Charles Leclerc heartbreak as Ferrari driver retires from Monaco Grand Prix before race

Ferrari ace Charles Leclerc has dramatically been ruled out of the Monaco Grand Prix after suffering an issue with his left driveshaft on his out lap ahead of the race.

Leclerc discovered the issue as he circulated the Monte Carlo circuit to take up his place at the front of the grid for today’s race after qualifying on pole position yesterday.

As the Ferrari driver was heading towards the grid to line up on pole position, a despondent Leclerc shouted over the radio, “No! No! No! No!” as the car started slowing.

The Ferrari driver limped the car back to the pits to be checked by the team, but ultimately ran out of time to get to the grid and the pit lane closed, and the hometown hero climbed out of the car and retired from the race before he even took up his place on the grid.

After crashing heavily at the end of Saturday’s qualifying session, the team confirmed in a statement they were satisfied Leclerc’s gearbox had survived the crash without incurring significant damage.

“Following further in-depth checks this morning, no apparent defects were found on Charles Leclerc’s gearbox, therefore the Monegasque driver will start today’s race from pole position, as per the qualifying result,” the team announced.

An initial assessment of the damage on Leclerc’s car by the team revealed “no serious damage”, but Ferrari confirmed in a statement after qualifying that they would conduct further checks on Sunday and “prioritise reliability over pole”.

The Monegasque driver topped the timesheets in both Q1 and Q2 and was once again the fastest in Q3 in the first run and had put his car on provisional pole in the first run with Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas just behind him.

Most cars were out in the final couple of minutes to try and improve on their time, but Leclerc’s collision with the wall with just 18 seconds left on the clock effectively halted any hot laps from his rivals as he sealed his first pole position of 2021. 

However, there was some concern Leclerc would suffer a five-place grid penalty after the heavy impact, which saw the scarlet Ferrari planted into the wall towards the end of the lap at the swimming pool complex, with many pundits expressing concern that Leclerc’s gearbox may have incurred damage serious enough to force a replacement.

Leclerc would have been given an automatic five-place grid penalty, and would have lost his maiden hometown pole, if the team had opted to replace the gearbox.

But, despite the car subsequently being given a clean bill of health, Leclerc’s dream of winning Formula 1’s most iconic race in his home town was wiped out before he even saw the starting lights as an issue with his left drive shaft forced him out of the Grand Prix.

It meant that the rest of the grid formed up in the same spots as before, with Leclerc the notable absentee from the pole position spot, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took over at the head of the field.

It was a shocking turn of events ahead of the biggest F1 race of the year, with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff sympathising with Leclerc, who missed out on a huge opportunity in his home race.

“I’m surprised because they checked the box,” Wolff told Sky Sports before the race start.

“It’s a shame, he’s Monegasque and he deserved it, his lap was spectacular.”

Wolff also explained that Leclerc’s removal from the front row of the grid also causes his own team additional headaches, with their championship rival Max Verstappen afforded a free run into Sainte Devote.

“Max can score 25 points – that’s not good for us,” he said.

“We wanted Charles to lead. Let’s see what opportunity it gives to Valtteri.

“Lewis and Valtteri can work together here. Maybe Lewis can play a role. He isn’t happy, of course, but he’s a fighter.

“We’ve had setbacks in Monaco before, let’s see how he can climb from P7.”

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

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