L for losing. L for Leclerc and L for love for racing. These three, when put together, give the picture of a driver who’s so often shuttled between agony and ecstasy this Formula 1 season. It must be said, Charles Leclerc has seen better days in the past.
How come a driver who, lest it is forgotten, was leading the Driver’s championship at one point and is now trailing championship leader Max Verstappen by nearly 100 points is indeed the saddest tale of 2022.
Regardless of who you are, whether a Mercedes fan who dreaded porpoising or a Sainz fanatic who believes Silverstone 2022 was the best moment for Spanish fans in modern F1 or a Perez supporter who can’t enough of 2021’s Abu Dhabi drama, you feel for Charles Leclerc.
How can you not? Leclerc is the antithesis to the construct of a modern Formula 1 driver who has to be a bit cringe, say the right things (often politically correct stuff), act super cool, behave aggressively and show that he doesn’t care about the points when it is just about that.
On his part, Charles Leclerc is anything but indifferent; maybe he cares a bit too much for his own sanity. He smiles, doesn’t smirk that often. He’s not indifferent to the changing vagaries of F1. If anything, Leclerc doesn’t make a big deal about hiding his emotions especially on an off day.
He’s not at all bad tempered even if his sullen mood, think Baku or Monaco can so easily spoil that of the team’s.
A sweet racing driver from Monaco who’s very much a 21st century, Instagram using, emoji-dependant, straight-from-the-gut driver who loves winning- Charles Leclerc’s 2022 run has recently gone bereft of race wins.
The last he picked a win and it was a sensational win by the way too, was at Austria. That was an effort so remarkable and an exhibition of controlled aggression that even Verstappen, the vanquished appreciated the Monaco-born’s driving.
Though, truth be told, from that point on victories have been hard to come by.
Things may have changed for the better for Sainz, but Leclerc’s aching. It’s getting to him. The realisation that it may just be over by now.
For starters, there’s no way that Max Verstappen is ready to throw in the towel. He’s a dauntless force. On top of it, right now, it’s seems Max Verstappen is peak Verstappen; fast, unsullied by lost opportunities and ready to attack on any given day.
Why Leclerc must win here at Zandvoort, from where he begins barely seconds behind pole-sitter Verstappen is down to three main reasons:
A) Charles Leclerc’s gap to Verstappen in 98 points. A DNF for Charles, say by an example, and a win for Max will only compound the issues for Ferrari.
B) Charles’s confidence is at an all time low; and it’s not hard to know how or why. The last five results for the Monegasque driver read: P4, P1, DNF, P6 and P6. On the other hand, his archrival’s results read something like this- P2, P1, P1, and P1.
Interestingly, Saturday unfurled a very closely fought qualifying battle in which Charles Leclerc was the fastest before Verstappen’s typically ballsy lap turned the heat on Ferrari.
Some saw that coming. Luckily, our man didn’t care. He’s happy to race on and bag a win, provided the strategy department that hasn’t helped his cause a bit can lend support.
After all, the stakes are way too high; and Ferrari stand the risk of losing a world championship that post Australia, at least, seemed destined to be theirs.