Charles Leclerc’s chances of winning his home race from the Monaco Grand Prix are over after he retired shortly before the start on Sunday due to a gearbox problem.
Leclerc damaged the gearbox in a crash 18 seconds after the end of qualifying on Saturday. He risks a five-seat penalty if the gearbox is changed, but Ferrari said earlier Sunday that it could compete with it.
About 20 minutes before the race was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., local time, Ferrari released the bad news that home fans feared.
“Charles will not start the race due to a problem with the left cardan shaft, which is impossible to eliminate in time,” Ferrari said in a statement.
As the drivers embarked on their laps a little earlier, Leclerc complained about the gearbox and returned to the garage.
“We have a problem, we will not go online, we are trying to fix it here. We won’t get to the net, “said Ferrari sporting director Laurent McKee on director Michael Massi’s radio.
The race director decided not to move Red Bull driver Max Verstappen from second to pole and left that space empty, giving Valteri Botas more room to overtake Verstappen at the start.
All the drivers effectively climbed to the spot, with world champion Lewis Hamilton starting sixth after finishing seventh.
In a dramatic qualifying session on Saturday, Leclerc won the first pole for Ferrari in 2019, despite crashing, and also became the first Monaco driver to take the pole here.
Prince Albert, whose palace on the hill overlooks the track and which is close to Leclerc, attended the race and gave him a comforting hug.
Fans returned, but in small numbers and many flags and banners were raised in support of Leclerc.
Before the race, the 23-year-old waved at what he called “neighbors” as they leaned out the windows and waved Monaco’s red and white flags.
“Charles L’Eclair” (Charles the Lightning) read a banner, a play on words with his name and a certain speed.
But he has no luck on the spot.
Two years ago, Leclerc retired early in his first season at Ferrari.