Is Charles Leclerc under too much pressure? Max Verstappen surpasses the Ferrari star in the fight for the Formula 1 title. Ten races remain, but despite the better car, the prospects are difficult. This brings back memories of the 2018 season with Sebastian Vettel.
After Charles Leclerc's bitter failure disaster, Ferrari quickly switched to attack mode. "There's no reason why we shouldn't win the last ten races. I'm very positive because the package fits," said Mattia Binotto, Scuderia team boss. Star driver Leclerc lost 25 important points in the overall standings to Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen, who is now a whopping 63 points ahead after 12 of 22 races, due to his mistake on Sunday in Le Castellet, France.
Was that already a preliminary decision in the title fight? "Leclerc's insecurity is becoming the insecurity of the entire team," said the "Corriere dello Sport" harshly: "An insecure champion can be a great pilot, but not a leader." The daily newspaper "La Repubblica" wrote: "Adieu, French Grand Prix and maybe also the World Championship." It's certainly a bit too early for that, but the Swiss "Blick" put the problem in a nutshell: "This makes it easy for world champion Max Verstappen to win his second world title in 2022." While the Dutchman coldly exploits the mistakes of the competition, Ferrari makes life unnecessarily difficult for itself. Either due to technical problems or driving errors like on Sunday by challenger Leclerc, who took off while in the lead.
Even Verstappen felt something like pity after the next fatal slip Leclerc. "Our lead is bigger than it should be when you look at the potential of the cars," said the Formula 1 world champion, almost sounding as if he should be ashamed of his comfortable cushion of 63 points. "Ferrari is very fast, a very, very fast car," emphasized the Red Bull driver after the French Grand Prix: "We still have some work ahead of us and we will tackle it."
The 24-year-old from Monaco does not cope well with the pressure, ex-world champion Jacques Villeneuve judged in a column for "Formule1.nl" and went on to say that dealing with tricky situations is "the big difference to Verstappen": "We have one Championship with two relatively equally strong cars, but one has a big lead." The German ex-champion Nico Rosberg also found on Sky that Leclerc "should not allow" such mistakes. Although the reasons are different, Le Castellet was Leclerc's third failure of the season. "The Ferrari car is the stronger one, so it's not over yet," Rosberg said about the duel for the title. The Italian racing team is also convinced of this. "We have the potential," said Binotto, who saw no reason to criticize his driver: "Yes, it was a mistake by Charles, that can happen, but he's a great driver."
But "unacceptable" mistakes, as Leclerc called his momentous blunder, leave "deep marks" ("Corriere della Sera") and "destroy dreams" ("Tuttosport")."The car had the pace to win the race, but when these mistakes happen, there is no reason to drive at this high level," said Leclerc disappointed. After all, he took responsibility for the next setback.
Teammate Carlos Sainz, winner in Great Britain, jumped to Leclerc's side. "What happened to him can happen to anyone, including me or Max, because we always drive at the limit and push. I'm sure he will recover from it," said the Spaniard. Leclerc already has the chance to do better at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest on Sunday. The last race before the three-week summer break is all about getting closer to Verstappen. "I have already told Charles and Carlos that we have new goals, namely a double win," said Binotto.
With the challenge, especially to Red Bull, the Italians are trying to distract from their own shortcomings. Much is also reminiscent of 2018, when Sebastian Vettel had the best chance of winning the title in a Ferrari. In the battle with Mercedes, the Scuderia had the better car for a long time, but could not use it due to accidents, rides and other mistakes. "My biggest enemy is myself," said Vettel about himself at the time. He had to cede the title to Lewis Hamilton and missed his best chance in the red racer. "It's not easy to have this pace and this performance and deal with it. It's a tough job and I feel for the whole team," Hamilton said on Sunday about the situation at Ferrari. As a seven-time world champion, he knows best about the problems.
Sometimes there were obvious mistakes, sometimes just bad luck - 2018 and 2022 are similar for Ferrari. Back then, the Silver Arrows worked more purposefully and concentrated, now history could repeat itself with Red Bull. Ferrari has been waiting for a Formula 1 world champion since Kimi Raikkonen's triumph in 2007. Ex-champions Fernando Alonso and Vettel failed when trying to bring back the old Schumi glory to the team. Leclerc, who quickly admitted his mistake in France, is now more challenged than ever. "This is unacceptable and I have to deal with it," he said.