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Charles Leclerc

Ferrari explain 'nervous' Leclerc transformation behind Monaco triumph

"A weight off his shoulders" was how Fred Vasseur described Charles Leclerc's home victory in Monaco. What will that now do for him?

Leclerc podium Monaco
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Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur feels Charles Leclerc has taken a weight off his shoulders by finally laying to rest the ghosts of Monaco past with his long-overdue triumph on home soil.

Even through Leclerc's junior career, Monaco has always proven to be a thorn in his side. In his title-winning F2 campaign in 2017 with Prema Racing, he retired in the feature race and was 18th in the sprint.

In F1, his two previous pole positions ended in misery, one partly of his own making after crashing in qualifying in 2021, with the damage sustained not manifesting itself until he broke down on his way to the grid.

The following year, poor strategy from the pitwall in wet/dry conditions wrecked his chances to such an extent that he failed to even finish on the podium, having to settle for fourth.

The past weekend, however, Leclerc was flawless and was fully deserving of his success after clinching his third pole. There was no third time lucky, though, as the home hero maintained his composure throughout to deliver an emotional success.

Vasseur sensed in Leclerc a different driver this year to the one that went into last year's event just four months after the Frenchman had taken charge of the Scuderia.

"Last year he was a bit nervous, and from the beginning of the weekend he was a bit...this year he was much more relaxed from the beginning," said Vasseur, speaking to media, including RacingNews365. "From lap one, he had a fantastic weekend.

"He was always trying, and even when we had the issue in Q1 with the plastic bag in the front wing, losing two or three laps in a row with this, he was able to stay very calm because we could have been out in Q1. But he was very in control from the beginning.

"In the race, it was perhaps the most exciting race of the season [for him], I can imagine. We knew that starting from the red flag we had to do 76 laps with the same set of tyres.

"We asked him to slow down, and he was perhaps three or four seconds out of the pace at this stage, but he was able to manage the situation."

With Red Bull's Max Verstappen finishing sixth, Leclerc has closed the gap at the top of the drivers' standings to 31 points on the three-time F1 champion.

It is arguably too early to suggest we have a true title fight on our hands, but Red Bull has hit a trough whilst its rivals have closed the gap and are taking advantage of the issues with the RB20 that were so apparent around Monaco as it struggled to ride the kerbs and bumps.

Vasseur hailed Leclerc's victory as "an important one" for the Monégasque that could prove further transformative if he is to mount a concerted championship challenge.

"He had a kind of weight on the shoulders for years now about the win in Monaco," remarked Vasseur. "Sometimes he made small mistakes, like in F2, and sometimes he was unlucky, like in F1 with me at Alfa Romeo when we had a brake failure.

"In the end, he didn't have doubt but was a bit under pressure with this. But it's not just about Monaco. Probably, for his own self-confidence and for the approach he will have to all the other events, Charles will do a step forward.

"This one [the Monaco victory] will help him a lot. One of the characteristics of winners is that they have the confidence to manage a situation. Even when something happens they have the self-confidence to say, 'Okay, I will manage it next time'.

“From this, again, he will do a step forward, for sure."

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