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Leclerc: I’ve had two poles at Monaco but then in the race…

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Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc set a scintillating pace on Friday, whenever he was out in Free Practice for the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix, he was always the fastest man on track by a margin and set himself up as the favourite for qualifying and the race on Sunday.

Reuters report, Leclerc cemented his status as pole position favourite for his home Monaco Grand Prix with the fastest lap in final practice ahead of Saturday’s key qualifying session.

The Monegasque, who has yet to stand on the podium at his home race despite two poles, lapped with a best time of 1:11.369s, the gap 0.197 to Red Bull’s 2024 F1 World Championship leader Max Verstappen.

That’s a double-edged sword for Leclerc, as being fastest on Friday is inspirational, even better in FP3 and a good sign the Ferrari SF24 is handy on street circuits. But the business end of the Grand Prix weekend starts with Qualifying this afternoon and P1 on the grid here is more important than anywhere on the calendar.

The venue – his hometown – where he has probably walked more than he has driven, much of the Monte-Carlo street circuit layout runs along the daily route young Charles took to school, but has not been kind to him.

Speaking after a positive Friday, ending the day by topping FP2 with a best lap of 1:11.278s, faster than anyone has ever driven around Monaco: “On the Medium we were really strong. On the Soft we struggled to put everything together, there was a lot of traffic. All in all, we have a good car at the moment. I feel confident with the car.

“However, it’s super important we keep this rhythm into FP3 because it’s the way Monaco is. I might have taken a bit more risk than the others today which paid off, however, it’s all about tomorrow in quali when everybody starts to go on the limit.

“Until now I think we’ve done a really, really good job, but we need to keep working, keep focusing on ourselves. But it’s a positive first day.”

Leclerc: We have to maximise everything to put it on pole

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The ‘Monaco Kid’ qualified his Ferrari on pole for his home race in 2022, but after a torrid afternoon at the Principality had to settle for P4, which remains his best result in five GPs on home soil for the 26-year-old. Last year he started P6 and finished P6.

A year later, pole is again on the cards for Leclerc: “IWe kind of arrived here knowing that anything was possible. As I said in 2021, we didn’t have a particularly good car, but coming into Monaco the characteristics of our car [worked] well on this very particular track and we were fast. This weekend we seem fast.

“Mercedes have been struggling since the beginning of the season, they are very fast this weekend so we expect them to be just the same. Lewis [Hamilton] has been on it all day, so we have to maximise everything to put it on pole.

“I’ve had two poles in the past [2021 and 2022] but then the result wasn’t the one I wanted. So if we manage to do, so which is the best starting place, we’ll have to focus well on Sunday in order to put everything together to finally get that win,” added Leclerc.

Sainz: We were just simply not able to extract maximum performance

ferrari monaco Sainz: We were just simply not able to extract maximum performance

No match for his Scuderia teammate, in fact, 0.684s slower than Leclerc, Carlos Sainz struggled to find the sweetspot around the tight, tricky and unforgiving venue and reported as much afterwards: “Definitely struggled over one lap today.

“We were just simply not able to extract maximum performance out of the Soft over one lap. Then for some reason the long run felt mighty quick, so yeah, something to understand there. But hoping for to find some answers.

“We got a little bit lost with the set-up changes at the beginning of FP2 that put me a little bit behind in the whole of FP2. I seemed to catch up a bit too late in the long runs, so tomorrow I should be better, but not the ideal start to a weekend. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be more in shape.”

“Monaco’s normally been one of my strongest, that’s why it’s weird what happened today in a way,” said the 29-year-old. “At the same time when I see I’m probably the quickest over the whole long run, there’s something there to understand, and if we put everything together we should be okay,” added Sainz, a two-time podium finisher at Monaco.

The best way to begin the breaking of his home race jinx, P1 in Qualy today is the first obvious step but no guarantee he will step onto the Royal Monaco Podium, let alone as the winner. Some luck would help too! (Additional Reporting by Agnes Carlier in Monaco)

Big Question: Will Charles Leclerc finally win his home Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday?