Leclerc says Ferrari’s Monaco pace ‘too good to believe’ as local star overcomes gearbox issues to head FP2
Charles Leclerc took steps to amending his disastrous home record on Thursday of the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, overcoming gearbox issues in Free Practice 1 to head FP2 from Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz. But despite the fight back, Leclerc – who’s yet to reach Q3 or finish a race in his native Monaco – said he was nervous about how much pace Red Bull and Mercedes would be able to find ahead of qualifying.
Bedecked in a Louis Chiron tribute helmet for this weekend, Leclerc waved causally to friends and fans as he hit the track in FP1 at Monaco, but was soon side-lined with a gearbox issue that limited him to just four laps in the morning session.
But Leclerc shrugged off that disappointment in FP2 with a scorching late effort in the qualifying simulations, to lead a shock one-two for Ferrari, the red cars the only ones to make it into the 1m 11s on Thursday. But no one had been more shocked than Leclerc himself.
“I was quite surprised that it ended that way because here especially, it’s important to do as many laps as you can, and with the issues we had in FP1, I had only done four laps,” said Leclerc. “But I felt quite at ease with the car in FP2, and managed to put that lap in.”
Asked whether he’d had a chance to crib team mate Sainz’s data after he’d been forced to be a spectator in FP1 meanwhile, Leclerc replied: “Honestly, on the driver’s side, it’s nearly impossible to find references with what he’s doing, because in the end, I don’t have my own references.
“So it’s all about basically going out in FP2, trying to take your time to get to speed, trying to take your own references. After the first runs, I could compare a bit to Carlos to see where I was lacking, and I just did that for the end of FP2.”
Ferrari may have been on top for Thursday then – but was Leclerc confident of retaining that advantage into Saturday, as he searches for not only his first pole position here, but also his first Q3 appearance?
“There’s still a bit of margin,” said Leclerc, “but on the other hand, I’m sure that Mercedes and Red Bull have more margin than we have, so we shouldn’t get carried away too much. We’ll have one day tomorrow to work hard, and let’s see where we end up.
“I want to wait until Saturday,” he added. “For now, it’s looking good, but a bit too good to believe it, so let’s wait and see. Saturday, we will know exactly where we are in qualifying, and then we will go from there for the race.”