With Red Bull “much stronger on all tracks”, Charles Leclerc knows he is up against it for a home win in Monaco, though this unique track does offer a potential lifeline.
Ferrari went into F1 2023 very much hoping to challenge Red Bull for the titles, having started so strong last season, only to fade away in dramatic fashion.
But that recovery is yet to happen for the Scuderia, who in the opening five rounds of F1 2023 have largely found themselves battling Aston Martin and Mercedes for the right to be ‘best of the rest’ behind a Red Bull team way out in front.
Leclerc did take pole for the Azerbaijan sprint and Grand Prix, but was powerless to resist the Red Bull onslaught in race trim during both the shortened and full-length offering.
The next battleground though is Monaco, a home race for Leclerc, and one which takes place around a truly unique circuit set in the streets of Monte Carlo.
Leclerc has certainly endured rotten luck on home turf to date in his racing career, but could that streak come to an impactful end this weekend?
Modern Formula 1 machinery is certainly not very suited to launching overtakes around this track, meaning pole position in Monaco is perhaps the most important example anywhere on the calendar.
Pit-lane miscommunications robbed Leclerc of the chance to go from pole to victory here last year, but if Leclerc repeats that achievement of leading the grid away, then could this be the key to keeping the dominant Red Bulls at bay?
This is certainly Leclerc’s plan, as since he knows there would be no stopping Red Bull out front on race day, he is putting huge focus into his qualifying performance to give himself that one shot of ending Red Bull’s run of five victories to start F1 2023.
“The last two years we were on pole, but unfortunately it didn’t happen on Sunday,” he told RMC Sport.
“But we are not in the same situation as last year. The car is much less competitive. We’ll see how it goes, I’m going to give it my all as usual.
“Quite honestly, I think Red Bull is much stronger on all tracks. But if you put everything in order on a track like this, the driver has a way of making the difference.
“I hope to be in good shape this weekend and make a difference on Saturday. On Sunday, there is no doubt that Red Bull will be ahead. But in this race, overtaking is not easy. If we do well on Saturday, there is everything to play for on Sunday.”
A Monaco victory would give Leclerc’s fast-fading title hopes a boost, should Ferrari be able to unlock a huge chunk of performance sooner rather than later, with their driver already 85 points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.