Charles Leclerc will be looking to restart his F1 title challenge in 2022 at his home race in Monte Carlo after suffering his first DNF of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Up until Lap 27, Leclerc had dominated last weekend’s race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after a rare mistake from Max Verstappen saw him spin at Turn 4, making the Ferrari driver’s afternoon even easier.
This allowed Leclerc to extend his advantage to over 10 seconds in the opening part of the race before suffering an engine failure before the halfway point.
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Leclerc’s retirement in Barcelona has meant he has surrendered the lead at the top of the drivers’ championship for the first time this year.
With the gap only at six points, a first victory on home soil would propel Leclerc back to the top.
Unfortunately for Leclerc, his run of bad luck on home soil stretches back to his days in F2.
Here’s a recap of Leclerc’s run of misfortune around the iconic streets.
2017 - Suspension damage halts F2 charge
Leclerc was the eventual F2 champion ahead of his graduation to F1 with Sauber in 2018 but a win in front of his home crowd alluded him despite taking a breathtaking pole position.
After leading from pole, Leclerc controlled the race from the front ahead of now-Williams driver Alex Albon.
As with Monaco and junior categories, crashes and Safety Cars are a guarantee which didn’t play into Leclerc’s hands.
Leclerc lost out to Oliver Rowland, Artem Markelov, and Nobahuru Matsushita under the second Safety Car and then was forced to retire within a lap of his pit stop due to suspension damage.
The sprint race didn’t go any better with Leclerc also failing to finish due to an electrical issue.
2018 - Brake failure on F1 debut
Leclerc’s first home grand prix in F1 ended in dramatic fashion while driving for Sauber.
He had qualified a respective 14th, two places ahead of more experienced teammate Marcus Ericsson.
Leclerc was running out of the points on Lap 70 of the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, on course to finish 12th.
However, he suffered a dramatic brake failure on the run down to the Nouvelle Chicane which saw him smash into the back of Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley, forcing both drivers to retire prematurely.
2019 - Disasterous first home race for Ferrari
After missing out on his maiden F1 win in Bahrain, Leclerc hoped to take his first grand prix victory for Ferrari in Monaco.
Leclerc looked to have the pace to take pole in practice ahead of the two Mercedes drivers - Mercedes had won every race up until that point - but Ferrari made a strategical blunder in Q1.
His laps in Q1 weren’t good enough to get through and with Ferrari deciding to keep Leclerc in the garage, he was relegated to 16th and an early elimination.
Leclerc’s recovery on race day started well but it was undone when he hit the wall while driving to overtake Nico Hulkenberg.
He sustained a puncture which led to significant floor damage and an early retirement once again from his home race.
2021 - Heartbreak after home pole
Surprisingly, Ferrari were in the battle for pole in Monaco with Leclerc in a fight with Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and teammate Carlos Sainz in 2021.
Leclerc led the way after an impressive initial effort in Q3 but the final runs would prove crucial.
His rivals were all setting better lap times but qualifying came to a premature end when Leclerc hit the barries on the exit of the Swimming Pool chicane.
Ironically, Leclerc’s shunt his rivals weren’t able to improve and thus secured a first-ever pole position on home soil.
After his crash, Ferrari conducted checks on the gearbox that showed "no serious damage", and confirmed ahead of the race that it would not be making a change, ensuring Leclerc remained on pole rather than taking a five-place grid penalty.
However, as soon as Leclerc did his reconnaissance lap to the grid, an issue occurred.
"Charles will not start the race due to an issue with the left driveshaft which is impossible to fix in time for the start of the race," Ferrari said.
Leclerc was unable to start the 2021 Monaco GP, meaning no car lined up on pole position.
The curse even continued in a demonstration event earlier this month while driving Ferrari’s 312B3 - a legendary car driven by three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda.
He lost the rear of the 312B3 on his third flying lap, heading into the barriers rearwards into the La Rascasse right-hander at the end of the lap.
Leclerc damaged the rear wing of the legendary Ferrari car before requiring assistance.
Will the curse end this weekend?
Leclerc is in need of a much-needed victory to get his and Ferrari’s season back on track.
Main rival Verstappen has won the last three consecutive races while Red Bull have taken two 1-2 finishes in this period to move into the lead in the constructors’ championship.
Ferrari’s upgrade package in Barcelona appeared to tip the balance of power in their favour again, backed up by Leclerc’s dominant pole and showing on race day.
“Let’s say that I feel better after this weekend than after the last two weekends,” Leclerc said in Barcelona. “Of course there is this issue on the car and I am very disappointed, but on the other hand I think there are plenty of positive signs throughout the whole weekend.
“Our qualifying pace, the new package worked as expected, which is not always a given, and everything was working well with our race pace and tyre management.
“On tyre management at the last two races we have been struggling quite a bit compared to Red Bull and today it was strong. So in those situations I think it is good to also look at the positives and there are plenty today.”
In 2022, Ferrari have held the advantage in the corners while Red Bull have performed best on the straights with their very efficient RB18B.
In Spain, Ferrari was quicker than Red Bull in the middle and final sectors of the lap but Red Bull had the advantage in sector one - which mainly consists of the long start-finish straight.
All the signs are pointing towards a Leclerc-Ferrari win but maybe lady luck will have something to say about that.