Can Piastri deny Leclerc home win as Ferrari take on McLaren in Monaco GP battle

A big battle between Ferrari and McLaren is set to play out in Monaco on Sunday

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McLaren have already given us a maiden Formula 1 winner this year in the form of Lando Norris at the 2024 Miami Grand Prix but Oscar Piastri has an opportunity on Sunday in Monaco but Charles Leclerc stands in his way.

Leclerc starts on pole position alongside Piastri, with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris completing the top two rows to set up a mighty Ferrari versus McLaren battle.

Monaco is notoriously difficult to overtake at but it doesn’t mean Leclerc will comfortably win the race. After all, he’s claimed pole position in Monaco twice before and is yet to finish on the podium.

Potential tyre strategies for the 2024 Monaco GP | Pirelli
Potential tyre strategies for the 2024 Monaco GP | Pirelli

Ferrari to control the race

Pole position almost certainly guarantees leading after Turn 1 because it’s such a short run to the first corner and you start on the inside.

The key battle will come behind Leclerc to see if Norris can jump ahead of Sainz or can the Spaniard make it a Ferrari 1-2 by getting past Piastri.

“I think that we just need to focus on ourselves,” said Leclerc, who hasn’t won since the 2022 Austrian GP. “We can only control what we can do best, and that starts with a good start.

Charles Leclerc in action at the 2024 Monaco GP | Ferrari
Charles Leclerc in action at the 2024 Monaco GP | Ferrari

“If we have a good start, I have little doubt that we’ll keep that position into Turn 1. And we’ve had good starts recently, so I’m not too worried.”

Avoiding contact will be the key for everyone us but there will be some eager drivers who are keen to make up positions, knowing they could be staring at the gearbox in front of them for some time.

Keep an eye on Max Verstappen in sixth, in between the Mercedes pair of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton on the grid. Verstappen leads Leclerc by 48 points and a retirement would really swing things in the title race.

Leclerc must drive slowly

As much as we want to see the drivers going flat out and attacking every single lap, that will not happen in the 78 laps around Monte Carlo. Leclerc will control the pace, manage his tyres and keep the field together.

By doing that, it prevents the driver behind from trying an undercut because if they pit, a whole load of traffic will be in front of them at the pit exit. It’s a modern-day tactic which we only see in Singapore and Monaco from the leader.

Max Verstappen looks on at the 2024 Monaco GP | Clive Rose / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen looks on at the 2024 Monaco GP | Clive Rose / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

At some point of course, Piastri will have to pit and you would think Leclerc will simply react by pitting one lap later. The key for Piastri is to be within a couple of second of Leclerc, pit, come out in clean air and really go for it on his out lap to try and take the lead.

“The run to Turn 1 is always your best chance at any track,” said Piastri. “Here, obviously, it’s a very short run, like we know.

“The strategy, you can try something because unless there’s a massive pace difference, which I’m pretty sure there won’t be, then overtaking is impossible here. It will be won or lost in the pits, probably, so make sure we have a good day.”

Can Norris and Sainz help?

This will be another fascinating aspect to keep an eye on. If Leclerc is driving slowly and the field is relatively bunched, if McLaren can find some clean air to drop Norris into, maybe they should pit the British driver to try and undercut Leclerc.

Even if they don’t, at least force Leclerc to pit, so Piastri can push on, go long and hope for a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car. You lose 20 seconds when pitting under green flag conditions compared to around 12 seconds if there is a SC or VSC.

It should be a simple medium to hard strategy for everyone in the top 10. As for Sainz, he’s already made it clear that the priority is to help Leclerc win in Monaco for the first time.

“We will see what we can do at the start, what we can do with strategy in order to do every single bit possible to help Charles to go and get that win,” said Sainz.

“He’s been driving amazing all weekend. I think part of that delta comes from Charles also being super committed and having a particularly strong weekend. This weekend I think he’s been on it since FP1 and he’s been extremely quick. So, we will do everything we can to win the race.”

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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