search
date/time
Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
frontpagebusinessartscarslifestylefamilytravelsportsscitechnaturefictionCartoons
Graham Read
Formula 1 Correspondent
4:51 PM 26th May 2024
sports

Leclerc Claims His First Monaco Victory

 
Formula 1 today made its annual return to the streets of Monaco for the most prestigious and glamorous Grand Prix on the calendar, and following this afternoon’s restarted race, it was Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who lifted the winner’s trophy, representing an exclusive achievement that all racing drivers so want to be able to put on their CV, but so few can.

Charles Leclerc was delighted to end his run of Monaco bad luck
Charles Leclerc was delighted to end his run of Monaco bad luck
I feel fortunate to have made many F1 reporting visits to Monaco, as well as a few other times of the year, so much so that this extraordinary place almost feels like a second home to me, with every sweep and turn of the Formula 1 circuit etched in my brain. It is, of course, notoriously difficult to overtake here, and you pretty much have to rely on a mistake from a rival ahead to pass, but it is also arguably the greatest driving challenge, with precision being so vital as you circulate, kissing but not hitting the barriers. With strategy and starting grid position so crucial, Monaco qualifying is always one of world motorsport’s greatest spectacles.

The Principality has, of course, also long been known as a place where significant wealth and tax avoidance live hand-in-hand, and, please note, it’s always best for visiting mere mortals to check the price before buying even a cup of coffee! The British novelist and playwright Somerset Maugham, who lived in nearby Cap Ferrat for four decades, famously, or perhaps I should say infamously, described Monaco and the French Riviera as “a sunny place for shady people,” and there is still some truth behind that phrase.

2024 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix

1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 2hrs23m15.554s
2 Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +7.152s
3 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +7.585s
4 Lando Norris (McLaren) +8.650s
5 George Russell (Mercedes) +13.309s
6 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +13.853s
7 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +14.908s
8 Yuki Tsunoda (RB) Lapped
9 Alex Albon (Williams) Lapped
10 Pierre Gasly (Alpine) Lapped
11 Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) Lapped
12 Daniel Ricciardo (RB) Lapped
13 Valtteri Bottas (Sauber) Lapped
14 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) Lapped
15 Logan Sargeant (Williams) Lapped
16 Zhou Guanyu (Sauber) Lapped
17 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) Retired
18 Nico Hülkenberg (Haas) Retired
19 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Retired
20 Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) Retired
It’s also true that Monaco has long been the preferred home for many highly paid F1 drivers for obvious reasons, the main one of which doesn’t relate to the generally pleasant climate! It’s also home to the Mercedes team principal, CEO, and part owner, Toto Wolff. One rare bonus for such folk is that they are able to sleep in their own beds throughout an F1 weekend and even walk to the waterfront paddock and nearby circuit if they are confident they can avoid the attention of too many fans.

The opulence on daily display in Monaco simply increases both ashore and in the Port Hercules harbour when Formula 1 is in town, and this understandably tends to be seen as either attractive or immoral in the often troubled modern world we all live in. For the senior personnel of many team sponsors, a weekend in Monaco is a highly sought-after and welcomed reward. Additionally, the event attracts numerous A-list celebrities, many of whom travel from the Cannes Film Festival to Monaco to witness and, more importantly, be seen. However, for genuine Formula 1 fans, I really have to say that an F1 race weekend in Monaco is still something very special, as rarely do you get to witness the cars and drivers flying by at such close quarters.

Oscar Piastri fully deserved his second place finish (
Oscar Piastri fully deserved his second place finish (
On the subject of money, the ten F1 teams have received a first draft of the proposed new Concorde Agreement, due to last from 2026 until 2030, and detailed discussions with the commercial rights holder, Liberty Media, will follow. As with the existing version, its contents cover the sport's regulatory framework and, crucially, the commercial terms regarding the prize money paid to each team following the end of every season. Basically, it relates to exactly how much of Formula 1’s annual profits are shared amongst its participants and in what manner, reflecting ontrack success and points earned in the Constructors’ Championship. However, there is one additional factor that some teams support and others are less happy with, namely the special annual payment Ferrari receives simply for taking part, regardless of how successful they are. It’s linked to Ferrari’s ongoing loyalty to F1 by being literally the only team to have competed every year since modern F1 began back in 1950, and it looks set to be retained in the new Concorde Agreement, if capped and not as a percentage of revenues as is currently the case.

...it was Sir Lewis Hamilton who set the fastest time for Mercedes, just 0.029 seconds quicker than McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. This left the other Mercedes/McLaren duo, George Russell and Lando Norris, as the best of the rest.
With F1 now holding three races in the USA each year in Miami, Austin, and Las Vegas, Liberty Media is reviewing new potential venues in other parts of the world, including Asia, to capitalise on the ever-increasing interest in the sport. Thailand, South Korea, and Indonesia have all expressed an interest in hosting a Grand Prix weekend.

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz is still considering a lucrative offer from Audi (currently known as Sauber), but has understandable concerns about how long it may take for the team to become competitive. At the same time, both Red Bull and Mercedes are hardly falling over themselves to get the 29-year-old Spaniard signed up for next year, with Sergio Pérez and Andrea Kimi Antonelli looking increasingly like their drivers for next season alongside Max Verstappen and George Russell.

In Monaco, it emerged that Sainz has been having detailed discussions with the currently struggling Williams team, which, at face value, seems a little strange given that the outfit has yet to score a single point this season prior to Monaco. However, team principal James Vowles is looking to totally revitalise the team, and a deal is already in place for a supply of Mercedes’ new spec power units from 2026 onwards.

Also, the current car is typically losing a mighty 0.45s a lap due to being overweight, but there is real confidence that this can be overcome in the short term, transforming its performance. On top of this, Williams might be willing to allow Sainz to move on for 2026 if the hoped-for competitiveness doesn't materialise, so a potential move to Williams for Sainz alongside Alex Albon starts to make more sense.

The nature of Monaco’s street circuit means that ultimate top speed is irrelevant, but downforce is king, with the set-up of all the cars fully focused on generating as much grip as possible. The McLaren team also chose to run its pair of cars in a special Ayrton Senna-inspired livery around the streets of Monaco this weekend instead of its usual predominantly papaya and black colour scheme, and they certainly caught the eye. Senna still holds the record for the greatest number of Monaco Grand Prix victories—six, including five in a row from 1989 to 1993 for McLaren.

Amusingly, the latter referred to himself as “jumping like a kangaroo” in his Red Bull steed as it bounced over the street circuit’s bumps.
The ontrack action began on Friday afternoon, but before this, Verstappen had been at pains to point out how much closer to Red Bull's pace both Ferrari and McLaren have tended to be so far this season and that he and his team would have to perform at 100% effectiveness to succeed in Monaco. His controversial father, Jos, was also seen arriving in Monaco, making his first visit to an F1 weekend since the fireworks he helped to cause at the opening race of the year in Bahrain, something that team principal and CEO Christian Horner no doubt welcomed as much as a severe case of toothache!

Friday’s opening free practice session was briefly interrupted by red flags after Zhou Guanyu had left some debris from his Sauber at the opening Sainte-Devote corner, and it was Sir Lewis Hamilton who set the fastest time for Mercedes, just 0.029 seconds quicker than McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. This left the other Mercedes/McLaren duo, George Russell and Lando Norris, as the best of the rest. Following Friday’s second practice period, it was Leclerc who topped the timing screens ahead of Hamilton, with Aston Martin’s veteran Fernando Alonso and Verstappen completing the leading quartet. Amusingly, the latter referred to himself as “jumping like a kangaroo” in his Red Bull steed as it bounced over the street circuit’s bumps. In yesterday’s final practice hour, local hero Leclerc again led the way ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton, and Piastri.

Sergio Pérez’s race lasted just a few hundred metres before his big accident
Sergio Pérez’s race lasted just a few hundred metres before his big accident
Qualifying is where it matters, though, and particularly so on the tight, narrow streets of Monaco. Two leading drivers fell at the first Q1 hurdle, with Alonso and Pérez destined to start towards the rear of the grid, while at the sharp end, it was Leclerc who claimed a third pole position in the Principality, with Piastri set to join him on the front row. Sainz and Norris helped themselves to row two, and, to their rear, Russell was fifth quickest and set to start alongside Verstappen, who had a minor dalliance with the Sainte Devote exit barrier on his final lap and had to abort it, dropping him down the order. The usual post-qualifying scrutineering process revealed that both Haas cars had exceeded the maximum allowable DRS clearance on their rear wing, leading to their exclusion from the results. The team explained it was a genuine mistake and not an attempt to cheat, but they were nevertheless understandably demoted to start from the back of the grid today.

Rain has in the past sometimes been a factor that can throw an element of unpredictability into the outcome of the Monaco Grand Prix, but as this afternoon’s start time neared, the weather forecast continued to predict a dry, sunny afternoon with an air temperature hovering around the 20C mark. The big question to be answered was whether Leclerc could notch up his first Monaco victory, having never even finished on the podium in the past. The formation lap began at precisely three pm local time, and after those famous red lights had been extinguished, it was the 26-year-old Monégasque pedaller who led the pack of 20 cars off the grid towards Sainte Devote for the first of a scheduled 78 times. This opening righthand kink before heading up the hill through Massenet and into Casino Square can be dealt with cleanly, but it can also be the scene of contact and accidents.

The big question to be answered was whether Leclerc could notch up his first Monaco victory, having never even finished on the podium in the past.
This year, we almost witnessed the former, but Sainz understeered into the side of Piastri and suffered a front left puncture, forcing him to stop outside the Hotel de Paris. A far bigger incident was about to follow to their rear, though, as Magnussen tagged Pérez on the climb up the hill, and a massive three-car accident involving Hülkenberg also ensued. All the drivers were unharmed, but Pérez’s car was virtually destroyed, with only a single wheel still in place, and both Haas cars were instantly eliminated too. This triggered red flags for all the debris and damaged cars to be cleared, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also ending up airborne after hitting his team-mate Pierre Gasly at Portier.

The restart was delayed due to the need for damaged barriers to be repaired, and Sainz was fortunate to be able to join the second start still in third place on the grid. This time we had a clean opening lap, with Leclerc leading Piastri, Sainz, and Norris, and the earlier post-red flag tyre specification changes meant that most drivers would have no need to pit during the Grand Prix. Soon we entered a lengthy tyre management phase under high fuel loads, meaning the pace was noticeably slower than what was technically achievable, and we witnessed double world champion Alonso deliberately driving slowly to hold up a train of drivers behind him and help his team-mate Lance Stroll, who was ahead of him.

Max Verstappen had to settle for a sixth place finish this afternoon
Max Verstappen had to settle for a sixth place finish this afternoon
Come lap 51, the top six drivers remained unchanged, with an ongoing strategic game of Formula 1 chess dominating the action and the possibility of pitstops. This cycle was broken one tour later when seventh-placed Hamilton pitted for fresh hard rubber, and Verstappen did likewise one lap later. This improved their pace, if not their positions within the race.

Albon deserves a special mention for scoring the first two points of the season for Williams.
Out front, Leclerc edged six seconds clear of the chasing Piastri, Sainz, and Norris, who were having their own close battle to be the best of the rest, and come the chequered flag, the home victory for Leclerc proved to be very popular, with Piastri and Sainz joining him on the podium. This left Norris, Russell, and Verstappen to complete the top six finishers, and seventh-placed Hamilton earned the extra point for the fastest lap of the race. Two positions behind him, Albon deserves a special mention for scoring the first two points of the season for Williams.

Formula 1 is doing its best to better manage the Championships’ constant to-ing and fro-ing around the world to improve the environmental impact as well as reducing costs and the pressure on its travelling workforce, but for now this is often limited by its existing contracts with local promoters. As multi-year contracts expire, this situation will gradually change, but F1 is now preparing to return across the Atlantic for the Canadian Grand Prix in a fortnight, followed by numerous rounds in Europe. Downtown Montreal always embraces Formula 1, and its race circuit is located on a nearby island easily accessible by public transport, so let’s hope it hosts a memorable Grand Prix on a track that is very different from Monaco.


2024 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship

1 Max Verstappen 169
2 Charles Leclerc 138
3 Lando Norris 113


2024 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship

1 Red Bull 276
2 Ferrari 252
3 McLaren 184