Monaco Grand Prix 2024: Charles Leclerc’s date with destiny

78 laps.

260.286 kilometers.

One date with destiny.

However you measure it, Charles Leclerc is on the cusp of finally slaying the personal dragon that is his history in the Monaco Grand Prix, his home race.

Leclerc’s struggles in the race held on the streets where he grew up and learned to drive are well-documented, but the Ferrari driver will once again be starting on pole position in the Monaco Grand Prix.

And things could not be set up better for him to finally break through with a win.

He will have teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. starting behind him in P3, and while the Ferrari duo has not always worked together to perfection in the past, Sainz’s comments after qualifying indicate that he — like much of the F1 world — is pulling for a Leclerc victory on Sunday.

“Yesterday, I looked very quick on the long run, so for some reason, this weekend, I’ve been struggling on the short runs, and the long run seemed much better, which is something we will need to look into, but I’m confident that tomorrow the pace in the long run will be good,” said Sainz trackside following qualifying. “It’s just a matter of track position here, and we’ve lost it with not a great quali position. But, you know, it’s Monaco. Anything can happen, like always, and we will give it our best shot, but the priority will be to win with Charles tomorrow.”

Sainz doubled down on that statement in the FIA Press Conference following qualifying.

“We will see what we can do at the start, what we can do with strategy in order to do every single bit possible to help Charles to go and get that win. He’s been driving amazing all weekend. I think part of that delta comes from Charles also being super committed and having a particularly strong weekend,” added Sainz. “This weekend I think he’s been on it since FP1 and he’s been extremely quick. So yeah, we will do everything we can to win the race tomorrow.”

Now Leclerc has been on pole position before at home, most recently in 2022 when he had Sainz starting alongside him in P2. But a botched strategy call during a period of rain in the race led to an infamous moment where Leclerc was told to come into the pits, only to get late word to stay on the track. But it was too late as Leclerc had already committed to the pit stop and the team, which had just serviced Sainz in front of him, was not quite ready for him.

The mistake cost him valuable track position, and likely the race.

But that was 2022. This is 2024.

Sure he will have the McLaren duo of Oscar Piastri (P2) and Lando Norris (P4) to contend with, and Max Verstappen is always lurking despite starting P6. But this might be his best chance yet to break his Monaco curse.

And that remains — as it has all week — the biggest storyline on this Grand Prix Sunday. But it is not the only one.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Qualifying

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

How high can Max Verstappen climb?

As always, Max Verstappen is lurking.

But if the three-time Drivers’ Champion is going to be the one to deny Leclerc his first win at home, it will likely take something special from the driver, an intervention via a safety car and/or weather, or perhaps a combination of all three. After all, the last time a driver starting outside the top three won in Monaco was 1996, when Olivier Panis took victory from 14th on the grid.

As for sixth where Verstappen is starting? No driver starting sixth has ever won the Monaco Grand Prix.

And with current forecasts calling for just a scant chance of rain tomorrow — 3% as of publication — one of those above options might be off the table for Verstappen, who was not optimistic about his chances following qualifying on Saturday.

“It’s not going to be enjoyable,” said Verstappen. “Every lap that I did so far, in the low-speed it’s a challenge to be consistent. Of course, in the race, you don’t push it to the limit, everyone is saving [the car] and just making sure you have the [tires] to go with it. We’ll all calm down a little bit.”

Still, that might not help Verstappen, given how far he needs to climb.

“But we don’t have the fastest car anyway, so all the cars that are ahead of us are faster,” added the Red Bull driver. “We’ll just try to follow. It’s Monaco, things can happen, but I also don’t expect miracles.”

What will McLaren throw at Ferrari, and can they win in the pits?

The team with perhaps the best chance at denying Leclerc hometown glory?


With Oscar Piastri starting second alongside Leclerc, and teammate Lando Norris starting fourth right behind Piastri, McLaren has a chance to seize the lead early in the race, and potentially play defense over the course of 78 laps. Given the difficulties in overtaking, that is often a winning proposition in Monaco.

But like everything with the Monaco Grand Prix, trying to grab the lead at the start is also a tricky proposition. So it might come down to which team is better on pit lane.

“I mean, the run to Turn 1 is always your best chance at any track. Here, obviously, it’s a very short run, like we know,” said Piastri in the FIA Press Conference following qualifying. “Yeah, the strategy, you can try something because unless there’s a massive pace difference, which I’m pretty sure there won’t be, then overtaking is impossible here. So, yeah, it’ll be won or lost in the pits, probably. So make sure we have a good day.”

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Qualifying

Photo by Jayce Illman/Getty Images

Can Pierre Gasly take advantage of starting inside the points?

A year ago, Esteban Ocon threatened for pole position and ultimately qualified third, and the Alpine driver finished there for his only podium of the season.

This year the Alpine driver starting furthest up the grid is his teammate, Pierre Gasly. Gasly advanced to Q3 for the first time this season and will start in tenth on Sunday.

But how high can Gasly charge up the grid Sunday, and can the Alpine driver take advantage of starting in a points position and open his account for the 2024 campaign?

2024 has been an uphill fight for the French team this year, but with Ocon breaking through with the team’s first points in Miami, Alpine has certainly shown progress the past few weeks. But if Gasly is able to pick up a few spots, and bank some more points for the team, it would be a massive step forward for them.

Will Mercedes deliver a shocker of their own?

Can Mercedes make the most of the opportunity they have on Sunday?

Following Friday George Russell stated that he hoped the team would be fighting for a top five spot in qualifying, and Mercedes did just that on Saturday. Russell will start fifth on Sunday, with Lewis Hamilton right behind him in seventh.

And while there was some frustration from Mercedes that they were not starting higher, they have definitely shown progress this week.

“When you look the final positions on the time sheets, P5 and P7 probably looks like a bit more of the same, but in fact the pace was good, and we were just a few milliseconds away from P2 or P3 with George,” said Team Principal Toto Wolff following qualifying. “Lewis has put together a very strong weekend, but it wasn’t to be on that final run. The sport is so close right now, probably more than it has ever been, and it’s a fight for tiny margins in every area. As always, it was a challenge to find the sweet spot of the [tires], but we hit all our targets for those final laps and probably that’s the pace of the car right now.

“Ultimately, this has always been a tough track for us, and we’ve enjoyed a pretty competitive weekend so far. I also want to pay tribute to the work of the team back at the factory to produce our updates for this race. They did a mega job to get them all ready and working properly, and it’s great to see everybody pushing flat out like we are. Hopefully now we can build from here.”

As we will see in a moment, Mercedes has some options at their disposal when it comes to strategy. But with both drivers inside the top seven, and Monaco potentially delivering one more twist before the final chapter is written, the Silver Arrows are at least in the fight.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Qualifying

Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images

What strategies could we see teams employ on Sunday?

There are some interesting tire strategies to consider heading into the Monaco Grand Prix.

With two Ferraris and two McLarens up front, might we see those teams opt for a softer compound at the start? All three of the drivers starting up front talked about the importance of the start, and while there is a short run into Turn 1 at Sainte Devote, both teams might believe either taking — or holding — the lead at Turn 1 is critical for a win tomorrow.

And while that might lead to a pit stop on the earlier side to switch compounds, tire degradation is not too high at Monaco given the number of low-speed corners, so drivers that start on the softs can likely squeeze close to 30 laps on the softest compound, before bolting on a set of hards to run to the finish.

Or those four might play it safe and start on the mediums. But might we see, say, Russell starting fifth or Verstappen starting sixth decide to bolt on the softs and let it rip at the start?

However, while drivers starting at the back of field could also opt for softs, hoping to pick up a few places thanks to a higher level of grip, they could also start on the hards, run as along as possible, and then hope for help. Ideally these drivers would see a clean race until after a cycle of pit stops, pick up track position as other drivers dive down pit lane for their mandatory tire change, and then hope that intervention via a safety car comes.

But that is quite the needle to thread, particularly on a day expected to be dry.

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