Charles Leclerc, Monaco qualifying [800x450]
Charles Leclerc, Monaco qualifying [800x450] (Credit: Hasan Bratic/Anadolu via Getty Images)

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MONACO -- Charles Leclerc's bad luck at his home race has become the stuff of Formula One legend, but he has the chance to turn it all around at Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc, born and raised in the principality, claimed a third pole position around the streets of Monte Carlo on Saturday. But despite his strong record on his home nation's streets Leclerc has never won or been on the podium.

The Ferrari driver, who used to catch the bus home from school at what, for one weekend every year, becomes the final corner of the Monte Carlo circuit, is looking to put that right this year.

He's been rapid all weekend, going quickest in two of the three practice sessions ahead of qualifying, before beating out McLaren's Oscar Piastri by 0.154 seconds when it mattered in qualifying.

Ferrari look strong, with Leclerc's teammate Carlos Sainz third on the grid, while runaway championship leader Max Verstappen will start from sixth on a circuit famous for being almost impossible to overtake on.

Leclerc's previous run of bad results at Monaco have come down to a combination of driver error and team mistakes, but he is a clean race away from finally joining Monaco's Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene on the podium at the country's most famous event.

"I think the tension, the peak of the tension actually of the whole season I would say is in qualifying in Monaco," Leclerc said after qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

"Then for the race, it's not like you are more relaxed, but... well yeah, you are more relaxed, just because the race, you've got to focus on the start, you've got to focus around the pit stop, because obviously the laps around the pit stop are very important. But the qualifying in Monaco is a big part of the job.

"It is true in the past we didn't have the success that we wanted. But I don't want to think about that any more. And I'm pretty sure that it will be a good one this weekend."

A victory on Sunday would end another unenviable streak since Leclerc has not won a race since July 2022, at that year's Austrian Grand Prix.

The story of Leclerc's Monaco Curse 2017: Double DNF, Formula Two

Leclerc's bad run at the principality started in what was otherwise a dominant Formula Two season in which he won the championship, which helped propel him to F1 in rapid time.

Having beaten Alex Albon to pole position, Leclerc breezed away into the distance to start Saturday's feature race, only to be caught out by a mid-race safety car which shuffled him down to fourth position.

A mechanical issue then forced him to retire and meant he started Sunday's sprint race from 17th. Progress at the narrow street circuit was hard going and after a collision with Norman Nato he retired again. It was a rare off-weekend for Leclerc -- his F2 season is widely considered one of the most impressive in the F1 feeder series in recent history.

2018: Brake failure

Now an F1 rookie with the uncompetitive Alfa Romeo team, Leclerc impressed by dragging his car into Q2 and out-qualifying teammate Marcus Ericsson.

A top finish was always unlikely given the machinery but Leclerc was denied a finish when a front-left brake failure while running 12th with six laps left saw him drive into the back of Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley.

2019: Ferrari qualifying blunder ruins weekend

Leclerc, promoted to Ferrari for 2019, arrived at his second Monaco Grand Prix with a very real chance to win.

Ferrari's early-season form had been good and Leclerc would have won the Bahrain Grand Prix without a late engine issue. Leclerc had been the breakout star of the opening races and had not finished outside the top five since joining the team.

He topped final practice on Saturday but qualifying quickly unraveled. Ferrari was confident the time Leclerc set at the start of Q1 would be enough to advance him to Q2 -- it was not.

In the closing minutes, Leclerc dropped down the order. With his car in the garage, he was powerless to stop himself falling into the elimination spaces. Starting 16th, a fired-up Leclerc barged past Lando Norris and Romain Grosjean early on but collided with Nico Hulkenberg at Rascasse, with the damage ending his race.

2021: Gets pole, does not start after crash

Easily the toughest of all Leclerc's Monaco setbacks, as he earned pole position but then made an unforced error which prevented him from starting the race.

After Ferrari's winless 2020, Leclerc was in good form when F1 arrived back at the principality in 2021 following a COVID-19 cancellation the year before.

Heartbreak would follow again in qualifying, but this time blame could be laid squarely at Leclerc's feet. Having gone quickest in Q1 and Q2, Leclerc set the quickest time at the beginning of Q3 to put himself provisionally on pole position.

As is customary, he went out again at the end of the session to attempt to set an even quicker time, only to clip the wall on the inside of the Swimming Pool chicane. The contact broke the Ferrari's front-right suspension and sent his car into the wall on the exit of the corner.

Ferrari opted against a precautionary change of Leclerc's gearbox, something which would have come with a five-place grid penalty.

On his first lap out of the garage on Sunday, while on route to the grid, Leclerc's Ferrari stuttered and stalled with what was later revealed to be a driveshaft failure, meaning he did not even take part in the race.

Leclerc had to watch on as Max Verstappen eased to win in his absence.

2022: Ferrari blunders away pole advantage

Things finally seemed to have fallen into place in 2022, having qualified on pole again and avoided any repeat of the mistake from the year before.

Even a delayed start due to a rain shower did not appear to be about to ruin the party, with Leclerc leading comfortably into Turn One and staying in front for 17 laps. Then Ferrari's strategy kicked in.

As the track dried Red Bull's Sergio Perez seized the initiative and pitted for intermediate tyres on lap 17.

Leclerc and Ferrari waited another two laps to do the same but kept Sainz out until lap 21, when he swapped straight from the wet tyre to the dry tyre. Had Ferrari done that with Leclerc's car, he likely would have retained the lead. However, as he had moved onto the intermediate like Perez, he still need to pit again.

The two extra laps on that tyre proved to be the race-winning moment in the race for the Mexican driver and once he and Leclerc had moved onto the soft tyre, the Red Bull was in the lead.

By the time it was all done, the order was Perez, Sainz, Max Verstappen, Leclerc, which is how they would remain until the finish.

Leclerc had a few desperate looks at the gaps either side of Verstappen's car in the final laps but there was no way through. Leclerc later said he had "no words" to describe his emotions in the aftermath.

2023: A podium slips away again

Misery continued to follow Leclerc last year.

The Ferrari driver had claimed a pole position in Baku one race earlier and arrived back home optimistic of having a competitive weekend.

As it turned out, it was Fernando Alonso who took the fight to Verstappen for pole, barely missing out in what was a tight finish.

At the end of the session, Leclerc's name had been third in the standings, but more heartbreak was waiting.

On one of his qualifying runs, he had not been informed by Ferrari that McLaren's Lando Norris was approaching. The narrow track meant Leclerc had very little space to get off the racing line and Norris had to abandon his lap -- a slam-dunk grid penalty in the eyes of the stewards.

It was a bitter pill to swallow. Leclerc would end up in a train of cars behind Esteban Ocon early on and then got unlucky when he pitted shortly before a rainstorm threw the whole race up in the air.

He would come home sixth, wondering what might have been.