Polesitter Charles Leclerc admits he is concerned he will face a grid penalty due to the damage sustained in his crash at the end of qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Leclerc was quickest after the first runs in Q3 as Ferrari’s surprise pace continued throughout the weekend, and looked set for pole given his advantage was nearly a quarter of a second. But on his final lap — with Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas improving — Leclerc crashed at the Swimming Pool to bring out the red flags, cementing pole but heavily damaging his car.
“I have mixed feelings because with the crash I don’t know where I’m starting tomorrow yet,” Leclerc said. “It depends on the damage — I hope the car is not damaged enough that we won’t be starting from the back. If it is not the case I’m incredibly happy with what happened before the crash.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 22, 2021
“It wasn’t a great lap, the last one, and I tried to do more in the last sector but there was too much to recover and I did too much, touched the wall in the inside and went straight into the wall. It was very difficult for me to manage the whole session, I was very emotional after Q2, obviously, because I’ve seen that there was actually an opportunity to do pole here, calmed myself down, did a great lap Q3 run one… then what happened happened.”
Although he originally benefitted from the incident, Leclerc says he doesn’t think penalties are needed if drivers profit from a crash because of the lack of intent and potential downside.
“Surely if I was doing it on purpose I would make sure to hit the wall a bit less hard! But that wasn’t on purpose, obviously. I was pushing the limit. For now I’m just worried about the rear of the car. Hope it is OK. It doesn’t look OK but let’s wait and see.”
Should Leclerc need to change his gearbox, he will drop five spots on the grid to sixth place, but if any components can’t be replaced by ones of the same specification then he will be faced with a pit lane start. However, team principal Mattia Binotto believes the latter is unlikely, with an answer expected tonight.
“The mechanics and engineers are checking Charles’ gearbox and chassis,” Binotto said. “I think in a couple of hours we will have clarity on that but at the moment we don’t think that there is any feedback.
“No, we will not gamble. I think what’s important after such a qualifying is to maximize the number of points for the championship and obviously to maximize you need to finish the race. So reliability is key and reliability will remain the priority, so if we have any doubts we will certainly change and fix.
“I’ve not seen the chassis myself, but my feeling is it will just be the gearbox.”
UPDATE: An initial inspection of the gearbox in @Charles_Leclerc’s car has not revealed any serious damage. Further checks will be carried out tomorrow, to decide if the same gearbox can be used in the race.#MonacoGP
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) May 22, 2021