The least eventful GP of all time? Why Leclerc excelled in Monaco stalemate


Charles Leclerc always looked like he was going to win the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix, says Mark Hughes. But his scintillating qualifying laps and emotional victory were in contrast to the featureless F1 race

Charles Leclerc surrounded by Ferrari F1 team holding 2024 Monaco Grand Prix winners trophy

Eric Alonso/DPPI via Getty

A lovely story but a nothing race.

Charles Leclerc won his home Grand Prix around the streets of Monaco in his Ferrari. Even Prince Albert had tears in his eyes. But once a very big first lap accident had been cleared up it was perhaps the least eventful grand prix of all time. At the chequered flag the top 10 qualifiers were in exactly the position they started the race in.

Leclerc is always absolutely scintillating around street circuits. He’s fast everywhere of course but seems to be able to stretch the elastic more than anyone else when there are walls to be shaved. It’s very appropriate then that he’s a Monegasque.

It never looked like he wasn’t going to win it. In a Ferrari which in its traits is perfectly suited to the short bumpy curves of the track on a weekend in which Red Bull and Max Verstappen were in real trouble adapting the RB20 to those bumps, Leclerc was The Man as soon as the wheels began turning on Friday. It was a status that was never under threat and he seemed to effortlessly be able to shave the barriers with breathtaking precision and commitment.

Charles Leclerc in qualifying for the 2024 F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Leclerc skims the barriers in qualifying


Charles Leclerc raises his hand after securing pole position in 2024 F1 Monaco GP

Home hero looked fastest all weekend

DPPI via Ferrari

But in the final session of qualifying a rival did emerge: Oscar Piastri in the McLaren which no longer seems to struggle on slow corners. Had he hooked up the best of his two Q3 runs, he’d have shaded Leclerc. But it wasn’t coming quite so easily and the difference was a couple of tenths.

But that was the last time all weekend Leclerc had to worry about a rival. The dynamics of the race once there was a lap 1 red flag (for an enormous but thankfully harmless collision between Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez, which took out Nico Hulkenberg too) saw to that. The red flag did a couple of significant things: It got Carlos Sainz out of jail free as he’d just pulled the Ferrari off with a puncture from fighting out Turn 1 with Piastri. Now he could restart still in his original third place grid slot. Secondly, it obliged everyone to switch tyre compounds for the restart meaning that the race was run at a pedestrian pace as the whole field attempted to get to the end without a pitstop. It took several laps before anyone even eclipsed the fastest F2 time.

So with Piastri, Sainz and the other of McLaren of Lando Norris lined up nose-to-tail behind him, Leclerc was being controlled by his pitwall into not opening up a gap to the fifth-place Mercedes of George Russell for any McLaren pit stop to be feasible. If there’d been a gap to drop into, McLaren might have got either Piastri or Norris onto new faster tyres and tried then to overtake. So long as there was less than a 20sec gap to Russell they wouldn’t be able to pit. But Russell on medium tyres that ordinarily wouldn’t do the full distance, was driving slowly enough to make them last. So therefore was Leclerc on his hards. So we reached a slow stalemate and that’s how it ended. Russell held onto his fifth place from Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. They latter pair had been far enough clear of the nose-to-tail Yuki Tsunoda/Alex Albon/Pierre Gasly that Mercedes could attempt to undercut Hamilton past the Red Bull, a bid that failed. So as Verstappen on his new tyres chased Russell, so George responded and in doing so do diminished that gap to the leader even further.

Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez crash at start of 2024 F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Race was halted after first lap crash

Jayce Illman/Getty Images

Carlos Sainz alongside Oscar Piastri at the start of 2024 F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Contact with Piastri left Sainz with a puncture at the start


Here are a few soundbites from this remarkably featureless race.

Leclerc. “It was a difficult race emotionally because already 15 laps to the end… the emotions were coming. I have to say that I was thinking to my dad a lot more. It was a dream of ours for me to race here and to win, so it’s unbelievable.” His father, his biggest supporter and a former F3 racer, passed away in 2019.

“I realised actually two laps to the end that I was struggling to see out of the tunnel just because I had tears in my eyes. And I was like, ‘f**k, Charles, you cannot do that now. You still have two laps to finish’.”

Piastri: “ I had an attempt at a pass about 10 or 15 laps in, into Turn 8… You know, when you’re going that slow, you’ve got a fair few options. But I kind of knew that once I showed my hand in where I was going to try and overtake, that he would probably be wise to it from there. So I managed to get very close in Turn 7, one lap. I tried to show the nose in Turn 8 but he reacted just quick enough, so after that point I knew I was going to be very limited on options.”

Charles Leclerc leads Oscar Piastri and Carlos Sainz at hairpin in 2024 F1 Monaco Grand Prix

The top three, from restart to finish: neither Sainz nor Piastri was willing to risk overtaking

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Sainz: “I got tempted [to try a pass on Piastri] a few times, but you know that when you go for a move, the most likely outcome is contact between the two cars and a potential DNF for both. And I felt like that was too much to lose for both Oscar and myself, you know, and my team. So unfortunately, Monaco is like that. I did have my opportunities and my temptations, both in the first 15 laps and in the last 10 laps, but never really a clear chance to see how we could get out of the corner untouched. So, yeah, as I knew from Friday, my race pace was going to be good. I was the fastest on Friday practice in terms of race pace. Again, today, when I could show the pace, it was really, really good. But Monaco is track position and we lost it to Oscar yesterday.

“I’ve seen the same Charles that I’ve seen any other year in Monaco… He’s a guy that has always been super quick around Monaco. He has performed exceptionally well. The only thing I saw different is that he seemed to be in Q3/run two already in FP1! Q3 run two mode. And yeah, I had my moments trying to get to that level of pushing and then I lost confidence. And then while we are normally within half a tenth of each other, this week in those two, three moments in FP1 and FP2 it just put me a step behind in confidence and I couldn’t quite get close enough in quali.”