Charles Leclerc says he will now “think twice” before accepting an invitation to drive another historic F1 car, after crashing a classic Niki Lauda Ferrari in Monaco.
Ahead of the Monaco GP in which he took pole but was hindered by a mismanaged strategy in the race and came home in a disappointing P4, Leclerc was given the chance to drive Lauda’s 1974 312B3. The demonstration run alongside former Ferrari F1 driver Jacky Ickx was a part of the Monaco Grand Prix Historique event, which sees an array of priceless historic machinery tackling the famous Monaco street circuit.
The run did not go at all to plan for Leclerc though who, after only three laps, overshot the La Rascasse corner and spun backwards into the barrier. The rear of the car took all of the brunt of the impact, dislodging the rear wing and causing the engine to start smoking when Leclerc pulled away from the crash site. It later turned out that there had been a sudden brake disc failure which caused the accident.
He had also already driven Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari 312T at the team’s test track in Fiorano. But after the Monaco incident that was broadcast live on YouTube and spread through the realms of social media like wildfire, Leclerc was asked whether the incident changes his mind about driving historic racing cars.
“No, it doesn’t because to be honest, before that, I think all the checks that had to be done, were done,” Leclerc affirms. “Obviously there was a shakedown of this car the Thursday before. The failure that happened was on a screw of the brake pads and it’s impossible to know. Then, of course, fighting for a championship like this, I’ll think twice before doing it again in the future.
“It’s also part of our job and sometimes we need to go into those cars, and it’s always also an honour for me. I’m very happy and very proud to be driving those cars, and [it’s] always a pleasure too – but yeah, it’s always a balance you need to find and of course, when you’re fighting for the championship… but just overall, to be honest, because it’s for safety in general. I had a lot of fun and this was unfortunate. But again, it was just unlucky,” summed up Leclerc.
The Monegasque’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz was asked by Motorsport Network whether he was eager to follow in Leclerc’s footsteps by testing classic Ferrari machinery. He admits that he is in “two minds” about the risk amid one of his team’s best chances of a championship title in over a decade.
“I had the opportunity to in the past, it gives you a vision of what was the sport a long time ago,” stated Sainz. “But I’m in two minds with it, because why would you risk it first, like why? You’re in the middle of a Ferrari championship-winning chance [so] why would you risk having this situation like happened to [Charles]?
“And at the same time, when else are you going to have this opportunity to drive these cars? Every time I jump in a classic Formula 1 car, I have these things in my head,” summed up Sainz.
The Spaniard, who so far this season has failed to live up to expectations alongside Leclerc and has suffered from multiple costly errors during the first few rounds, conceded that his instinct upon driving a classic F1 car is to “push it” as he doesn’t know how to do otherwise.
“If I’m jumping in a car, I’m going to push it,” Sainz explained. “I don’t know how to jump in a car and put the elbow out and drive around. I have no idea how to do this. I can only jump in and feel it and feel how this car’s felt. Every time I’m going to jump in, I’m going to push a car, and then these things can happen and leave you with the other questions. So I don’t know what to answer.”
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto also gave his thoughts on classic Ferrari F1 runs, in which seemingly tends to be a small part of the team’s driver contracts in order to drum-up publicity and produce content for the media side of the operation.
“Obviously, it’s 40 years after and the cars have changed a lot [and] the circuits have changed,” started Binotto. “If you look at the time and the cars they had, they were so dangerous. If you got in an accident, you know what can be the consequence. And today the cars are very, very safe I would say compared to what it was, and that is thanks to all the effort FIA, F1 and the teams put into it.
“I think at the time, the drivers were really mad, and they were mad because of the amount of risk they were simply accepting and I think today it’s certainly safer. But then, if I look at Charles, the way he’s driving, his talent, and more than that it’s the passion, the passion of the fans for him… I think Charles has got that [passion] and that’s something which is great, we are passionate as well ourselves,” summed up Binotto.
Here’s Ferrari talks about strategy mistake
Here’s Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz on their Monaco fight
Here’s Alexander Albon on holding up Charles Leclerc, Ferrari being upset