Monaco GP: Leclerc finally secures historic home win

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-24. 26.05.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images
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Charles Leclerc finally claimed victory in his home race in Monaco, the Ferrari driver leading from lights to flag over McLaren's Oscar Piastri and his own team mate Carlos Sainz.

Lando Norris finished in fourth ahead of George Russell, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, with Alex Albon getting Williams' first championship points of the season in P9.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez retired on the first lap after a big accident with Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg triggered a red flag, and Esteban Ocon was also out after a separate clash with Alpine team mate Pierre Gasly.

It was a glorious day for a motor race in Monaco with blue skies and sunshine offset by the merest wisp of white cloud. There wasn't a hint of rain in sight in any direction as Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri led the field to the starting grid on the iconic Circuit de Monaco, with both Ferrari and McLaren opting for medium tyres for their drivers

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-24 leads at the restart of the race.
26.05.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images

When the lights went out, the fans cheered as local hero Leclerc made sure of keeping the lead through Saint Devote, up Beau Rivage and into Massenet for the first time. Piastri was able to thwart a strong challenge from Carlos Sainz, who had sustained a puncture from his battle with Piastri that left him locking his front left into Casino. He went straight on and briefly came to a stop before managing to get going again to struggle back to pit lane.

His cause was helped by an immediate red flag, although the cause wasn't Sainz but rather a multi-car incident at the back of the field. Coming up the hill, Sergio Perez had been tapped into a spin by Kevin Magnussen, and the Red Bull was ripped apart by further contact with the unfortunate Nico Hulkenberg with both Haas cars having been demoted to the back of the grid for a DRS infringement in qualifying. There had also been a separate clash between Alpine team mates Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly into Portier that had lifted Ocon into the air. "What did he do?", an incensed Gasly yelled over the team radio, with Ocon's car left too badly damaged to take the restart.

The drivers who had started on mediums now took the opportunity presented by the red flag to switch to hard tyres in a bid to go the distance once the race resumed. Leclerc still had control at the restart ahead of Piastri, and Sainz had been restored to third ahead of Lando Norris. George Russell, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton had originally been on the hard compound and were now forced to make the reverse transfer onto the mediums for the restart.

Barriers are repaired after the start crash.
26.05.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Price / XPB Images

It was a clean launch this time for the top three, while Russell had a go at Norris but found no way through. There were no incidents further back either, and Aston Martin pair Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso both made up positions to move within touching distance of the top ten. They were among those on mediums, and questions of tyre wear and pit strategy were uppermost in everyone's minds.

Ten laps in and Leclerc, Piastri and Sainz were trading fastest laps as they pulled away from Norris who had a big gap in turn over Russell. He was running a slow pace to manage tyre wear, which backed up Verstappen and left the Dutch driver feeling 'bored'. The cat and mouse games at the front continued and it remained to be seen whether those on the hard tyres could make it to the finish without another stop.

Stroll finally made a move on lap 43 by pitting from P11 after Alonso helpfully backed up the cars behind them to give his team mate a free stop. However the gambit was for naught when Stroll tapped his rear left on the barriers coming out of the tunnel on lap 50; a puncture forced him to duck down pit lane and come out in 16th on softs.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL38.
26.05.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

Moments later Hamilton came in on lap 52 having pulled out enough of a gap to give him a free stop in hand over Tsunoda. That freeed Verstappen to do likewise next time around. Flying laps from Verstappen and Hamilton slammed the door on any hope of Russell managing to pull off the same move and he was quickly caught by Verstappen. Even on his 50-lap-older mediums, Russell still made the Mercedes an impossible and unpassable prospect for the Red Bull to find a way through in the final laps

There was no doubt about the winner, with Leclerc putting in a calm, composed and faultless run to the flag and finishing off with a flurry of hot laps for his first home win by almost nine seconds ahead of Piastri and Sainz. It's the first time that the Monaco race has had a native Monegasque winner since Louis Chiron took victory for Bugatti in 1931, decades before the start of the F1 era.

Norris was just out of reach in fourth while Russell somehow held on to fifth from Verstappen. Hamilton crossed the line in seventh with the bonus point for fastest lap ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, meaning the first two championship points of the season for Williams. In all, the top ten all finished in grid order with Alonso just missing out in 11th having started from P14.

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