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27 may 2024

Leclerc Secures Emotional Victory, Ending Monaco Home-Soil Curse

Leclerc Secures Emotional Victory, Ending Monaco Home-Soil Curse

Leclerc Secures Emotional Victory, Ending Monaco Home-Soil Curse

Charles Leclerc's eyes welled up with tears as he powered through the Monaco tunnel at a breathtaking 170 mph, the setting sun blending with his emotions.

"Focus, Charles, now's not the time," he reminded himself, clearing his vision and honing in on the braking point for the Nouvelle chicane. "Just two laps left."

His lifelong dream of clinching victory on home turf was within reach, just a few miles of racing away.

Since he could barely peek over a balcony and witness Formula One cars zooming through the streets below, this had been his ambition. And now, finally, it was within grasp, provided he could control his overwhelming feelings.

The triumph had eluded him twice before, despite snatching pole position in 2021 and 2022 without a podium finish. Yet, more than anything, it was a moment he and his late father, Hervé, had cherished since their go-karting beginnings over two decades ago.

"Keeping my emotions in check was toughest during those last 10 laps," Leclerc revealed after Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix victory. "Two laps from the end, I found it hard to see through the tears, especially on a demanding track like Monaco. It was a challenge to rein in those emotions, the memories of those who've helped shape my journey."

At 19, Leclerc lost his father to illness, just days before a Formula 2 race in Azerbaijan. It's a period he often reflects on when discussing his mental resilience in F1, though it's a thought he seldom entertains while in the driver's seat.

"It was on my mind," he admitted. "But during every race, personal matters never entered the car with me; you have to stay focused. Maybe in Baku 2017, everything was still raw, making it mentally tough to manage. However, this was the first time such thoughts resurfaced while driving, those flashbacks to our shared moments, his sacrifices to get me here."

While Leclerc wrestled with his emotions behind the wheel, externally, he appeared unfazed. Over the final 15 laps, he stretched his lead over Oscar Piastri to an insurmountable 8 seconds. McLaren's limited strategy options meant no comeback for Piastri, even with a late safety car.

Piastri made an early attempt at Turn 8, but Leclerc, managing his pace to preserve his tires, never seemed in danger. The race, following a first-lap collision, was so predictable that rival drivers lamented its monotony over the team radio.

But for Leclerc, the more uneventful, the better – aware of how swiftly fortunes can change on Monte Carlo's streets.

After failing to convert two prior Monaco pole positions into wins – once due to a driveshaft failure in 2021, and another due to a strategy error in 2022 – Leclerc's misfortunes birthed the "Leclerc curse" narrative. While he dismissed the notion, acknowledging tension during Monaco race weekends due to past setbacks.

"I never believed in the curse, but it always felt tough in those two chances to win here," Leclerc explained. "One, I couldn't even start; the second, we erred in strategy. Losing those wins was frustrating."

With victory finally secured, Leclerc celebrated with his Ferrari team, diving into Monaco's harbor with his boss Frédéric Vasseur, marking a jubilant end to years of heartbreak.

"It's a special moment in my career that deserves celebration," he declared. "But tomorrow, it's back to focusing on Canada and giving 100% for the next race."