Charles Leclerc was cruelly denied the opportunity to start from pole position at his home Grand Prix.
He looked set to escape a grid penalty following his accident in the final part of qualifying on Saturday, but bad luck befell him as he reported a problem on his lap to the grid. The Monegasque driver returned to the pits and ultimately couldn’t start the race.
The 23-year-old explained what happened behind the wheel.
"As soon as I’ve felt the issue I said I think there’s a problem with the gearbox but actually it’s not coming from the gearbox. It seems that it’s something else so we need to check still," he said.
"We will try and understand where it’s coming from exactly; I’ve understood it was coming from the rear left but I don’t know what exactly so we’ll have to see," he added [confirmed later to be a driveshaft problem].
Leclerc’s record at his home circuit is dreadful. He did not finish in 2018 and 2019 and couldn’t even start today due to the driveshaft failure. Asked to describe his emotions, the two-time Grand Prix winner was understandably gutted.
"In the garage, it was very very difficult to feel okay but now I’m getting used to this feeling here unfortunately," he said. "I’ve never finished a race here; this year I don’t start it, [when he was due to be] starting from pole.
"It’s a difficult one to take but I also feel for the team to be honest. The mechanics have done such a hard job yesterday to try and check everything, and the mechanics were finally a bit happy this morning to see that everything seems fine and all the parts were fine... and then this happened, so it’s a shame for everyone."
Heartbreaking pic.twitter.com/8Mk5FtJKXy— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) May 23, 2021
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto spoke to Sky Sports F1 after the race to explain the driveshaft failure that meant Leclerc couldn’t start from pole position at his home event.
Binotto believes it could be unrelated to his Q3 crash but the team needs to investigate more as to what exactly caused the issue.
"We need to fully understand what happened," he said.
"The failure is on the driveshaft into the hub on the left-hand side. So it's not a gearbox problem we had. The gearbox had been inspected yesterday evening, it has been reviewed, and I think the gearbox was OK for the race.
"What happened is on the opposite side compared to the accident. So it may be completely unrelated to the accident.
"But something which we need to carefully understand and analyse, and we have no answer right now."
Binotto confirmed this failure is not something that has happened to Ferrari before.
"No. Let's wait and see. I think we can only analyse the pieces carefully on the data, try to have a clear explanation."
There were fears Leclerc’s gearbox could have been damaged following his sizeable qualifying crash but Binotto confirmed that was not the cause of his DNS after getting pressed about it again.
"As I said, it has not been a gearbox failure," he said.
"There was no gamble on the gearbox. We are confident the gearbox would have been OK for the race.
"But again, what happened needs an explanation, that we do not have right now. As I said, we will need to analyse."