🇲🇨 F1'24: R8: Le Curse Breaker

Charles Leclerc breaks two curses at once

It finally happened. Charles Leclerc beat two curses at once. First of all, he won his home race after three non-finishes (well, 2 DNFs and 1 DNS) in the previous five attempts at conquering his hometown. 

But 2024 will be the year where it finally happened. A first-time home winner to go along with the five other victories that will surely pale in insignificance to his first victory on the streets where he grew up.

Alex Jacques’ call was not heard on the TV feed in the UK, but the line “the grandstands that he saw built as a kid growing up now rise for him” is an absolute all-timer and fits the sense of occasion brilliantly.

Leclerc is classic storytelling. Hometown hero joins the grid and works his way up to a contending team, and tries to conquer Monaco, joining the roster of legends he saw and read about before.

It was not lost on Leclerc, as he admitted that he was getting emotional while driving the final two laps of the track.

But the other curse that’s broken is also quite interesting. Leclerc had grabbed 12 poles since Miami 2022. He had failed to convert any of those last dozen pole positions he had achieved.

Perhaps that had been weighing on the Monegasque man’s mind coming into this race. Leclerc has shown brilliant pace over one lap, but the quality of the Red Bull, or a classic strategic error from Ferrari, or something else altogether was stopping him from stringing together a perfect weekend.

This year felt different. After the smash between Checo Perez and both Haas cars forced a red flag, it meant that most drivers did not have to pit again. With a Ferrari at the front and a nuanced strategic situation facing them for 75 laps, you might be forgiven for thinking the pasta revolver chef meme was about to come out, but both Leclerc and Sainz drove a race that stopped George Russell or Lando Norris from pitting onto a more aggressive tyre strategy, although Russell’s defence against Verstappen showed that in Monaco, at least, track position matters more than the freshness of your Pirellis.

So what does this mean now for Leclerc and Ferrari? 2025 is a long way away, but the massive changes coming will have some effect on the team. Leclerc and Carlos Sainz is a driver lineup that doesn’t feel like there is one driver preferred over another, but can people say the same thing about Ferrari when composed of Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton?

Knowing that the other side of the garage will have the best driver of his era in the same car, with both drivers expected to challenge for the front, breaking these curses also brings Leclerc’s confidence up, and we might now see a more relaxed Charles Leclerc, a driver free of the pressure associated with representing Ferrari, having seen off two of his own personal demons and able to focus on the challenge ahead this year, and the ones to come in the future.

Like with Lando Norris, getting that first win off his back, for Leclerc, winning the most iconic of home races is pure narrative driven storytelling. Sainz’s win in Australia was similarly cinematic, bouncing back in the best possible way a few weeks after an appendectomy. 

Rumours of there being a title race, however, still feel some way off. Leclerc, Sainz, Norris and Oscar Piastri all feel like they might pick points off each other, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen being the most consistent, and with a 31-point lead over his rivals after a third of the season, somehow these drivers need to sort out the order among themselves before challenging the reigning three-time World Champion. And there’s also Perez to contend with AND the Mercedes’ pairing who still might be able to make an impact on their day.

While the cars are converging in terms of performance, the drivers are also giving themselves their best chance at taking on the summit of the sport. Kill your own demons before you try to take on the rest of the world. More classic storytelling. The dive in the water (do not recommend doing that in the UK) feels like the thing you’re meant to do after winning in Monaco, but at the same time, looked like a baptism. I’m absolutely reading too much into it, but this might be Leclerc reborn, and the next third of the season, taking us from Canada to Monza after a European tour is going to be utterly fascinating to see.

Formula 1 has had its most success in the past based on cinema. This is a cinematic sport that is driven by narrative and emotion and Leclerc’s win will inevitably make its way to a heavily-edited Drive to Survive episode, but make no mistake. Leclerc’s win in Monaco is truly worthy of a 10-episode Last Dance style series. It has taken so much for Leclerc to spray not champagne with Prince Albert of Monaco, but seeing the end of this story makes me excited to see what the next chapter holds.

F1 moves onto the best track in the calendar (in my view). Canada 2011 is my all-time favourite race and while it’s still difficult to overtake in Montreal, the season is hitting a pivotal point. It’s difficult to read anything about long-term form in Monaco. It’s a total wildcard. Canada, with its twisty opening section and a sector 3 that is essentially two straights and a famous chicane, will be the true measure of whether there’s a two or three-way title fight, or whether normal service will be resumed on a more conventional track.

Monaco might have been boring as a race itself, but the season and Formula 1 as a sport is only getting more exciting. 

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