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26 May 2024

Charles Leclerc celebrates home win as ‘boring’ Monaco comes under fire again

26 May 2024

Charles Leclerc finally ended his Monaco curse by winning a processional race that Max Verstappen claimed was “so boring” he wished he had “brought my pillow” and Lewis Hamilton said he could not blame fans for “falling asleep”.

After failing to convert either of his previous pole positions into a victory here, it was third-time lucky for Leclerc after he held off McLaren’s Oscar Piastri to claim his maiden victory in Monte Carlo, becoming the first Monegasque since Louis Chiron in 1931 to win on home soil.

But aside from Leclerc’s emotional triumph and a dramatic opening lap – which saw Sergio Perez walk away from an extraordinary 160mph crash with Kevin Magnussen, and, in a separate incident, Esteban Ocon launched airborne following a collision with Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly – Sunday’s 78-lap raised more questions about the principality’s position on the calendar in modern Formula One.

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz finished third, one place ahead of British driver Lando Norris. George Russell crossed the line in fifth for Mercedes with Verstappen sixth and Hamilton seventh. After one hour and 44 minutes, the top 10 finished in the same order they started.

“It was non-eventful,” said Hamilton, 39. “Everyone drove so slowly. It didn’t matter what tyre you were on. We were driving seconds off the pace.

“I don’t know what it was like watching but I am sure people were falling asleep.”

Social media was awash with comments criticising the tedium of the Monaco race. “I can only imagine,” said Hamilton. “We have to find ways of spicing it up a bit more, maybe three mandatory stops?”

The impact of Perez being sent into the wall by Magnussen – with the Dane’s Haas team-mate Nico Hulkenberg also caught up in the three-car pile-up – resulted in a red flag.

The drivers were allowed to put on fresh tyres during the 40-minute delay, effectively meaning they would not have to stop if their rubber could last until the end.

So, when the race fired up for a second time, Leclerc held off his rivals on the run down to Sainte Devote – and the motorcade started.

Leclerc, Piastri, Sainz and Norris – all on the hardest tyre compounds – started to pull away with fifth-placed Russell managing his medium rubber. Verstappen, in sixth, was 12 seconds behind after as many laps.

“F*** me, this is really boring, he complained over the radio. “I should’ve brought my pillow”. On lap 39, Leclerc was even instructed to slow down to save his tyres.

Despite being considered among the most glamorous events in world sport, the Monaco track has remained largely unchanged from the first grand prix staged here in 1929. And some have claimed it is no longer fit for purpose in its current guise.

F1 bosses have looked at ways to adapt the tight and twisty layout but have made little progress. The heaviest generation of cars ever seen has made overtaking here practically impossible.

Overall the weekend is really cool but it’s the Sunday race that is a little bit boring

“We are driving literally half-throttle on the straights, in a higher gear than you would normally do, four seconds off the pace,” said Verstappen, who saw his championship advantage to Leclerc reduced from 48 points to 31. “That’s not really racing.

“We all know in Monaco what is like. In the last few years it is even more difficult with the width of the cars but it is nothing new.”

Monaco’s current deal with F1’s owners’ Liberty Media is up for renewal following next year’s race. Does Verstappen believe it should pulled from the sport’s ever-expanding schedule?

“First I would like to change if possible a few little things because it would make will make it more exciting.

“Overall the weekend is really cool but it’s the Sunday race that is a little bit boring. The scenery is still great but if we could find a way to race better that would be my preferred solution. And if they asked for my opinion I would try to see what is possible.”

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