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Monaco GP takeaways: Leclerc's dream win, how can we improve race?

Clive Rose / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

We offer our takeaways following each race weekend this year and continue the 2024 schedule with the Monaco GP.

Moments that decided the race 👀

Leclerc puts it on pole

Charles Leclerc won his home race for the first time in his career. Though most of the focus will be on his victory on the legendary street track, his win stemmed from something he's done multiple times: qualify on pole in Monaco.

Leclerc looked to be in control all weekend. He was miles ahead of the field in Free Practice 2 and 3 before putting together another marvelous Monaco pole lap. Despite the heavier cars of these ground-effect era regulations, Leclerc's lap wasn't just faster than his 2021 pole time; it was also just off the 2019 qualifying lap record set by Lewis Hamilton in the W10.

Driver Year Pole Time
Charles Leclerc 2024  1:10.270
Charles Leclerc 2021  1:10.346
Lewis Hamilton 2019  1:10.166

The Ferrari driver appeared to have a comfortable margin on the field, but Leclerc didn't take pole just because of his speed. Calm and composed driving also led him there. McLaren's Oscar Piastri posted the fastest ideal lap in Q3 – which combines the best sectors of the drivers' timed laps - but he couldn't put it all together when it mattered most.

Leclerc did.

Driver Best Sector 1 Best Sector 2 Best Sector 3 Ideal Lap
Charles Leclerc  18.386  33.174  18.710 1:10.270
Oscar Piastri  18.303  33.156  18.741 1:10.200

Usual contenders Max Verstappen and Red Bull also didn't have the same pace advantage on the bumpy street circuit due to characteristics of the RB20's suspension. Still, despite the struggles, Verstappen looked like he could challenge for a front-row spot before hitting the wall on his last Q3 run. Leclerc, no stranger to Q3 collisions in Monaco, kept it clean.

In a track requiring a street-friendly car, confidence, speed, and precision, Leclerc and Ferrari brought all three to the table and were rewarded with pole, often a precursor to a Monaco win.

Lap 1 carnage changes race

Kym Illman / Getty Images Sport / Getty

If qualifying on pole put a race win within reach for Leclerc, then a Lap 1 red flag virtually handed the victory to him.

A gigantic crash on the opening lap left both Haas drivers out of the race and Sergio Perez's RB20 dismantled beyond belief, effectively removing all major pitstop strategies from the front-runners. With the red flag, Leclerc and the rest of the top four switched to a hard tire at the restart and ran to the end without needing a pit stop.

Another benefit of the red flag for Ferrari was that Carlos Sainz didn't lose any positions at the restart despite suffering a puncture at the first corner after contact with Piastri. With starting positions reinstated, this kept a teammate in play for Leclerc instead of both McLarens hustling him for the entire race.

With the pitstop strategy element removed, almost all that was left for Leclerc to do was drive 75 laps error-free. That's not always easy on a track like Monaco. And despite the demons of past Monaco debacles, Leclerc qualified on pole, kept it out of the walls for 78 laps, managed his pace and hard tires perfectly, and took the checkered flag in one of Formula One's most emotional victories in some time. And he did it on merit.

Driver of the Day 🙌

The third time's the charm for Leclerc.

After failing to convert two previous Monaco poles in the 2021 and 2022 GPs, Leclerc broke his curse with Sunday's performance, notching his first F1 victory since the 2022 Austrian GP. While the Perez crash simplified Ferrari's strategy into a no-stop race, the Monegasque driver still dominated, jumping first off the line in both standing starts and defending against Piastri for the entire race.

Monaco is a relatively simple street circuit, but its difficulty lies in the drivers' mental sharpness. Leclerc is known to put immense internal pressure on himself, and winning his home GP after years of setbacks would be at the front of his mind. With a dialed-in, no-mistake performance, Leclerc demonstrated his mental toughness, breaking his Monaco curse and allowing him to focus on chasing Verstappen in the drivers' championship.

What were they thinking? 🤔

It hasn't been a good season for Alpine.

Things were looking up for French drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly after Alpine posted its best start of the season by qualifying P10 and P11. But it all changed when Ocon needlessly lunged onto Gasly on Lap 1, launching Ocon into the air and forcing him to retire with suspension and gearbox damage.

Ocon's strategy was undoubtedly questionable. And the ramifications of his decision will be costly. Monaco is a narrow track that makes it difficult to overtake, and Ocon's decision spelled disaster. While he took full responsibility for his actions, the lapse in judgment handed him a five-place grid drop for the Canadian GP. Alpine boss Bruno Famin also said there would be "appropriate consequences" for the 27-year-old's error. With no contract lined up for 2025, Monaco may have lasting effects on Ocon's F1 prospects.

The Debrief

The problems with Monaco and how to fix it

Clive Rose / Getty Images Sport / Getty

It's true to say an F1 race took place in Monaco on Sunday, but it would be a lie to say much racing happened on the famous street circuit.

There's no way around it; Sunday's race was a procession. There were a handful of overtakes - shockingly low even for a circuit like Monaco. Drivers like Verstappen repeatedly called the race "boring," even going as far as telling his race engineer that he wished he had brought a pillow. George Russell was told on Lap 12 that there was no benefit to driving faster, and race leader Leclerc was advised to slow down to back up the pack.

A Lap 1 red flag magnified the circuit's long-known issues by removing all the race's strategic components. As we all now know, a Monaco without strategy is barely a race worth watching.

The 2024 Monaco GP is the first race in which the top-10 starting grid order remained completely unchanged at the checkered flag. Sunday's procession raised many uncomfortable questions, most notably: Does the proclaimed crown jewel still deserve a place on the calendar, or has F1 outgrown Monaco?

Purists will argue that there's no F1 without Monaco, and that's a fair point. Besides, Monaco's qualifying showcase is a can't-miss event that's typically one of the most memorable sessions of the season. Assuming Monaco remains on the calendar, here are several solutions F1 could consider to spice up Sunday's action.

Monaco-spec tires: There shouldn't be a race where drivers can string a set of hard or even medium tires over 70 laps to the finish. Pirelli could consider developing high-degradation tires specifically for Monaco. In an ideal world, these tires would quickly degrade and drastically fall off a cliff once degradation starts. The suspense between trying to stretch out another couple of laps or risking a mistake due to lack of grip would instantly make this race more compelling.

More mandatory stops: How about mandating that teams run every single compound at least once in a dry race? If the on-track action is going to be dull, then let's see which pit walls are the absolute sharpest in terms of strategy. For good measure, banning tire changes during a red flag should also be enforced.

Track changes: This is an admittedly difficult change due to safety concerns. The Nouvelle chicane out of the tunnel is the easiest candidate, but this awkward section was implemented to slow speeds into the Tabac corner. Perhaps adding another DRS zone in the tunnel to improve overtaking opportunities going into the Nouvelle chicane would help.

Turn Monaco into an All-Star event: Here's a possible solution that likely appeals to purists and even the anti-Monaco crowd. Monaco stays on the calendar but is separate from the championship, instead only serving as F1's All-Star event. Drivers compete in single-lap shootout competitions and then a race, but they're all in the same-specification cars. These cars could be produced by the FIA just for Monaco, or teams could develop their own Monaco car outside the budget cap. Heck, do it in go-karts. Either way, who wouldn't want to see F1's top drivers go head-to-head in equal machinery before a Sunday race that should produce actual wheel-to-wheel racing?

They said what? 🗣️

Peter Fox - Formula 1 / Formula 1 / Getty

Leclerc on capturing home race: "It means a lot. It's the race that made me dream of becoming an F1 driver. ... I was thinking (of) my dad a lot more than I thought I would while driving. He's given everything for me to be here, and it was a dream of ours for me to race here and to win. It's unbelievable. ... Tonight, I'm gonna party like an animal."

Gasly on collision with Ocon: I'm just disappointed with Esteban because it should not happen. And for the team, we've got 1,200 people working for us, and we cannot afford to have this type of behavior. We had clear instructions before the race and this hasn't been respected. You should never take that much risk to take both cars out. I'm sure it will be discussed, and we can't afford to have a similar situation in the future."

Checo on being taken out by Magnussen: "I think it was totally unnecessary at that part of the race. There was no need for that. (It's) always very difficult to get room, and, I mean, I've done those maneuvers many times. At some point, you have two options: to lift or have a contact. Too unnecessary with the speeds we were doing."

Lando on inability to overtake at Monaco: "There's never that much going on in Monaco. The red flag simplified things and made things even less action-packed than it normally is."

Verstappen shared the same feelings as Norris: "F--k me, this is boring. Should've brought my pillow."

Hamilton on Mercedes' improvements: "The signs of performance this weekend have been encouraging. Three races in a row now that we've brought upgrades."

What's next?

Alex Bierens de Haan / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Things have tightened considerably in the drivers' and constructors' standings as we head to Canada for the Montreal GP on June 9.

Verstappen claimed the last two races at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Hamilton has been on the podium in six of the previous seven races in Montreal, winning four times from 2015-19.

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