World Cup candidate Charles Leclerc was born and raised in Monaco. In a racing car, however, he has had bad luck on his roads so far. In free practice for the Grand Prix of his home country, the Ferrari driver can defy the complex. Mercedes experiences a setback.
Monaco shows its pride in local heroes around the world. Red flags are attached to numerous house facades in the principality in support of Charles Leclerc, mostly bought in the Ferrari shop, occasionally also in original in-house production. "Charles l'eclair" (Charles, the lightning bolt) is wordplayed on the balcony railing of a prefabricated building with a view of the harbour.
The favorite of the Monegasque and Ferrari crowds is relaxed in the face of the hype. "To see how the city is transformed for the Grand Prix is something very special," said Leclerc, who had to complete numerous media appointments from Tuesday. Mentally, however, it is not a burden for him: "30, 40 minutes before the units I focus completely, then it's like always."
But this time there is more at stake than usual. Leclerc is a World Cup contender for the first time before his home race - and thus also a candidate for victory in the classic. So far, however, he hasn't even tasted first place on his streets.
In five home races in Formula 1 and Formula 2, Leclerc never reached the finish line, last year he got stuck on the grid due to a defect on the pole. And then not even two weeks ago: At the Grand Prix Historique, he did a show lap in a Ferrari of the legendary Niki Lauda, the rear broke out, the outrageously expensive 312B3 from 1974 hit the guardrail.
Now the local hero has made the hearts of his fans beat faster for the first time in free practice for the Monaco Grand Prix (Sunday, 3 p.m. / Sky and in the live ticker on ntv.de). The Ferrari driver set the best time of the day in 1:12.656 minutes - and in the fight against world champion Max Verstappen he could receive valuable support from his teammate Carlos Sainz, who was only 44 thousandths of a second slower. Leclerc lost his lead in the Drivers' World Championship to Verstappen due to his failure in Barcelona last week. Six points separate the Ferrari driver and the world champion from the Netherlands.
Red Bull followed at some distance: Verstappen was fourth (0.447), his stable colleague Sergio Perez (0.379) not only showed a more consistent performance on his best lap. Mercedes experienced a setback. Record world champion Lewis Hamilton finished twelfth (1.611), his teammate George Russell (both England) was sixth (0.750).
The four-time champion Sebastian Vettel (Heppenheim/Aston Martin) posted a decent result (1.403) in ninth place, but things were tight in midfield. Mick Schumacher's Haas lay down in the first section due to a gearbox problem and lost a lot of practice time. All in all, it was enough for the 23-year-old to finish 17th (2.238).