By James Broughton, June 24, 2022
Charles Leclerc began the 2022 Formula One Campaign on a high with an imperious performance at the opening Grand Prix of the 2022 season with victory in Bahrain. He followed that up with a strong second place in Saudi Arabia and another win at the Australian Grand Prix. His championship rival, Max Verstappen began the season with a DNF, win and DNF. Since then, Verstappen and Red bull have grown stronger. Of the six races contested thereafter, Verstappen has won six, winning three in succession at one point. His lowest finish is third.
Leclerc’s season looked strong after the first three races, at one point the Ferrari driver was over 40 points ahead of Verstappen. Six Grand Prix later, Leclerc has dropped from first to third, and finds himself 49 points behind Verstappen. Leclerc’s season is beginning to crumble, a few errors when under pressure, two DNFs, and strategy mistakes by Ferrari have contributed to the decline.
The season is not yet at the halfway point, there is plenty of time for Leclerc to take the fight back to Verstappen. Leclerc has the speed and the temperament, he makes few mistakes, no more or no less than Verstappen. Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 champion, believes Leclerc has the speed but must focus on the details to beat Verstappen. During a podcast interview, Villeneuve explained:
“Right now we know he’s fast, he’s aggressive, is he a World Champion? Is he like Max? How is he under pressure when it’s money time for the championship?”
“He’s super-quick, but right now he still makes a few little mistakes that he shouldn’t. Imola, for example, then he’s not helped by the team. That’s the energy they all have together.”
“When you’re in a Ferrari, you should only have a Red Bull in front of you,”
“Before the race in Canada, they took those penalties because it’s Montreal, and in their minds, the worst they could finish was P4 having [Sergio] Perez still in the race – and they didn’t.”
“There was also a safety car that allowed Charles to get close to the pack, and he finished fifth.”
“It’s good salvaging of points, but it’s not good enough. They had a poor pit stop and got out behind four cars instead of ahead of them.”
“Fighting to get those positions killed their tyres, and that’s why they didn’t get the Mercedes in the end.”