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‘It's a difficult one to take’ – Leclerc ‘hurting’ after technical issue prevents him taking Monaco start

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After crashing out of his first two races on home soil, Charles Leclerc endured more misery in his hometown on Sunday, with mechanical issues preventing him from even taking the start of the Monaco Grand Prix.

After a rollercoaster 24 hours, in which he sealed pole position, crashed, faced an anxious wait over whether his gearbox would need replacing, then receiving the good news it wouldn’t, Leclerc completed only half a lap out of the pits on his way to the grid before he realised all was not well with his Ferrari.

"No no no - the gearbox guys," he said over team radio, before helmet in hands retreating to the garage where he’d sit patiently before his mechanics declared his race over before it started.

Ferrari reported the Monegasque had suffered a problem with the left driveshaft that couldn’t be fixed before the race, and although they didn’t confirm if it was caused by Leclerc’s dramatic crash at the Swimming Pool late in Q3, that hardly mattered to Leclerc.

Asked how he was feeling in the immediate aftermath, Leclerc said: “Sad. Just very sad. It’s a very difficult one to take and I also feel sad for the team because they’ve been checking everything.

2021 Monaco Grand Prix: Gearbox issue forces Leclerc to retire pre-race

“All the mechanics have been in a hurry since yesterday trying to check everything and everything was fine and I did the first sector on the out-lap, everything felt perfectly fine and then I just arrived before the tunnel, I think, and something broke on the rear left which is not the gearbox. I initially thought it was the gearbox but from the first investigations, I don’t think it’s the gearbox and that it’s coming from something else, but we’ll see.”

Prior to the race, Ferrari had changed multiple parts on Leclerc’s car in the hope of allowing him to start from pole, rather than changing his gearbox and penalising him five grid spots. On Sunday morning they confirmed their initial suspicions that his gearbox had survived the impact, but any optimism quickly evaporated on the lap to the grid, with Leclerc visibly upset.

“A lot of emotions obviously in the helmet," he explained. "It’s a track that means something very special for me, I mean that’s for every driver that’s race is at home, they want to do well and I’ve never finished a race in Monaco. This year I start from pole and I don’t even start it so it’s a difficult one to take but it’s like this. I will have to go over it and push for better in the future.”

The 23-year-old said he could at least take some heart from Ferrari’s shock competitiveness in Monaco, even if he expected the Scuderia to slip back again in Azerbaijan.

“I really enjoyed to be back fighting for top positions, but on the other hand we all know that it’s a one-off. The car was very good on this track but from next race onwards we will come back to reality and unfortunately we won’t be fighting for these positions again, so that’s why it hurts a bit more than normal, but it’s like this.”

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