In 2018, Charles Leclerc became the fourth Monegasque driver to compete in his home Grand Prix weekend. It has been over 70 years since the last driver from the principality finished on the podium at their home event.
The Monaco Grand Prix has been held 78 times since the inaugural race around the streets in 1929. Louis Chiron became the first local driver to compete in the race in its second running in 1930, a race in which he finished as runner-up. Chiron would compete in the race another seven times, scoring a win in 1931 and finishing runner-up again in 1934 and 1948, before Monaco hosted a round of the first Formula 1 World Championship season in 1950.
Chiron was present on the grid for the event, and qualified in eighth. He ended the race in third place, making him the first – and so far only – Monegasque driver to finish on the podium at his home event. He also became only the second driver in F1 history to finish on the podium at their home Grand Prix. Britain’s Reg Parnell had finished third at the British Grand Prix in the previous race. It was also the only time a Monegasque driver had finished on an F1 podium until Charles Leclerc took his maiden podium finish at the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Louis Chiron’s F1 record
Chiron achieved another record at the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. On his final race appearance, Chiron became the oldest driver to ever compete in a Formula 1 Grand Prix at the age of 55. He finished in sixth place – which was the last time a Monegasque driver scored a point in F1 until Leclerc did so at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Chiron made two more Monaco Grand Prix appearances, but failed to start in 1956 due to a blown engine and failed to qualify for the race in 1958.
Just two more Monegasque drivers would compete in F1 before 2018. André Testut was the first, competing only at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1958 and 1959. He failed to qualify for the race on both occasions.
It would be another 35 years before the next driver from Monaco raced in the sport. Olivier Beretta drove for Larrousse in 1994, and his home race was the first time he reached the end of a Grand Prix, finishing in eighth place. Beretta made six more Grand Prix appearances before running out of sponsorship money and being replaced. He went on to make test appearances for Williams in 2003 and 2004.
Monaco’s new hope
The hopes of the principality are now pinned on Charles Leclerc, who competes with Ferrari. Now a five-time Grand Prix winner, Leclerc has not had the happiest of relationships with his home race so far during his time in Formula 1.
On his first Monaco Grand Prix appearance in 2018, Leclerc’s Sauber suffered a brake failure towards the end of the race and he collided with the back of Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso at the chicane, eliminating both drivers from the event.
In 2019, he qualified well down the order but made up place in the opening laps. When challenging Nico Hulkenberg, his Ferrari hit a wall and he recorded his second successive home race retirement.
In 2021, Leclerc took pole position for the race but crashed in the closing minutes of Q3. Ferrari opted not to change the gearbox in his Ferrari car despite the crash. That proved to be the wrong decision. Gearbox issues prevented Leclerc from even starting the race.
It was thought that Leclerc had perhaps already had his quota of bad luck in Monaco ahead of the 2022 race. At the Historic Monaco Grand Prix weekend earlier in May, Leclerc crashed Niki Lauda’s 1974 Ferrari following a braking issue at La Rascasse.
Leclerc secured pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix once more in 2022 and led throughout the opening stages. A strategic mistake by the Ferrari team saw Leclerc queueing in the pit lane behind team-mate Carlos Sainz, costing him positions and seeing him finish fourth. Leclerc became the first Monegasque driver to finish their home race since 1994 and the first to score since 1950, but it was still a disappointing afternoon for the local driver.
Leclerc’s bad luck in Monaco stretches back even further than just Formula 1. In his title-winning season in Formula 2, in 2017, Leclerc failed to score a point in either of the two Monaco races. Starting from pole position in the Feature Race, Leclerc led in the opening stages but a badly timed pit stop saw him lose positions. Worse still, what was thought to be an incorrectly fitted tyre meant he had to pit again – but this turned out to be suspension damage, and he retired from the race. Meanwhile, in the Saturday Sprint Race, Leclerc retired again, this time with electrical issues.
Could 2023 be the year that Charles Leclerc finally makes the podium at the Monaco Grand Prix?