Interview with Charles Leclerc: “Monaco is the most exciting qualifying of the year”

As Charles Leclerc told Monaco Life, Scuderia Ferrari will be doing “everything possible to make pole position in qualifying” this weekend, but he says he’s not “fixated” on a Monaco Grand Prix win. Here are some other insights on the intense competition on the grid this season from one of Formula 1’s brightest stars. 

Just 24 hours after securing P3 in Imola in front of an adoring tifosi crowd, and a matter of days before taking to the streets for the Monaco Grand Prix, Monegasque driver Charles fielded questions on Monday 20th May from regional media, including Monaco Life’s Editor in Chief Cassandra Tanti.

Sitting in second place after the race in Imola with 113 points, Leclerc gave a candid assessment of his performance so far this F1 season and outlined the challenges and improvements that lie ahead. From his pride in representing Monaco to his thoughts on the vital role of qualifying in a strong position on the famous circuit, Leclerc gave us an insight into his strategy and mindset, his opinions on the technical upgrades to his car, and what the arrival of Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari in 2025 will mean for his career. 

You are currently in second place in the Drivers Standings. What are your thoughts on the first third of the season? Are you satisfied or did you expect to do a little better?

I think we couldn’t expect to be first in the championship after last year. We also had to be realistic; we know we still have a lot of work to do, but we also know that we have progressed a lot, and we are satisfied because we took the steps that we needed to. We have McLaren, which has been very strong for the last two Grands Prix. On the other hand, we have to wait a few more races before completely judging the improvements that we put in place at Imola. We’re a little behind compared to McLaren and Red Bull in terms of progress, but in the first part of the season, I think we have maximised the potential of the car. Now, we must work together to ensure that the potential is good enough to achieve victories.

Imola was an opportunity to finally put into play the new upgrades. What is your first impression of these developments, and in which specific areas do they allow you to progress? 

With Imola, it was quite difficult to judge the improvements because, like Monaco, it is very specific in itself. On the other hand, with the data we have today in Formula 1, we were able to see the figures, which were expected in terms of aerodynamics, so that’s always a good sign. It means that the upgrade is as expected and there were no bad surprises.

Charles Leclerc at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix 2024 with fans. Photo source: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre

We saw three teams cross the finish line within seven seconds of each other on the weekend after more than 60 laps. Do you agree that this kind of racing is important to keep Formula 1 fans happy and hooked on the sport?  Does the result at Imola give the team hope for the rest of the season?

Although it is great to have three teams as close as possible, we must not get carried away because it is only one race, and there are other ones with very specific characteristics like Monaco and Canada, which could blur the lines a little. But hey, it’s great if we have three teams as close as what we saw going on at Imola, and it’s important for the Formula 1 fans because I think they are asking for that kind of action. It is not necessarily knowing who will be the winner, it is clear who always has the advantage overall. But we are more optimistic. McLaren now is very strong in qualifying and, quite frankly, we are too. It’s getting closer and closer and that’s a good sign for us and for the fans. 

“Monaco is the most exciting qualifying of the year for us drivers”

Frédéric Vasseur says that the pressure Ferrari is putting on Red Bull will force them to make mistakes. How do you plan to put pressure on them in Monaco? 

It’s easiest if we can be up the front because, in Monaco, we know how important qualification is. I think it’s the most exciting qualifying of the year for us drivers and because it’s on the Monaco circuit, it’s just incredible. If we start behind in the race, its guaranteed to be difficult because there aren’t a lot of opportunities to overtake. So, we want to be as close as possible and as competitive as possible on Friday and Saturday and put absolutely everything [into the driving] in order to be in pole position. 

Charles Leclerc racing at the Emilia Romagna GP 2024. Photo source: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre

What’s your opinion on the whole season? 

We’re going to have to do absolutely everything perfectly so that we’re as close as possible to Red Bull, and put them in a situation where they can’t afford to make mistakes. Last year, they had such a lead over us that they could sometimes even make an extra pit stop and still win the race. Now, we are in a situation where we are much more comfortable as drivers and a team.

Let’s go back to 2018, your first year in F1. If you were told that year that you would have to wait at least six years to hope to climb on to the podium in Monaco, how would you have reacted? How important is a podium finish in Monaco to you? 

I had no idea how my career would have been made in the sense that I didn’t know then that I was going to join Ferrari in 2019. The Monaco Grand Prix is particularly special for me because it’s at home, but it’s not about winning a podium. Of course, we think about the victory, but we are not “fixated” on it. It’s more about the process of achievement; that the work carried out during the weekend is the best possible with my new track engineer Bryan Bozzi. I also have Jerome d’Ambrosio who is taking over as Deputy Team Principal. So I have two people who are in new positions and that’s really what we’re focusing on. Then I’m convinced that once the job is done well, victory can be achievable at the end of the weekend.

Charles Leclerc racing for Scuderia Ferrari at the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix. Photo source: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre

What do you like about the Monaco Grand Prix circuit?

The Monaco circuit is my favourite circuit of the whole year because I’m at home. But also, quite simply, because I’m a big fan of city circuits. The fact of not having the option of making a mistake, of going 200% in qualifying and not necessarily thinking about the risks or anything, is really an incredible feeling and it gives a lot of adrenaline. It’s a circuit that I love and which I think is appreciated by all the pilots. 

“I look forward to having Lewis next to me in 2025”

What do you and Lewis Hamilton talk about when you come across each other in the paddock, for example? Are you already talking about 2025? 

We’re talking a little bit about 2025, but we mainly talk about the interests that we share together like music, for example, like we always do. But, certainly, now that everyone knows that Lewis will join Ferrari, it makes more noise when we talk together. We have always had a lot of respect towards each other and we have a good friendship. 

And your thoughts on the impact his arrival will have on your career trajectory? 

What I like about Formula 1 is having the opportunity to fight against the best of the best drivers on the grid today. Seb (Sebastian Vettel) had won multiple world champions and I learned a lot from him so yes, I look forward to having Lewis next to me in 2025 because, with all the success he has had, he is certainly doing extremely well and I could learn a lot next to him. But the goal will be to beat him, clearly.

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Prince Albert II attends Honduras-themed AMI gala at the Yacht Club de Monaco

Honduras AMI

The cultural and culinary delights of the Latin American nation of Honduras were in the spotlight at a gala organised by the Monegasque Ibero-American Association (AMI) last week.  

Prince Albert II of Monaco and his Minister of State, Pierre Dartout, were among the notable guests to attend the glamourous occasion, which saw 250 figures from the Principality and beyond join forces to support a number of humanitarian causes and projects championed by AMI.

From gastronomy to music and dance, the evening on 16th May fully immersed those present in the culture and traditions of Honduras.

Four Honduran chefs, Augusto R. Santos, Dave Narvaez, Monserrath Morazan Padilla and Jose Luis Escalante Oliva, came together to create a very special menu that honoured the ingredients and cooking styles of their home nation. They were assisted by students from the Lycée Rainier III.

Among the dishes and beverages served was a cocktail served in jicaras, a type of cup used in traditional Latin American ceremonies, which went down particularly well with the Prince. The recipe was based on Aguardiente Tatascan, a distilled alcohol that is popular in the region.

Dance was also a big feature of the event and Prince Albert was photographed enjoying the traditional music and performances put on by a troupe of dancers out on the deck of the Yacht Club.

To read more about the AMI and its other upcoming events, click here.

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Photo credit: Michael Alesi / Monaco Communications Department

Good vibes only at this weekend’s Sunset Festival

In an exclusive interview with Monaco Life, Sunset Festival co-founder Thomas Peeters shares the story of the vibrant event, which has grown from a close-knit gathering among friends to a staple feature of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend that may well welcome upwards of 7,000 guests in 2024.  

Sunset Festival is now in its 11th edition. Between 24th and 26th May, the event will be returning to its favourite beachside venue of Le Méridien Beach Plaza for three incredible nights of live music, entertainment, art and, most importantly, good vibes.  

The Sunset concept stems from Monaco-based entrepreneurs Thomas Peeters and Cédric Houdrouge, who, more than a decade ago, were searching for exciting and new alternatives to the traditional Monaco Grand Prix parties.  

“The story behind Sunset is that back in 2011, it started to become more and more difficult to attend different parties, so we decided to make our own party between our friends,” Peeters tells Monaco Life. “In a few years, we ended up with 250 friends, and this is how Sunset was born, the first-ever beach party originating from Monaco.” 

Thomas Peeters and Cédric Houdrouge. Photo credit: Supplied

Sunset offers a unique and eclectic fusion of music, art and beach party elements, positioning itself as a standout occasion during the Grand Prix . Attendees can expect a laid-back yet sophisticated atmosphere, with sets from various DJs spanning genres from electro to deep house.

Some 7,000 guests are expected at the 2024 edition and Sunset has become a firm favourite with locals as well as international visitors.  

“70% of our clientele are locals and 30% of the turnover is from the international crowd,” he reveals. “It’s a special beach festival suitable for everyone, regardless of nationality or age [and] we are very proud that the vibe has remained the same over the years.” 

An exciting addition for 2024 is ‘Casa Sunset’, a revamped restaurant space that will be offering up a South American inspired culinary experience crafted by renowned chefs Paola Segura and Yoni Gurman.  

Casa Sunset aims to enhance the festival experience by providing a no-entry-fee zone that returns to the festival’s more intimate origins as well as a dining experience that will delight food lovers. The pop-up will be open until 3am so that ‘Sunsetters’ can continue the party after the closure of the main event. 

The Casa Sunset venue is a new addition to the festival in 2024. Photo credit: Le Méridien Beach Plaza

This year, the line-up includes names such as Luciano on Friday 24th May, Carlita and Andhim on Saturday 25th May, and Pabels on Sunday 26th May.  

Peeters and Houdrouge like to put a big ticket name on the first night of the festival in order to make every day a big occasion, not just the Sunday Race Day.  

“Now we want that the Friday becomes the Saturday and the Saturday becomes the Sunday,” he says. “On Sunday, we like to put a lesser-known DJ, like Anotr a few years back when he was starting out… Now he is a world-famous DJ.”  

Indeed, Sunset has often hosted upcoming artists on the Sunday, such as Blondish back in 2014 and Bedouin in 2016, to name a few.  

“They all came through Sunset,” says Peeters.  

See more: Race to the rhythm: A guide to the best Grand Prix parties in Monaco

Art will also play a significant role at the 2024 edition and contemporary artist Richard Orlinski, known for his King Kong sculptures, will display four monumental sculptures on the beach, including a new piece created just for the event.  

“We always try to find different artists that embody the spirit of Sunset and thought it would be cool to have a Sunset King Kong,” explains Peeters.  

“Freedom is being yourself without permission” 

Sunset prides itself on creating an inclusive environment where attendees can enjoy the festivities without pretence. The festival’s ethos – encapsulated in the motto ‘Freedom is being yourself without permission’ – encourages community and self-expression. 

Sunset is also an immersive experience, featuring various performances, light shows and a spectacular fireworks display to close the event.  

“The craziest memory regarding immersive experiences was Franky Zapata flying on a flyboard, his invention. It was part of his trial flights,” reveals Peeters.  

Now, Franky Zapata is a renowned personal watercraft pilot and the founder of Zapata Racing.

For three consecutive years now, Sunset has also ventured to the Miami and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but has always preserved its Monaco essence.  

“The sky is the limit,” says Peeters.  

For more information and ticket reservations, click here


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Photo credits: Marion Butet Studio 

Rain or shine for the Monaco Grand Prix? 

weather monaco grand prix

With just a few days to go until the racing begins, what are the latest weather forecasts predicting for the Monaco Grand Prix weekend? 

Everyone from the fans to the teams and the drivers have their eyes on the weather as the biggest event of the year in the Principality edges ever closer.  

Sudden rain brought havoc and chaos to the Monaco Grand Prix in 2023, when intense showers in the latter stages of racing caused calamity for a host of drivers, including the eventual winner, Max Verstappen, many of whom hit the barriers, slid off track or were forced to make an emergency pit stop.  

See more: F1: Touring the iconic Monaco Grand Prix circuit

And it could easily happen again this coming weekend as the latest forecasts and predictions are painting a picture of very mixed conditions. 

Like much of the weekend, Friday 24th May will be mostly cloudy, with temperatures hovering at around 18°C. In the afternoon, however, there is a 50% chance of rain and potentially stormy conditions between 4pm and 7pm, coinciding with events in the paddock and the Formula 1 Practice 2 session. 

The weather looks set to worsen on Saturday 25th May, with rain and further storms threatening for much of the day. The likelihood of precipitation sits at between 50 and 75% for most of Saturday. Again, daytime temperatures are unlikely to exceed 17 to 18°C. Given that the afternoon will feature the Qualifying sessions, teams will be keeping a close watch on the developing forecasts with a view to adapting their strategies. 

Thankfully, Race Day on Sunday 26th May looks considerably better weather-wise, although any Riviera local will tell you how quickly la météo can change in the region.  

Current predictions suggest a sunny start to the day, with clouds beginning to gather in the early afternoon, but no rain on the horizon. Temperatures are likely to be slightly warmer too, rising to around 20°C 

For the full Monaco Grand Prix schedule, click here

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Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre

Andréa Manni, cousin to F1’s Charles Leclerc, claims first international karting podium

andréa manni

The 11-year-old cousin of Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc, Andréa Manni, is following in his family’s footsteps.

Racing is in the blood of Andréa Manni. Barely into double digits, the Monegasque young cousin of Charles and Arthur Leclerc has big aspirations – and the talent to back them up.  

Racing at the WSK Open Series in La Conca, Italy, in early April, Manni nabbed a solid second place in the OKNJ division, the category reserved for kart racers aged 11 to 15. 

“I was very happy and a little disappointed at the same time because everything had gone very well until the final, with P1s in all the rounds,” he told Monaco Matin. “I was a little stressed and made a few mistakes, but this result is a great satisfaction for the team, for me and all those who have supported me since the beginning.” 

Manni, a CM2 student at the International School of Monaco, started karting at the tender age of five on the track in Brignoles, where he continues to practise alongside his older cousins.  

Now in the international leagues, the Forza Racing driver is finding the racing challenging, but fulfilling. 

Speaking to Monaco Matin about the recent race, he said, “I hesitated a little because in mini-kart (seven to 10 years old) I went very fast and I could win a lot of races. This year is a year of learning. I am one of the youngest and the level is very high. I’m gaining experience.”  

Despite only having entered the OKNJ division this season, Manni already has his sights set on a future career in Formula 1 – once he completes his schooling. 

“I know very well that if my studies get out of hand, there will be no more karts,” he told the Monaco newspaper. “So, I do my homework after tests or races.” 

The next few months will see Manni travel to races in France, Italy, Spain, England, Slovakia and Sweden, forcing him to miss some of the school year, but he is a sensible young boy with a good head on his shoulders. It’s easy to imagine that he will succeed on the track and in the classroom.  

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Photo source: Andréa Manni, Instagram

Charity Midsummer White Party to champion Borneo causes

This June, Club Vivanova’s Midsummer White Party will be championing the work of three Borneo-based conservation trusts and organisations. Tickets to the event are now available. 

The Southeast Asian island of Borneo is home to some of the world’s most ancient rainforests, but its flora and fauna are becoming increasingly endangered. Sadly, these fragile eco-systems are being threatened by the encroachment of human activities and risk being destroyed all together. 

In 2017, two organisations, Borneo Wildlife Preservation and the Borneo Conservation Trust, joined forces to spearhead a number of important projects to help prevent the degradation of the island’s wildlife. Programmes include reforestation efforts and the provision of safe shelter spaces for injured, displaced and orphaned Borneo pygmy elephants.  

In addition to these efforts, the organisations also conduct educational workshops to foster environmental stewardship among local communities and inspire future generations to protect the forests. 

On 13th June from 6pm to 8.30pm at Twiga Monte-Carlo, guests at Club Vivanova’s Save the Rainforest-Midsummer White Party will be invited to help further these causes as well as that of Hutan, the Borneo-based French charity that is dedicated to wildlife conservation projects in the region. 

The event promises an evening of elegance and entertainment, featuring a spectacular wine bar and a cocktail dînatoire menu. Guests will be treated to a variety of gourmet dishes and a live DJ will be setting the tropical mood. A tombola at 8pm will offer attendees the chance to win a number of luxurious prizes. 

Tickets cost €75 per person and can be reserved online here

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Photo courtesy of Hutan