fog horns of the boats had greeted the 5th pole position in seven races for the Monegasque. Last year, he also set the fastest time but also damaged his car trying to improve his own time during a second attempt in qualifying. The next day, he had only noticed at the last moment that his gearbox was out of order and had not even taken the start.
The 2022 Grand Prix will join the ubiquitous racing events against “the little prince of Monaco”. Stuck in fourth position and discouraged by the turn of events, Charles Leclerc was unable to take advantage of the resumption of the race after an interruption caused by a spectacular accident – fortunately not serious – by Mick Schumacher, whose Haas found itself cut in half after hitting a guardrail.
Leclerc is still losing ground in the championship
In Monaco, after two delicate years – a cancellation in 2020 and a 2021 edition with a limited audience – the historic Grand Prix, which now has 68 performances in the world championships (79 in total), celebrated its reunion with a colorful crowd. The Principality is generous, it meets everyone’s needs: F1 enthusiasts as well as those more attracted to glitz and appearance.
On a Grand Prix weekend, the rock looks like an anthill, divided into different layers. Every street, every avenue, every viewpoint is teeming with people. Monaco is slumming and Monaco also knows how to keep the privileges of its regulars. Some spectators are reduced to finding tricks to attend the event. This can be a promontory between the shrubs behind a fence which provides a gap in the direction of the circuit.
VIPs have more choices: between a high-end stand reserved for them, places of celebration opened by sponsors, yachts moored in the marina or luxury buildings overlooking the track, reminiscent of a more chic version of those surrounding the Roudourou football stadium in Guingamp.
The many admirers of Charles Leclerc did not attend the triumph of their favorite. Losing when he was the strongest, the Monegasque will still have to wait to appear on the Monaco list. Only one local, called Louis Chiron – who gave his name to turn 13 of the circuit -, has already won at home. It was in 1931 and the race did not then count for the world championship, created only in 1950.
Despite a tense last ten minutes of racing, Charles Leclerc finally finished at the foot of the podium, behind Max Verstappen, to whom he gave up three new points in the general classification of the drivers, which reduces his lead to nine points. Sergio Perez picks up, him, six points from the unlucky of the day. Started on the hats of wheels with two successes in two races, the 2022 season of the leader of Ferrari is far from being a long calm river.