Monaco Grand Prix Top Three Press Conference

Monaco Grand Prix Top Three Press Conference

Monaco Grand Prix Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA-hosted press conference after the Monaco Grand Prix, Round 8 of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship.

Featuring 2024 Monaco Grand Prix winner Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), second-placed Oscar Piastri (McLaren)and third-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).

TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Jenson Button)

Q: Charles, congratulations. You haven’t just won the Monaco Grand Prix, you’ve won your home Grand Prix. How are you feeling right now?

Charles LECLERC: No words can explain that. It’s such a difficult race. I think the fact that twice I’ve been starting in pole position and couldn’t quite make it, makes it even better in a way. It means a lot, obviously. It’s the race that made me dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver one day. So yeah, it was a difficult race emotionally because already 15 laps to the end, you’re just hoping that nothing happens. Already the emotions were coming. I have to say that I was thinking to my dad a lot more. It was a dream of ours for me to race here and to win, so it’s unbelievable.

Q: Everyone always talks about Monaco being the jewel in the crown, but they also say Saturday is the most important day. It’s not, is it? I mean, today, there’s still a lot of work to do out there on the track, 78 laps, the pressure from behind. You have to be a mathematician when it comes to deciding how hard to push, how easy to go. It’s tough out there.

CL: It’s really difficult. At first, I thought we were… I mean, we had quite a lot of margin, but we knew there were 78 laps to do on the same tyres, which was very, very difficult. But yeah, we did a great management of the tyres. There was a big part of the race where we had to manage the gap with George. And then in the last 10 laps, I could push a bit more, and the car felt amazing. So I just want to thank the team for having done such incredible work over the last few months. giving me the opportunity to finally win this race is, again, a very special feeling.

Q: Well, when you crossed the finish line, the crowd just erupted, and to see so much support for you here, have you got words for the fans here?

CL: Just a huge thank you. The parade laps already were special, on the bus, and seeing so many of my friends on the balcony, so many people I know on the balcony, and it was just very, very special, so… Yeah, this one means a lot. And the support that I’ve had over the weekend means a huge amount. So thank you. Thank you so much to everybody.

Q: Oscar, you have to be happy with that. A podium in Monaco. It’s the dream race. Obviously, so close to the win. How was it out there for you?

Oscar PIASTRI: Yeah, tricky race. You know, the pace at the beginning was incredibly slow and I had one little half look before the tunnel, but yeah, I didn’t have… Well, I didn’t have a small enough car to fit into a gap. So yeah, thanks to the whole team. It’s been a great weekend all round. And yeah, nice to finally put a result on the board. We’ve been very strong for the last few weekends, but didn’t really have the results to show for it. So nice to have a podium, and what better place?

Q: Yeah, it was really fun watching you at the first start, having a go at a few places around the lap, and your aggression showed there. And we thought you were going to have a good go, but it didn’t quite come off. But it’s been a great weekend for you, hasn’t it? Does it make you think, ‘oh, those little things in qualifying would have made a big difference’?

OP: Yeah, I mean, it does. But to be honest, Charles has been mega all weekend. And, you know, they’ve been quick from the very first lap. And I think it would have taken something pretty special in quali to outdo him. The opportunity was almost there, but it would have taken probably the best lap of my life. So I’m happy with P2. A good result for the team again and yeah, very, very happy.

Q: Congrats. Enjoy the celebrations.

OP: Thank you. Cheers.

Q: Carlos, that must be mixed emotions. After the first start, it looked like it was game over. You got a little lucky being able to start again and you came away with a podium.

Carlos SAINZ: Yeah, it was a tight one and obviously a very bad feeling there in lap one that very quickly turned into a very good feeling after getting reinstated at P3. From there on, really, the race pace was good, as we expected. It’s just impossible to get past through the streets of Monaco. But I’m extremely happy to see Charles win his home Grand Prix. The way he’s been driving all weekend and managed to share this podium with him in P3. It’s a great feeling for the whole team. I think they all deserve it. And yeah, it looks like we’re getting stronger and stronger every weekend.

Q: It looked like towards the end of the race you were getting closer to Oscar. I don’t know if his tyres started opening up or he was struggling with him a bit, but you were given the pressure there.

CS: Yeah, once I was sure that Lando behind didn’t have a gap to pit for Medium and attack me at the end, I focused on doing some fast laps. I went down to the 1m14s, which was really quick at the time, and I said, OK, maybe I have a chance at putting a bit of pressure on Oscar, and maybe I can get him to do a mistake, because obviously I knew that passing him was impossible. And, yeah, we got him under pressure. I saw him lose the rear a couple of times and getting a bit loose, but it was not enough to pass.


Q: Oscar, let’s start with you. Many congratulations. Your third podium in Formula 1. Just how much did you enjoy those podium celebrations, first of all?

OP: Tell you what, I think I slept longer than I did last night, waiting for Charles just now. No, I’m very, very happy. Yeah, third podium in F1 certainly doesn’t get old. So, no, very happy to have it here in Monaco, especially, you know, if there’s one podium apart from your home podium that you want to stand on, it’s probably here. So, very, very pleased for the whole team. I think especially for our side of the garage, it’s been a promising few weekends now and nice to finally get a good result out of it. So very, very happy.

Q: And in terms of your battle with Charles, was there any moment in the race when you attempted to send it?

OP: I had an attempt about 10 or 15 laps in, into Turn 8. We were going pretty slow. I think at one point we were going slower than Formula 2. You know, when you’re going that slow, you’ve got a fair few options. But I kind of knew that once I showed my hand in where I was going to try and overtake, that he would probably be wise to it from there. So I managed to get very close in Turn 7, one lap. I tried to show the nose in Turn 8 but he reacted just quick enough, so after that point I knew I was going to be very limited on options.

Q: And how was the performance of the car? You were carrying a bit of floor damage after your moment with Carlos at the original start?

OP: Yeah, I mean, it was OK. I think for the first half of the race, it was impossible to tell what the penalty of that was. I think towards the end, probably a combination of trying to keep the pace of the race reasonably quick, plus the floor, yeah, just struggled a little bit towards the end, but overall pretty happy with it. And yeah, the last 10 laps or so, I was pretty happy we were in Monaco.

Q: And you said a moment ago it’s been a good few races for you now, but can we throw it forward? What does this weekend say about McLaren’s competitive position in Formula 1? Do you think now you’re a factor? You can win every race going forward if the cards fall for you?

OP: I think so. I think it’s been three very different circuits in the past three races, and we’ve been competitive at all of them. Miami was probably one of our worst circuits before this year. Imola has always been kind to us, but we had a very strong weekend there, and here’s been… Let’s say our car’s never been the strongest in the slow corners, and this weekend we’ve been very quick again. So I think we can be confident wherever we go. I feel like we don’t have to rely on the high-speed circuits like we did last year to get our results, which is a very exciting thing to have going forward. And, yeah, I think the pecking order is as tight as it’s ever been, especially this weekend. Going into qualifying, I think we thought that there could be any one of four teams on pole, which I don’t think we’ve been able to say for a while. So, I think we can definitely be in the fight every weekend.

Q: Alright. Thank you for that. Carlos, let’s come to you now. Your third Monaco podium in the last four years. What does this one mean to you?

CS: I think it means more for the fact that being a Ferrari driver, being P3, but especially seeing your team-mate that is Monegasque standing on top of the podium in front of his home crowd, in front of all the tifosi and all the mechanics, I think it’s one of the best images I’ve seen in Formula 1 and extremely happy for him, for the team. He deserves it because he’s driven at an incredible level this weekend and he’s put together a really solid weekend. And yeah, it was coming for him, I felt, because he was driving really well recently. Yeah, it’s a really good day for Ferrari and Charles.

Q: Can I take you back to the original start now? Oscar touched on the incident between the two of you. Can we get your thoughts on what happened at the original Turn 1?

CS: Yeah, I got a really good start and I had kind of an opportunity going into Turn 1 and I arrived a bit long, with a lot of understeer in the car and trying to keep the position with Oscar, as it’s pretty much your only chance to pass. Then I understeered off a bit into him on the exit and yeah, we had the slightest of contacts. For some reason, Oscar and I, we seem to have a magnet recently between each other, for some reason that I don’t understand, because we get on well and everything is okay, but we seem to always find each other on track. Yeah, I didn’t even feel the contact. It was so slight or it was so small that I didn’t even see it or feel it. But as soon as I exit Turn 1, I could feel the puncture. And yeah, it looked like my race was over there at one point. And then I was really lucky to get the P3 back and race from there the rest of the race.

Q: Was there any lasting damage on your car or were the team able to completely fix any issues in the break?

CS: No, even when you see the tyre, it was such a slight cut that the tyre got from the contact that there was no issues with the car, no damage. It was just the smallest of contacts. A bit unlucky to get the puncture in a way, but then lucky to get the position back. From there on, honestly, it was a new race and we had our opportunities, but never really a clear one.

Q: How frustrating is it, Carlos, to be in a train of cars like that, lapping slower than you’re capable of going? Did you get tempted to send it down the inside of Oscar?

CS: I got tempted a few times, but after lap one and obviously knowing that Monaco is a bit of all-or-nothing, you know that when you go for a move, the most likely outcome is contact between the two cars and a potential DNF for the two cars. And I felt like that was too much to lose for both Oscar and myself, you know, and my team. So unfortunately, Monaco is like that. I did have my opportunities and my temptations, both in the first 15 laps and in the last 10 laps, but never really a clear chance to see how we could get out of the corner untouched. So, yeah, as I knew from Friday, my race pace was going to be good. I was the fastest on Friday practice in terms of race pace. Again, today, when I could show the pace, it was really, really good. But Monaco is track position and we lost it to Oscar yesterday.

Q: And let’s throw it forward now. Ferrari are just 24 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship. Do you think this is a genuine title fight now? Do you think you have the car underneath you to challenge every weekend?

CS: I think my common sense tells me that on normal tracks Red Bull should still be favourites. Domination, like we were seeing, hopefully not. But favourites, yes. And then it will be a very tight fight with both McLaren and us. I think we are all three at a very similar level. Our last reference of a normal track is Imola and Miami. And if I see those two tracks, we seem to be half a tenth behind McLaren and maybe a tenth or two behind Red Bull. And yeah, it still means that that any small progress, any small upgrade, any small thing that we bring to the car might switch it to a potential race victory or a winning car. Monaco, we’ve always been strong. Street circuits like Singapore and last year in Monaco, it shows the strengths of the Ferrari. And at the same time, being within 24 points of the Red Bull in the Constructors, you see that when you put them under pressure yesterday, Max did a mistake in Q3 run two, Checo was out in Q1. We all just need to be there, you know, to show that these things can happen to Red Bull too. And yesterday is the best example.


Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Carlos, please. Just about what you’ve seen of Charles this weekend. You said yesterday he was on it right from the start on FP1. You said just then a very solid weekend. What’s he been like out of the car from what you’ve seen? Do you think he had a plan to keep cool if he got pole position? Because he seems to be really trying to rein it in after all his heartbreak of recent years. Thanks.

CS: From my side, I’ve seen the same Charles that I’ve seen any other year in Monaco. Obviously, it’s your home race, so you obviously can tell he’s a very busy man when he’s in Monaco. But nothing different. He’s a guy that he’s always been super quick around Monaco. He has performed exceptionally well. The only thing I saw different is that he seemed to be in Q3 run two already in FP1, Q3 run two mode. And yeah, I had my moments trying to get to that level of pushing and then I lost confidence. And then while we are normally within half a tenth of each other, this week in those two, three moments in FP1 and FP2 it just put me a step behind in confidence and I couldn’t quite get close enough in quali.

Q: Thank you, Carlos. Let’s just have a quick chat with our race winner now. Charles, many congratulations. Third time lucky here in Monaco, your childhood dream. Is this the sweetest win of your Formula 1 career?

CL: I think so. Obviously Monza in 2019 was extremely special. But Monaco is the Grand Prix that made me dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver. Yeah, I remember being so young and watching the race with my friends, obviously with my father, that has done absolutely everything for me to get to where I am today, and I feel like I don’t only accomplish a dream of mine today, but also one of his. And yeah, it’s just such a special weekend overall. It’s a street track, it’s such a difficult track to put everything together from FP1 to qualifying to then all the laps that you have to do in the race. And to finally make it in front of my whole family, my friends that were watching all over the track is a very, very, very special feeling.

Q: How emotional were you up there on the podium?

CL: I think where I struggled most to actually contain my emotions was during the last 10 laps of the race. More than on the podium. I realised actually two laps to the end that I was struggling to see out of the tunnel just because I had tears in my eyes. And I was like, ‘f**k, Charles, you cannot do that now. You still have two laps to finish’. And especially on a track like Monaco, you have to be on it all the way to the end. It was very difficult to contain those emotions, those thoughts again, of the people that have helped me to get to where I am today. It’s only a win. The season is still very, very long. It’s 25 points like any other wins. However, emotionally, this one means so much. And I think the fact as well that we started twice on pole position in the past and that we couldn’t manage to get the win for one reason or another, that we couldn’t really control, not in our control, makes this one even more so special.

Q: You say this is just 25 points, but it’s been nearly two years since your last win in Formula 1. Do you feel this can be the catalyst for many more now?

CL: I feel that the turning point of the season has been a few races ago already. We didn’t have quite the car to win a race in the last few races. However, we did here, and I knew that the opportunity had to be taken, and I did. So on that, we did a really good job. I’ve had two qualifyings where I struggled at the beginning of the season, but from then on, I worked on my qualifying pace, and since then, I’m extremely happy with the job we are doing. So, yeah, really happy with how it goes, and I hope that this will bring us to many more wins. We shouldn’t get carried away, that obviously Monaco is such a specific track, and I think we had a really good car this weekend. It doesn’t mean that it will stay like that until the end of the year, but looking back at the first few races of the season, I think we did a great job maximising all the races that we have done, and yeah, we’ll keep it going.

Q: And it’s just 31 points between you and Max in the championship now.

CL: Oh, is it 31? Oh, somebody told me 23, so I was excited. But 31 is OK. I mean, I’ll take it anyway, but it’s a bit more than what I had been told. So, yeah, it’s OK. But I don’t think about the championship for now anyway, and it’s still too early on in the season. I think the upgrades that we have brought in Imola, we have still to see how well they work and where it will bring us. And then it’s all about maximising all weekends, and then hopefully, little by little, we’ll get there.

Q: (Matt Coch – SpeedCafe) Oscar, Carlos spoke about his immediate reaction and feelings in the car at Turn 1, what were yours? And also during the red flag when the team was ripping a sidepod off and getting the hot glue gun out on the floor, what were you thinking at that point?

OP: I definitely felt the touch at Turn 1 and at that part of the car, it’s such a sensitive part. The team told me how much downforce I was losing before we tried to fix it and it was a pretty big number. I don’t know what we managed to get it down to but yeah, obviously the length of the red flag helped us out quite a lot there. And being in Monaco, it’s probably the one track where having damage doesn’t hurt you as much. So, yeah, it was a very, very small touch. But with these cars, especially with the floor being so sensitive to the downforce it generates, it can ruin your race very easily. So, yeah, I was very happy we could try and fix it.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Carlos, you mentioned earlier that Red Bull are still the favourites, but we spoke to Max earlier and he says that there could be more tracks where Red Bull could struggle, probably not as much as this. So the other two drivers can add in but is it any encouragement that now your teams finally have an opportunity to fight for this championship? And what does that feel like?

CS: I think we will have… I think Ferrari we will have our opportunities in these sort of tracks. I think McLaren will have their opportunities, but when I talk about a normal track we can talk about maybe a Barcelona. Canada, I think is quite specific but a Barcelona or any European truck, where I consider it to be a normal track, I still think Red Bull will be favourites, but I don’t think they’ll dominate like they used to do. And I think that’s good news for the championship. And it’s just worth being within a tenth or two in quali, that even if they’re favourites, they cannot afford to do any mistakes. And that’s where both Ferrari and McLaren, we can capitalise, which is a position that in Bahrain Race 1, no one was there to be there.

Q: (Fred Ferret – l’Equipe) A question to Charles. You note everything in your personal notebook to improve yourself. Is there a special page for the party for tonight? And have you planned to jump tonight in the harbour?

CL: Yeah, I’ve already said to Fred to get ready because he will definitely jump with me in the harbour. On my notebook, I write lots of technical stuff. However, definitely not for the party, but it’s very clear in my mind what I’ve got to do tonight with all the mechanics and engineers. And I cannot wait to just enjoy the moment. It’s such a special moment in my career that you’ve got to celebrate and then already from maybe not tomorrow but after tomorrow we’ll start thinking about Canada and focus 100% again to maximise the next weekend.

Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Congratulations, Charles. Was there any point during that race where you thought it might get away from you? Some drivers say they hear weird noises when the pressure is on, and obviously with what’s happened in previous years. And also, did you notice Oscar’s attempt to pass he mentioned at Turn 8 early in the race?

CL: Yes, I did see that. Like, it was optimistic! But I was managing like crazy. I don’t know, we were probably three seconds off the pace, three-and-a-half seconds off the pace. So I knew that I just had to push a little bit more. The thing that I didn’t know is how much Oscar was willing to push at this moment of the race, knowing that there were still 70 laps to go. So as soon as I saw that, I was like, ‘OK, maybe I’m not going to take it that easy in the slow part’ just to not be under too much pressure there. But after that, I felt like we had everything under control. The pace of the car was amazing. The tyres felt really, really good. Even in the last laps, I felt like I could do another race. There was a lot of tyre management, obviously, at the beginning. So everything felt really, really good. As I said, I think it’s more the thoughts in the last 15 laps that were very difficult to manage and a lot more than in the past in my career. But no negative thoughts. It was more, again, about the… Yeah, everything that has happened until now, but good moments in karting and dreaming of getting there and most of these moments, but none of the bad moments of the last few years.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Charles, congratulations. This win, it’s been a long time in the making. And I think every time we come to Monaco, we talk about the Leclerc curse or jinx that you’ve got around these streets. Does it feel like a way off that you finally now got this victory? And yeah, you talked about pressure in qualifying yesterday. Has it, again, will that relieve some of the pressure going into future races around here?

CL: I never believed in the curse. However, it always felt very difficult in the two occasions I had to win here. One, I couldn’t even start the race. The second one, we didn’t make the right choice, I think. So it was very, very frustrating to lose those wins. The thing is that as a driver you never really know when will be the next opportunity to win and especially when it’s your home race and even more so when your home race is Monaco, that is such a special track, such a difficult track and such a difficult weekend to master and to do everything perfectly which we did. So I knew that today was another opportunity. I knew how it felt the last two times I was in this position, But I obviously really wanted to get that victory today, so there’s a bit of tension. But as I’ve said., as soon as I put the helmet on and as soon as I get into the car I don’t feel anything anymore. And then it’s all about trying to maximise the car that you have thinking about the tyres and thinking about all the stuff that I had to think of to manage this race the best way possible. So it’s more the moments before the race and before putting the helmet on.

Q: (Rodrigo França – Car Magazine, Brazil) Question to Charles. Charles, congratulations on your win. It’s a special win because it’s your home race, of course, but also a win of your idol Ayrton Senna, who has the record here. So how special is it to see your name besides Ayrton Senna’s name as a winner in Monaco?

CL: I mean, Ayrton has always been my idol and he was incredibly special in Monaco. And I think that probably the first time my father spoke to me about Ayrton, he told me to go and look this onboard of him driving around the streets of Monaco and I was like ‘oh my God, that’s crazy!’ And from that day onwards then obviously I knew more and more growing up, more and more about Ayrton and that added to the fact that he was just becoming more and more my idol. But the fact he was so special in Monaco was incredible to see. To win in Monaco now myself as well, is amazing.

Q: (Andrew Frankl – Forza Magazine) I had breakfast with the mechanics and they were so nervous, most of them couldn’t finish their breakfast. Did you get any sleep last night?

CL: I did. I actually slept really well. I ate like crazy yesterday night. I actually got too late at home and I couldn’t cook, so I ordered my favourite pizza, which is not the best preparation to race normally, but I was like, ‘OK, maybe mentally it will help me to take the pressure off a little bit’. And yeah, that’s it. I slept really well.

Q: What is your favorite pizza, Charles?

CL: Pizza Margherita with prosciutto crudo. Never pineapple.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question to Charles, please. There were some complicated moments in the middle of the race, for example, with the gaps opening up to other cars at the back. And at one point, the team was suggesting, ‘oh, maybe you’ve got to slow down’. You didn’t seem like that was necessarily a good idea from your point of view. So what was going on there? And what were you a little bit worried about?

CL: Yeah, I think we had a target gap with Russell that we didn’t want to open too much and I wasn’t too much for that because I felt like I was a lot off the pace and what I didn’t want is that Oscar started to push straight away and then you don’t have references. I was going so slow in the middle of the race that if you start to push, then you don’t really know where to brake and that’s where mistakes can happen. So I just wanted to get into the rhythm and start to push a bit more. But obviously, the team was telling me, slow down, slow down, slow down. So I was slowing down, but it wasn’t the nicest moment of the race. Then in the last 15 laps, I could push a bit more and feel a bit more the car. And there, I enjoyed it a lot more. But yeah, I knew I had to do those things to get the win or at least to secure every possible scenario. And as much as I don’t believe in luck, I wanted to make sure that I was covering all possible scenarios.

Q: (Josh Suttill – The Race) Charles, this is Ferrari’s third victory under Fred Vasseur. How much of a difference has he made to the team? And do you think he’s got all the right pieces in place for Ferrari to become championship challengers again?

CL: I have no doubts. I think since the first day he joined and that he’s got everything to bring back the team to where it belongs and that means to a world championship. He’s got such a clear vision of what he wants to achieve and how to achieve it. He doesn’t lose time and that is definitely his strength and I think his vision is really good. We share it very often, on how he wants to achieve those targets. I’ve always been completely aligned with the way he wants to change things to get to where we want to get. I have no doubt that he’s the right person and that he’s helping the team to get there.

Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Another question for Charles. You mentioned your father a number of times in this press conference. I just wondered what your earliest memory with him at this race was and whether that was in your mind in those last laps?

CL: It was very much in my mind. As I said, I think in every race I have done, there’s been not one race where I was thinking about this kind of personal stuff inside the car, because you’ve got to stay on it. Maybe Baku in 2017. Obviously, everything was still very fresh for me, so it was difficult to manage mentally. However, it’s probably the first time in my career that it happened again while driving, where you’ve got these flashbacks of all these moments that we have spent together, all the sacrifices that he has done for me to get to where I am. And as I said earlier, it’s not only my dream, but it was both of our dreams to get there. And obviously, my whole family was supporting and was obviously dreaming of that moment, which makes it even more special. But yeah, that was, again, as I said earlier, probably the moment that was the most difficult to manage today.

Q: (Anaïs Riu – Monaco Tribune) Congratulations, Charles. We saw the Prince, Albert II, in tears. What were his words and what was your feeling about it?

CL: Yes, The Prince was very emotional. We know each other since a very long time. And actually, I remember when I was 12 or 13 years old, we got to the palace for the first time with my father to try and have some support with my career that was just starting to be a bit more serious. And since then he has always kept an eye on my career, has always supported me, has always had nice words in very good moments, but also in moments that were much more difficult, and I think the fact that he has seen me growing up and all the support that he has given me over the years made it quite emotional for me and also for him.

Q: (Daniele Sparisci – Corriere della Sera) Congratulations, Charles, for this amazing victory. Did something change in the approach of this weekend with respect to the other year? We can see from the external that you were more focused, focused on delivering performance and result. Something has changed in your approach this weekend, home race?

CL: No, no, not at all. And I think the perception from the outside sometimes can change but at the end what I try to do and what I do is to try and keep the things as stable as possible and whenever I go in a weekend you just try and do exactly the same thing as what you’ve done In the previous weekend, learning from mistakes, obviously always striving to improve and get better, but it’s always fine-tuning and very little changes in the approach that you have, and I think it’s not specific to Monaco compared to others. I mean, there’s a different approach in free practice, but just because it’s a street track. But, yeah, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything very differently compared to the past.