Motor racing-Leclerc pays tribute to late father on emotional day


Formula One F1 - Monaco Grand Prix - Circuit de Monaco, Monaco - May 26, 2024 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc celebrates on the podium after winning the Monaco Grand Prix REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

MONACO (Reuters) - Charles Leclerc had tears in his eyes and thoughts of his late father surging through his mind as he sped to an emotional victory in his home Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.

The win was a lifelong dream come true for the 26-year-old and owed much to the dedication and love of his father Herve, who died in 2017 while Leclerc was on his way to the Formula Two title.

The first homegrown winner of Formula One's showcase race since Louis Chiron in 1931 recalled afterwards how he had watched it as a boy with his father, dreaming of future adventures.

"I remember being so young and watching the race with my friends, obviously with my father, that has done absolutely everything for me to get to where I am today," he said.

"I feel like I don't only accomplish a dream of mine today, but also one of his."

Leclerc recalled the 2017 Baku Formula Two races that came three days after his father died, and where he managed to overcome the emotional turmoil in his mind and also win from pole position.

"It's probably the first time in my career that it happened again while driving, where you've got these flashbacks of all these moments that we have spent together, all the sacrifices that he has done for me to get to where I am," he said.

"It was both of our dreams to get there... That was, again, as I said earlier, probably the moment that was the most difficult to manage today."

Leclerc said to win with all his friends and family watching, and Prince Albert of Monaco also cheering him on, was a very special moment.

The watching television audience of millions would have known nothing of what was going on inside the helmet over the closing 10 laps.

"I realised actually two laps to the end that I was struggling to see out of the tunnel just because I had tears in my eyes," said Leclerc.

"I was like... 'Charles, you cannot do that now. You still have two laps to finish'. And especially on a track like Monaco, you have to be on it all the way to the end.

"It was very difficult to contain those emotions, those thoughts again, of the people that have helped me to get to where I am today."

Leclerc started from pole position, as he had twice before in Monaco without reward even though overtaking is almost impossible on the narrow and twisty track.

There was talk of curses and jinxes, doubts about whether he could finally end a sequence that had seen him fail to even step on his home podium in five attempts.

"I never believed in the curse," he said.

"However, it always felt very difficult in the two occasions I had to win here.

"The thing is that as a driver you never really know when will be the next opportunity to win and especially when it's your home race and even more so when your home race is Monaco, that is such a special track."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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