Three things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix

rugby27 May 2024 12:25| © AFP
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Charles Leclerc © Getty Images

Charles Leclerc confirmed his potential as a world championship contender and raised more questions about Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s era of domination with his emotional home triumph on Sunday.

By winning a dull and processional Monaco Grand Prix with a flawless drive from pole position to chequered flag, while Verstappen started and finished sixth, the 26-year-old Monegasque lifted a monkey from his back as the Dutchman bemoaned his fate.

After a troubled weekend for the champion team, which saw second driver Sergio Perez crash out on the opening lap, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the star-studded spectacle in the Mediterranean principality:

Victory boosts Leclerc confidence

Ferrari team chief Fred Vasseur cut through the emotional aftermath of Leclerc’s victory to identify how important it can be for him in future races. "Firstly, everyone will stop asking him each year what will happen next time, what happens this weekend and blah blah blah…. It’s over now. It’s behind us all.

"He had a kind of weight on his shoulders for years here now. Sometimes, he made a small mistake, sometimes he was unlucky, like with a brake failure, and he was under pressure.

"Now, I think he can make a big step forward, for sure. His self-confidence and approach at other events will change."

Vasseur spoke before his team began celebrations at Jimmy’z nightclub, but shortly after a tearful Arthur Leclerc, Charles' younger brother, led widespread tributes by wishing their father Herve had been alive to see him win.

His victory was a realisation of a family dream shared with their father Herve, who died in 2017, before Charles entered Formula One.

"I am so happy," said Arthur, a Ferrari academy driver. "It’s the first time I cried seeing my brother win. It’s just such an incredible feeling and I just wish my father was there as well to see this moment."

Leclerc is now only 26 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ title race after eight of this year’s 24 races, while Ferrari are only 24 points behind in the teams’ contest. He may protest that it too soon to judge, but many believe Verstappen faces a fight ahead to keep his crown.

Verstappen and father signal need for emergency care at Red Bull

Max Verstappen and his father Jos issued clear signals that Red Bull have been caught by their rivals and now require emergency action if they are to remain the dominant team.

"We've had this problem since 2022," said the three-time champion, referring to his car’s sensitivity to bumps and riding kerbs.

His father Jos Verstappen went further and suggested Red Bull's era of dominance is over and the team need to reconsider their priorities after a period of controversies surrounding team boss Christian Horner’s alleged inappropriate behaviour and the exit of technical chief Adrian Newey.

"The era when Red Bull had the dominant car really seems to be over now," said Verstappen senior. "Maybe they should start focusing a bit more on racing and mutual communication again, rather than on other things."

With Ferrari and McLaren winning races and closing in, and Mercedes advancing, Red Bull face a challenge on and off the track.

'Most boring' race ever puts Monaco's future in threat

The future of the calendar’s most glamorous and historic event was the subject of fresh speculation after Sunday's 'snooze-fest' race amid calls for F1 to revise some rules specifically to enliven the Monaco Grand Prix.

"I got myself a yoghurt and an espresso," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. "I've never done that in 12 years."

"I should have brought my pillow," said Verstappen. "How boring was that?"

Mercedes driver George Russell replied: "They need to change something… maybe compulsory pitstops…"

"Or a compulsory nap," replied Verstappen.