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Charles Leclerc wins Monaco F1 GP for Ferrari to delight of home crowd
F1 Sport

Charles Leclerc wins Monaco F1 GP for Ferrari to delight of home crowd

With the monkey finally off his back, Charles Leclerc allowed himself the luxury of tears of joy as he climbed from his car, victorious at last in his home Monaco Grand Prix. There were thoughts of his family, joy and relief among the emotions, with Formula One as a whole sharing the latter after Red Bull’s Sergio PĂ©rez survived an horrific accident on the opening lap.

This is Leclerc’s sixth attempt to win the race and now that the 26‑year‑old has done so he can consider his Monaco curse truly lifted, ­becoming the first Monegasque to win here since the Formula One world championship began in 1950 by beating McLaren’s Oscar Piastri into second and his ­Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz, into third.

Leclerc was unsurprisingly joyous as were the home crowd whose allegiance was clear, not least in a huge portrait of Leclerc painted as a saint hanging from one of the yachts that throng the harbour in Monte Carlo. He is rightly proud and it was doubtless enjoyable to thread the needle through the streets of the principality in the cockpit. Yet the race he won was a torpid affair to watch. Dictated by tyre management at a torturously slow pace and with passing impossible, the cars circled round in an endless procession, ­offering neither interest nor any sense of jeopardy, nor indeed barely a sniff of actual racing.

With the top 10 finishing in exactly their grid order, there was nary even an attempt at an overtake among them – Monaco, the so-called jewel in the Formula One crown, proving once more to be patently unfit for purpose in the modern era.

What drama there was occurred in the frightening opening‑lap crash which, in turn, was fundamental to how the race evolved, as well as being a salutary reminder of how dan­gerous the sport remains.

Sergio PĂ©rez’s Red Bull is lifted from the circuit after a first-lap crash.View image in fullscreen

PĂ©rez had started in 16th place and going up Beau Rivage was clipped from behind by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Slewed sideways, he was catapulted into one wall, then the other, leaving all but the reinforced cockpit of his car smashed to pieces and strewn across the track with only one wheel still attached to what was left of his ride. Both the Haas cars were collected in the crash but miraculously all the drivers emerged unhurt.

The sheer scale of the accident was enormous and taking place at approxi­mately 150mph as they ­accelerated up the hill it was a testa­ment to the safety standards of the modern cars and the extensive ­testing of what is known as the ­survival cell of the cockpit.

The FIA deemed it a racing ­incident and did not investigate further. With a red flag, racing did not resume for 45 minutes as the marshals had to repair the barriers, deformed by the force of the impact.

Having used the red-flag stoppage to change their tyres the teams were set to finish without a required pit stop with a full 75 laps to go. This presented a race of tyre and pace manage­ment prompted by the nature of the track and ensuring the rubber would make the distance. What ensued was very much the nose to tail procession that implies, as Leclerc controlled at a painfully low speed.

Laps ensued. Lap, after lap, after lap, after lap. With the sea of the harbour shining in the sunshine the waves duly lapped against the yachts with the same relentless monotony but were at least perhaps prettier.

On lap 39 Ferrari told Leclerc to slow down even more, as unedifying a radio message as F1 has witnessed and which would probably have caused shudders across F1 corporate bosses. A damning indictment of the anachronistic nature of the circuit, already criticised this weekend as being unfit for purpose with modern F1 cars.

Max Verstappen, the world champion, who tooled round in sixth place – of significance only in that Leclerc has now closed the lead to him to 31 points – was pleasingly blunt and indeed accurate in his assessment. “Fuck me, this is really boring, should have brought my pillow,” he told his race engineer, Gianpiero ­Lambiase, amid the perennial ­question marks over what the circuit must do to adapt.

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Leclerc remained oblivious to it all and to be fair to him, took a deserved win albeit one he doubtless would have preferred to take in more stylish fashion. This was a childhood dream for Leclerc who weathered serious travails on his way to this success. Not least in the death of his father, HervĂ©, instrumental in guiding his career, who died during Leclerc’s 2017 F2 ­season, having already lost his godfather, the F1 driver Jules Bianchi, who died a year after crashing at Suzuka in 2014.

Unsurprisingly, his father had been on his mind as he headed toward ­taking the flag. “I was thinking of my dad a lot more than I thought while driving, obviously he’s given everything for me to be here,” he said. “It was a dream of ours and for me to race here and to win and so it’s unbelievable.”

A dream come true then and moment to savour for the ­Ferrari driver but only in a race that ­doubtless most will want to forget in no short order.

Land Norris was fourth for McLaren, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in fifth and seventh for Mercedes. Yuki Tsunoda was eighth for RB, Alex Albon was ninth for Williams and Pierre Gasly in 10th for Alpine.

Source: theguardian.com