Leclerc looks to be in the clear ahead of Monaco Grand Prix as Ferrari ease gearbox fears

By Sports Desk May 22, 2021

Charles Leclerc's chances of starting his home grand prix in pole position appeared to have received a boost on Saturday, with Ferrari finding no gearbox damage in initial checks.

Leclerc took pole for the Monaco Grand Prix in dramatic circumstances earlier in the day when he crashed while top of the timesheets.

The crash forced qualifying to be halted early. Leclerc flicked off one barrier and went hurtling into another just as his rivals – including second-placed Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in third – seemed ready to mount a challenge in the closing moments of the session.

Leclerc admitted he was worried the impact and the damage to his car may mean its gearbox required replacing, which would see him given a grid penalty.

However, tests conducted by Ferrari found no "serious damage" to the gearbox, though further checks will be carried out on Sunday to ensure it is useable.

This update came after the post-qualifying news conference, in which Leclerc said: "I have mixed feelings a little bit, because with the crash I don’t know where I’m starting tomorrow yet. It depends on the damage on the car."

It was the first time Leclerc had made it to Q3 on his home circuit.

"Well, it didn't feel great to go Q3, as at least we were expecting to go through to Q3," he said.

"It would have been a big disappointment if I was not going into Q3, 2019 was a hard one to take as we definitely had the potential to be up there but we couldn't finalise it after the mistake we have done in Q1. Hopefully we will end up this weekend on a high, which never happened at home."

Meanwhile, two weeks after securing a 100th pole position of his Formula One career, championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to settle for seventh on the grid.

"[The car] didn't feel too bad on Thursday, and then we made some changes and it felt pretty terrible today, so of course we go back to the drawing board," Hamilton said.

"I think from my point I just had such a lack of grip out there, which then leads you to overdrive and start trying to get more from it to no end – it doesn't improve.

"Today was a question of tyres, the tyres were just not working. I was sliding around. I've not spoken to the engineers just yet. Valtteri did a better job at the end of the day."

Hamilton's poor run means that title challenger Verstappen is well placed to take advantage.

"It's always important to score a lot of points, but of course you need to be ahead of your main rivals as much as you can," said the Red Bull driver.

"So today was good – but of course we need to finish that off tomorrow."

Related items

  • F1 to double number of sprint races to six in 2023 F1 to double number of sprint races to six in 2023

    Formula One will increase the number of sprint qualifying races from three to six for the 2023 season.

    The shortened format, introduced to F1 in 2021, sees teams and drivers take part in traditional qualification sessions on Friday, before an additional 100km race on Saturday sets the grid for Sunday's grand prix.

    This year's calendar saw sprints at Imola and the Red Bull Ring, with the final event to take place at Interlagos.

    From next year however, half-a-dozen race weekends will pull double duty following a rubber-stamped proposal.

    "I am pleased that we can confirm six sprints from 2023 onwards," F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali said in a statement.

    "The feedback from the fans, teams, promoters and partners has been very positive, and we all want to ensure its success in the future."

    World champion Max Verstappen qualified top and won both sprint races earlier this season, though he only converted the feat at Imola into a race win, with Charles Leclerc victorious in Austria.

    The F1 season continues this weekend in Singapore.

  • Kazakhstan race added to MotoGP calendar from 2023 Kazakhstan race added to MotoGP calendar from 2023

    A first MotoGP in Kazakhstan will be staged next year after a five-year deal was agreed.

    It was confirmed on Tuesday that the new Sokol International Racetrack will stage the race from 2023.

    The circuit is just outside Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty and will be the 74th venue to host a race in the premier class.

    A MotoGP statement said: "The region will be a new pitstop for MotoGP as the sport continues to expand around the world, engaging with new markets and fanbases.

    "Kazakhstan will also become the 30th country to host a motorcycle Grand Prix since 1949, a perfect landmark number to celebrate the ever-expanding history of the world's first motorsport World Championship, and Sokol International Racetrack will be the 74th venue to host a premier class Grand Prix."

  • Zhou to stay with Alfa Romeo for 2023 F1 season Zhou to stay with Alfa Romeo for 2023 F1 season

    Zhou Guanyu has kept his Alfa Romeo seat for the 2023 Formula One season.

    The 23-year-old made history when he became the first full-time Formula One driver from China this season and scored a point on his debut in Bahrain.

    Zhou has gone on to pick up a further five points in his maiden campaign and he will remain Valtteri Bottas' team-mate next year.

    "I am looking forward to continuing working with Zhou," Alfa Romeo boss Fred Vasseur said on Tuesday.

    "From day one with the team, at the Abu Dhabi test last year, he has impressed me with his approach to work and this is always a very positive trait. We knew he was quick, but the way he adapted to Formula One in such a short time has been one of the best surprises of our season.

    "He is a very nice guy, everyone in the team likes both his personality and attitude. He has had the humility to ask questions and learn, from the engineers as well as Valtteri, and the intelligence to apply all the information he got to improve race after race.

    "He will have this experience to draw on next season, and I am sure he will make another step forward as we continue to grow our team."

    Zhou expressed his gratitude for the faith Alfa Romeo have put in him.

    He said: "I am happy and grateful to Alfa Romeo F1 Team for the opportunity to be part of the team for another season.

    "Making it to Formula One was a dream come true and the feeling of competing for the first time in a race will live with me forever: the team has been incredibly supportive, welcoming me from day one and helping me adapt to the most complex series in motorsport.

    "There is more that I want to achieve in this sport and with the team, and the hard work we have put together since the start of the year is just the first step towards where we want to be next season.

    "There is still a lot to learn, a lot to develop but I am confident in our work: I am looking forward to the next chapter of our story together."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.