Leclerc’s Monaco triumph ends emotional home-soil drought

Photo of Charles Leclercs along with his teammates and media after his triumph in Monaco Grand Prix.

As Charles Leclerc raced through Monaco, tears welled in his eyes as he exited the tunnel at 170 mph, the late-afternoon sun mingling with his emotions. “Stay focused, Charles, not now,” he urged himself, wiping away the tears and honing in on the braking point for the Nouvelle chicane. “You still have two laps to go.”

His first victory on home soil was almost within reach, just under 4 racing miles away. He was resolute in not letting it slip through his fingers. Ever since he could stand tall enough to watch Formula One cars whizzing past from a balcony, this had been his dream. Finally, it was within his grasp, provided he could manage his emotions.

On two previous occasions, despite securing pole position in 2021 and 2022, the moment slipped away from him, resulting in no podium finishes. However, it carried immense significance, representing a dream cherished between him and his late father, Hervé, since their early days in go-karts over two decades ago.

“The most challenging aspect of controlling my emotions came during the final 10 laps of the race,” Leclerc reflected after securing victory at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday. “I realized with just two laps remaining that tears were obstructing my vision, particularly through the tunnel.

On a demanding track like Monaco, maintaining focus until the end was imperative. It was incredibly difficult to suppress those emotions, the memories of the individuals who contributed to my journey to this point.”

At the age of 19, Leclerc confronted the loss of his father to a prolonged illness, just three days before competing in a Formula 2 race in Azerbaijan. While he often cites this period when discussing his mental resilience in F1, he seldom allows it to intrude on his thoughts while racing.

“It weighed heavily on my mind,” he continued. “In every race I’ve participated in, I’ve never dwelled on such personal matters inside the car because staying focused is essential. Perhaps in Baku in 2017, when everything was still fresh, it was mentally challenging to manage.

However, it’s likely the first instance in my career where it resurfaced while driving, experiencing flashbacks of our shared moments, the sacrifices he made for me to reach where I am today. “This dream isn’t mine alone; it belongs to both of us. My entire family supported and shared in this dream, making it even more special. That was perhaps the most challenging moment to navigate today.”

While grappling with his emotions in the cockpit, Leclerc maintained a composed demeanor. In the final 15 laps of Sunday’s race, he widened the gap over Oscar Piastri to an insurmountable 8 seconds, cognizant that McLaren’s limited strategic options left no room for a comeback, even with a late safety car.

Piastri briefly attempted to overtake Leclerc at Turn 8 early in the race while Leclerc managed his pace to mitigate potential tire issues, but victory never seemed in doubt. Following a first-lap collision involving Sergio Pérez, Kevin Magnussen, and Nico Hülkenberg, the race unfolded smoothly, prompting complaints from rival drivers about its uneventful nature over team radio.

However, Leclerc remained unperturbed by the lack of excitement among his competitors. In his opinion, the more uneventful, the better—he understands all too well how quickly fortunes can change on the streets of Monte Carlo.

After experiencing the disappointment of failing to convert a pole position into a win at Monaco in 2021 due to a driveshaft failure on the way to the grid, Leclerc took to Twitter to express his feelings, writing, “Monaco I love you and hopefully one day you will love me back.”

In 2022, another opportunity for pole position slipped away when Leclerc lost the lead of the race due to a strategy error by Ferrari during the transition from a wet track to a dry one.

The “Leclerc curse” gained momentum on social media as people noted his string of unlucky events in Monaco, including previous setbacks such as missing a victory opportunity in F2 in 2017, a brake failure on his F1 debut in 2018, and a qualifying error in 2019 that saw him start 16th on the grid.

Although Leclerc didn’t believe in the curse, he admitted that the weight of past misfortunes had created tension during his race weekends in Monaco.

“I never really believed in the curse, but the two occasions where I had a chance to win here felt incredibly challenging,” Leclerc explained. “In one instance, I couldn’t even start the race. In the other, we made an incorrect strategy choice, I think. It was incredibly frustrating to miss out on those wins.

“As a driver, you never know when the next opportunity to win will come, especially in your home race, and especially when it’s Monaco—a track that is both special and demanding, making for a challenging weekend to execute flawlessly, which we managed. So, I knew today presented another opportunity, and I remembered how it felt the last two times I was in this position. But, of course, I was really eager to secure that victory today.

There was some tension, but once I put on the helmet and got into the car, I felt nothing. Then, it’s all about maximizing the car, managing the race as best as possible. It’s more the moments before the race, before donning the helmet.

“The thoughts during the last 10 laps were particularly challenging to handle, more so than in my past career experiences, but they weren’t negative. It was more a reflection on everything that has led to this moment, from the good times in karting to the dreams of reaching this level and making the most of these opportunities, without dwelling on the setbacks of the past few years.”

The peak of emotion occurred in the paddock after the victory. Lifted on the shoulders of his team members, Leclerc celebrated with his winner’s trophy amidst the sound of popping champagne bottles. After returning to the ground, he led Ferrari team principal Frédéric Vasseur into the paddock gates, where they joined his teammates in pushing Vasseur into Monaco’s harbor.

Leclerc followed suit with a graceful dive from the harbor edge, initiating celebrations that promised to continue long into the night. “I have a clear plan in mind for tonight with all the mechanics and engineers,” he remarked. “I can’t wait to savor this moment. “It’s an incredibly special moment in my career that deserves celebration. Tomorrow, we’ll start focusing on the next race in Canada and dedicate ourselves entirely to maximizing the upcoming weekend.”


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