Monaco Grand Prix Takeaways: Charles Leclerc Breaks Curse for Home Race Win

The Ferrari driver rode a dazzling qualifying performance to victory at his home race on Sunday, tightening the championship battle in the process.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc took home the Monaco Grand Prix title in front of his home fans.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc took home the Monaco Grand Prix title in front of his home fans. / Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman /

Charles Leclerc broke through to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time Sunday, realizing a childhood dream of winning his hometown Formula One race on the streets of Monte Carlo. After failing to finish on the podium in Monaco twice from pole position in recent years, the Ferrari driver finally converted a remarkable qualifying performance into victory—the fifth of his F1 career. McLaren’s Oscar Piastri held on to finish in second while Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium in third. Here’s what to know from a special day at racing’s crown jewel.

Hometown Hero Charles Leclerc

The third time on pole proved to be the charm for the Monegasque driver, who led wire-to-wire to claim victory at the circuit he calls home. Many will remember Leclerc’s failure to land a podium in Monaco despite qualifying first at both the 2021 and ‘22 races, but those seemed a distant memory for the 26-year-old en route to the highlight of his career Sunday.

The weekend was a complete one for Leclerc, who posted a blistering lap in qualifying on Saturday to clearly gap the field and gain the superior position for the start of the grand prix. But even at Monaco, races aren’t won on Saturday. The Ferrari driver needed to stay out of trouble and maneuver his way around one of the trickiest tracks in F1 with the weight of expectations bearing down on him. And he did exactly that.

The scenes after the checkered flag showed just how much Leclerc had on his shoulders coming into the weekend. He let out an impassioned and celebratory scream from within the car as the entire crowd around Monte Carlo stood and applauded the heroic effort of the hometown driver. Then, during his interview, he was nearly overcome by emotion when speaking about what the race has always meant to him and his father, who died in 2017.

The pressure was on and Leclerc delivered, which bodes well not just the weekend in Monaco but for the impending championship fight.

Haas’s No Good, Very Bad, Terrible Weekend 

It didn’t look like things could get worse for Haas after Saturday’s disqualifications, but a self-inflicted mistake coupled with bad luck on the first lap of Sunday’s race made for the worst weekend result possible: two DNFs. 

Kevin Magnussen knew he had to get aggressive early in the grand prix to salvage any sort of outcome after both he and teammate Nico Hülkenberg were disqualified from qualifying due to irregularities with the rear wings of their cars. The Haas driver did just that, attempting to slip through a closing window on Sergio Pérez just after the first turn on the first lap. Unfortunately, that window slammed shut and Magnussen clipped the Red Bull at high speed, sending Pérez skidding into the barriers on both sides of the track and leaving a trail of demolition in his wake. 

Magnussen managed to avoid any sort of penalty (a huge break for him, given that the addition of two more penalty points would result in a race ban), but he did take himself, Pérez and Hülkenberg, who couldn’t manage to avoid the massive crash, out of the race. Even without the accident, it’s difficult to imagine Haas scoring any points from the back of the grid, but the team will now have some hefty repairs to make before Canada in two weeks. 

The outfit also fell further behind Red Bull in the constructors championship battle, while also ceding ground to both Williams and Alpine due to the ninth place finish of Alex Albon and 10th place result for Pierre Gasly.

Lap 1 Chaos Makes the Rest of the Race a Promenade

As can often be the case with a full grid on the narrow street circuit in Monaco, plenty of excitement happened on Lap 1. Sainz tapped Piastri and nearly had his race ruined until the Pérez–Magnussen accident led to a restart. Esteban Ocon then made a head-scratching move into a small gap on his Alpine teammate and went airborne, resulting in too much damage to continue.

The red flag was necessary to repair the barriers demolished by Pérez’s impact, but it also gave every team a free pit stop. Those that started on medium tires opted for the hards and vice versa. The remainder of the race’s 78 laps were a fight to manage those new tires, causing drivers to back well off the pace they would usually move around the Monaco circuit. At one point, George Russell received a message from the Mercedes pit wall: “At this stage, we gain nothing from driving fast.” Max Verstappen followed that up with the quote of the day: “F— me, this is really boring. I should’ve brought my pillow.”

Not exactly what you want to hear at one of F1’s most historic races.

There were some fascinating discussions of strategy between drivers and their garages throughout those rather uneventful laps, but even late pit stops from Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton didn’t lead to any further excitement. For those calling to make changes that would enliven the on-track action in Monaco, Sunday provided another strong piece of evidence. 

The Championship Race Is On

What looked like another runaway year for Verstappen and Red Bull a month ago now seems to be anything but. 

The two-time defending constructors champions posted their worst race weekend since the season opener in 2022 in Bahrain, when both Verstappen and Pérez failed to finish due to separate technical issues. In Monaco, Red Bull amassed just eight points, courtesy of Verstappen, who again was uncomfortable in the car throughout the three days. Ferrari and McLaren yielded 40 and 30 points, respectively.

With the weekend in the rearview, Verstappen still has a hold on the top of the drivers’ standings (169 points), but gave back quite a bit of ground to Leclerc (138 points). The real concern for Red Bull is in the constructors championship, where it now leads Ferrari by just 24 points and with McLaren applying significant pressure over the last three races. 

Simply put, Red Bull doesn’t look comfortable. Whatever issues are plaguing the Milton Keynes outfit don’t seem to be going away, which is cause for concern as the summer begins. The rest of the field is hungry to knock Verstappen off his pedestal—and for the first time in a few years seems up to the task. 

Zach Koons


Zach Koons is a programming editor at Sports Illustrated who also specializes in Formula One news and analysis. He started as a breaking news writer at SI before joining the programming team in 2023. Also a contributor to NBA and college sports coverage, Zach previously wrote for The Spun and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and currently hosts the Bleav in Northwestern podcast. Zach is a 2022 graduate of Northwestern University and lives in New York City.