Two weeks on from Carlos Sainz's home race, the Spanish Grand Prix, now it's Charles Leclerc's turn to feel at home as the Formula 1 World Championship stops off in the Principality of Monaco. It was here, watching from a friend's balcony that Charles first saw the cars charge through Ste. Devote, the first corner on the Monegasque track, got hooked on motorsport and began karting when he was just three years old. There has not been a race on the Monaco street circuit since 2019, as last year's event was cancelled because of the pandemic. However, Charles did put on a show on the streets of his city last year, at the wheel of an SF90 Stradale in a short film by the director Claude Lelouch.
The Monaco street circuit has very few fast sections and features ten right hand turns and nine lefthanders. Among them are some of the most famous corners in Formula 1, including Ste. Devote, Mirabeau, the 180° hairpin outside the Fairmont Hotel, the tunnel section and Rascasse. Qualifying here is more important than at any other track on the calendar, given that overtaking is almost impossible. So far, Leclerc has not had much luck at home, including in the junior categories and he has never seen the chequered flag. This year, he is absolutely determined to put an end to that trend.
As always in Monaco, the cars take to the track for the first time on Thursday for the two one hour-long free practice sessions, at 11.30 CET and at 15. The engines are silent on Friday, with qualifying taking place on Saturday at 15, preceded by the final free practice session at 12. The Monaco Grand Prix gets underway at 15 on Sunday. The race runs for 78 laps of the 3.337 kilometre long circuit, equivalent to a distance of 260.286 kilometres. The track has just one DRS zone, on the main straight, although even here, overtaking is a difficult proposition.
Ferrari in Monaco GP
GP contested: 64
Debut: 1950 (A. Ascari 2nd; R. Sommer 4th; L. Villoresi ret.)
Wins: 9 (14,06%)
Pole positions: 10 (15,62%)
Fastest laps: 17 (26,56%)
Total podiums: 42 (21.87%)
Monaco Grand Prix: facts & figures
4. The number of cars that finished the 1966 Monaco GP. The race in the Principality has always been extremely tough on man and machinery: a tiny driving error lands you in the barriers, while the bumpy track provides a stern test for the car's mechanical components. Jackie Stewart won for BRM that year, ahead of Lorenzo Bandini (Cooper) and the two BRMs of Graham Hill and the American Bob Bondurant, who was last, five laps down. Points for fifth and sixth places were therefore not assigned. In 1996, again only four cars actually crossed the finish line, with Olivier Panis a surprising winner for Ligier ahead of David Coulthard in a McLaren and the two Saubers of Johnny Herbert and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. This time, three other drivers, Mika Salo, Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari's Eddie Irvine were also classified, having parked up at the side of the track a few laps before the finish.
4+1. Monegasque drivers who have raced in Formula 1. The first was Louis Alexander Chiron, who finished third in his home race in 1950, which marked Scuderia Ferrari's debut in the category, competing in the first of its 1012 Formula 1 races. Chiron took part in 15 GPs from 1950 to 1955. Then came Andre Testut, who tried in vain to qualify for the 1958 and '59 Monaco GPs in a Maserati. Next up representing the Principality in Formula 1 was Olivier Henri Aldo Leopold Beretta, who took part in nine races in 1994 at the wheel of a Larrousse, never scoring any points. Lastly, Charles Leclerc who, at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Sauber and then with Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow, is the most successful Monegasque driver, with two wins from 63 starts, seven pole positions, twelve podium finishes and 441 points. Dutchman, Robert Doornbos raced under a Monegasque license and took part in eight Grands Prix with Minardi in 2005.
14. The lowest grid position from which the Monaco race has been won. It happened in the crazy 1996 race won by Olivier Panis in the Ligier. In fact, up until then, out of 66 races, the winner had started from the front row 45 times (68%) and 30 times from pole position. In terms of podium finishes, the biggest climb up the order came in 1979, when Clay Regazzoni went from 16th to second, behind Jody Scheckter in the Ferrari. Another noteworthy performance came from Eddie Irvine at the wheel of a Ferrari F310B in 1997: the man from Northern Ireland started from 15th on the grid and fought his way up to third in the race won by his team-mate Michael Schumacher, ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the Stewart.
55. Years of age – 55 years and 292 days to be precise, for Louis Chiron when he started the 1955 Monaco GP. On the 22nd May that year, the Monegasque set a record that remains unbeaten to this day, as the oldest driver to have started a Grand Prix. The oldest GP winner is, instead, Italy's Luigi Fagioli, who was victorious in France in 1951 at the age of 53 years and 22 days.
1929. The year of the first Monaco Grand Prix. The race was the brainchild of tobacco distributor Antony Noghes, also regarded as the inventor of the chequered flag. He was the president of the ACM (Automobile Club de Monaco) and obtained the support of Prince Louis II. Back then, the circuit was already pretty similar to the one used today, although it measured just 3.180 kilometres, as the double chicane at the Swimming Pool and the Rascasse-Antony Noghes corner combination was just a single turn next to a petrol pump, hence its name the Gasometer corner. 16 drivers were invited to take part and lots were drawn to decide the grid order. Pole was grabbed by Frenchman Philippe Etancelin and the race was won by Englishman William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti, who went home with the impressive sum of a 100,000 French Francs.
This week in Ferrari history
18/5. In 2003, Michael Schumacher won the Austrian Grand Prix. It was the German's third consecutive victory of the season, his 67th in total. It brought him to within two points of championship leader Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari's 162nd win is also remembered for the calm way in which the mechanics and Schumacher dealt with a fire that broke out while the car was being refuelled. The German remained impassive in the cockpit while the men in red tackled the blaze with fire extinguishers. Back on track, Michael made up the few seconds lost in the pits and went on to take a convincing win.
19/5. 2004 saw the new Monaco pits complex used for the first time. The entrance to pit lane is now at the final corner and the cars travel down the side overlooking the port. The new garages are bigger, allowing the cars to stay there throughout the weekend, rather than having to be brought down from the paddock for each session. Monaco thus became the only Formula 1 circuit where the pits do not face the track, but form the physical barrier between the pit lane and the main straight.
20/5. Niki Lauda passed away on this day in 2019. The Austrian is to this day the second most successful driver for Scuderia Ferrari in Formula 1, with two Drivers' World Championship titles, three Constructors' and 15 race wins from 57 starts. He also took 23 pole positions and finished on the podium 32 times with the Italian team.
21/5. In 2000, Michael Schumacher won the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, his twentieth victory with Scuderia Ferrari. In heavy rain, the only driver to worry the German was his rival Mika Hakkinen in the McLaren, who finished just over 13 seconds behind him. The rest of the field was lapped, including third placed David Coulthard in the other McLaren. It was Scuderia Ferrari's 129th win.
22/5. In 1955 Frenchman Maurice Trintignant won the Monaco Grand Prix in a Ferrari 625. It was a completely unexpected win for the Maranello marque, given that the 37 year old, born in Ste. Cecile-les-Vignes, was only ninth on the grid. However, Trintignant, known as a wily driver, let the others charge off in the early stages and then benefited from their retirements and troubles over the race distance of one hundred exhausting laps. It was the Scuderia's first Formula 1 win in the Principality and its twentieth overall.
23/5. In 1972, Rubens Goncalves Barrichello, a long serving Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 driver was born. Rubinho, as he is known, came to prominence at the wheel of a Jordan and then a Stewart, before joining Maranello in 2000. He would be a major player in the era dominated by Michael Schumacher. In six seasons with the Scuderia, Barrichello took part in 102 races, taking 9 wins, 11 pole positions and 55 podium finishes. With his help, Ferrari took the Constructors' honours every year from 2000 to 2004.