He was the faster of the two Ferraris on the all-important “quali-day” here under the harsh Tuscan sun. The very moment, he went about his opening qualifying run stint, it seemed, he somehow had it under control. Despite not driving the most powerful car on the current grid, well not even close, truth be told, he seemed comfortable and in the skin of the action.
But the main question is- can Charles Leclerc secure a fine finish for F1’s maiden Tuscan GP, at Mugello?
The way you perceive Ferrari amid their 2020 woes, defines the kind of fan you are. If you think, all is well with the SF 1000 from Maranello then probably you are a bit too passionate; someone who cannot distinguish between unbridled optimism and rationality.
If you think, Ferrari, who are clearly struggling may never bag another podium in what lies ahead (on current form), then fair to say, you are beyond saving and that their dullness has gotten over you.
But if you perceive the current Ferrari shortcomings as being real but treatable, and you think that Charles Leclerc is their best man for the job, then you are in the right know of things.
Wondering how that is? Well, simply glide past Sebastian Vettel’s 2020 form and then see Charles Leclerc’s!
For a four-time world champion, a really gifted driver, what awfully hurts is the fact that Vettel is not even in the top ten this year. But still, just somehow, his much younger teammate, Charles Leclerc, who in only in his second year in red, still managed to eek out 2 podiums driving the same car as the popular German.
In fact, to give a clear indication of how the two Ferrari drivers currently fare, gazing past the 2020 Driver’s Standings might not be a bad idea at all. Why? Well, it clearly puts in fine light just where the two stand; their exact positions explaining who’s better or worse?
How the two measure up
With 45 points, Leclerc, two ahead of Pierre Gasly, is on seventh. While, Sebastian Vettel, with only 16 points, is on thirteenth, even behind Esteban Ocon.
And while the common narrative (now even a popular meme) has that Ferrari have so woefully fallen behind in 2020, being a lowly-stacked midfielder as opposed to a daunting fighter contending at the front of the grid (in 2018, 2017 runs)- truth is, Charles Leclerc has still found a way to extract the most from a car, while Sebastian Vettel simply hasn’t.
Down on horsepower and struggling a lot in putting together a package that can compete in high-speed circuits where the need is to reduce drag, Ferrari look at Leclerc, not Vettel to play savior.
Pretty much the narrative of an awful season for the Scuderia
And it’s precisely in there where Charles Leclerc looms large on the Scuderia galaxy. What’s more? He’s also helped by the fact that he was able to manage a fighting P5 in qualifying for the first-ever Tuscan Grand Prix.
Starting any Grand Prix, fundamentally speaking, from the third row is far better than beginning your contest from further down the field. So where Vettel, who was still successful at making it to Q2 (on Saturday), is concerned, he still trails Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, the Iceman stacking his Hinwill-based team on P13.
On race-day, Vettel’s challenge would be to defend from Romain Grosjean’s Haas, the Frenchman down in fifteenth.
But the challenge on Leclerc’s part, on the other hand, would be completely different.
The young Monegasque would need to compete with two far more powerful machines, with Stroll, stacked in sixth, behind Charles and Albon ahead of the Ferrari, in fourth.
Yet, it’s not hard to see that even if Vettel finds his battle somewhat easy to negotiate, Leclerc’s job, far more difficult, is one that would grab most eyeballs. No?
There’s honestly little surprise as to why Leclerc for his very respectable and even unexpected P5 is being lauded. The only challenge now for the Ferrari gun is to end inside points. Not only for that would lift the most famous team’s hopes, in its 1000th Grand Prix but also for his own sake.
After all, in the last 3 GPs, all Leclerc’s managed is- 2 DNFs’ and 1 finish outside of top ten. So can Sunday be that special day?