Leclerc: ‘Wolf in sheep’s clothing’ or Team Player? – you decide

F1 Conundrums, No1: Charles Leclerc – This is the first of an occasional series of articles where an incident is chosen and then aspects of that incident considered from different perspectives, often with conflicting outcomes.

The reader will then be asked their opinion on the mater.

 

No1: Charles Leclerc: Wolf in Sheep’s clothing or Team Player

The incident I will be considering on this inaugural piece is the ‘unfortunate coming together’ of the two 2020 Ferraris at the second race of the delayed 2020 season, The Styrian GP, Austria.

Backdrop to the event: Race 1 saw Leclerc drag the so-called ‘tractor’ of his F1 car into P2, way ahead of his team’s expectations.

 

He gained 18 points for himself and his team for his efforts. His much older and more experienced team-mate  (x4WD Champion) Sebastian Vettel, had a bad day: Failed to make it into Q3 in qualifying, and part way through the race, made (what has been described as) a ‘rookie error’ when he made a lunge for a space which was always going to close.

 

He collided with Sainz,  (who, ironically, will be replacing him at Ferrari in 2021) spun, lost many places and ended up at the back of the pack, eventually finishing the race in P10, bringing home one point for himself and one for Ferrari.

Fast Forward to Race 2: The Styrian GP (also in Austria, at the same track).  This time the boot was on the other foot: Vettel qualified higher than Leclerc (who also had a three-place grid penalty).

 

On the first lap Leclerc (in what has been described as a carbon copy of Vettel’s move the previous week) collided with a car in front (i.e. rammed), mounted the car breaking the rear spoiler of said car causing it to retire without completing a lap, and causing massive damage to his own car, which had to be retired on Lap 5.

 

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the car Leclerc collided with was the Ferrari of his team mate Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari were the first two cars to retire that race and scored zero points.

 

Conundrum, part 1: Is Leclerc a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ or just a naive inexperienced youngster?

Did Leclerc over-enthusiastically go for a space (which was always going to close) and accidentally ram the second Ferrari, taking both himself and Vettel out of the race, scoring zero points apiece and zero for the team?

 

Would a more experienced driver have realised he could not win the race with that move (but he could certainly lose it), and wait for a more opportune overtaking opportunity? (bearing I mind both Ferraris were in the mid-field which is a bit more crowded than their usual position closer to the front of the grid).

 

Or did he do a ‘Senna’ i.e. take out his rival knowing neither car would score any points and the current points difference would be the same at the end of the race as it was at the beginning, i.e. 18:1, Leclerc:Vettel.

The upshot was Leclerc finished in P4 in the WDC, 17 points ahead of team-mate Vettel. Unless Leclerc has a couple of DNFs this very short season, this is a difference Vettel would have great difficulty closing with so few confirmed races remaining. So, is Leclerc a naïve youngster or a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’?

 

Part 2: Is Leclerc a Team Player or Not a Team Player?

Well, ramming the other Ferrari, taking both of them out and scoring zero points, whilst simultaneously keeping himself pretty high I the rankings would at first sight appear that Leclerc is NOT a Team Player, that he thinks only of himself and that is all that matters.

 

However, this incident could be interpreted as Leclerc DEFINITELY IS a Team Player. Did he (knowing the car is uncompetitive this season) ‘take one for the team’ i.e. take out both cars , knowing they would score zero points  and then have an ‘excuse’ for  being in P5 in WCC, KNOWING he would be blamed for the incident (which he was)?

He took responsibility for the incident, called himself lots of unflattering names, apologised and promised to learn from it.

So, good readers, is Leclerc a Wolf in Sheep’s clothing or a Team Player?  Over to you.

@F1TheaJ.

 

 

 

8 responses to “Leclerc: ‘Wolf in sheep’s clothing’ or Team Player? – you decide

  1. LeClerc is what you get when a team hypes an undoubtedly talented youngster and spoils hime before he delivered the goods. The kid sometimes forgets that his team mate has more world championships than he has race wins. He is undoubtedly a force for the future, but he thinks he is Ayrton effin’ Senna when he clearly isn’t. I doubt he even understands the meaning of the term ‘team player’, but that’s not his fault, but Ferraris, who made him feel like he’s the best thing since sliced bread despite never having proved himself the way Senna did at Donnington ’93, Schumacher at Barcelona ’96 or Vettel at Monza ’08.

  2. Interesting take on the situation. Thanks for submitting it. I was aiming to get people discussing it whilst avoiding offending anyone.

    • I don’t think you could offend anyone more than Ferrari did. Their handling of the whole situation was pretty poor to begin with. That a team shifts focus from an experienced driver to a young hopeful is nothing unusual, but the way they’ve gone about it was apalling. Not only did they treat Vettel quite poorly, they also spiled young Charles in the process. The defining moment in my opinion was Monza, when Charles was supposed to give Vettel the same tow in qualifying that the German had given him before. He didn’t and Ferrari let him get away with it.
      If you are more or less getting the okay from the team to stick a two-finger salute up to your vastly more experienced team mate, it only comes natural that it might get into the head of a young driver. We’ve seen this before with Button in his early years, and he needed years to get over that phase. Just my opinion of course.

      • I dont understand. This is just his 2nd season in a big team like Ferrari and he is ambitious and is trying to find his place in there. Ferrari’s treatment of Vettel shouldn’t be blamed on Leclerc. They are all competitive individuals.

  3. Thanks for your input. I agree that Ferrari’s treatment of Vettel has been pretty shoddy. Still, ‘there’s life in the old dog yet.’ I think Vettel has been through a pretty rough few weeks/months, but I think the tide is turning in his favour. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him in F1.

  4. What wasn’t mentioned was everything that happened last year, Leclerc kept proclaiming that he “only wants the best for the team” yet simultaneously screwed Vettel over on numerous occasions. Martin Brundle and the rest of the media love painting a bad picture of Vettel because they’re excited about the new kid on the block and want to follow his story. Sadly though this means that a lot of people who don’t know the whole back story or the intricacies of racing form their opinions of Vettel without seeing the full picture. Leclerc is seen as a hero and any errors on or off-track on his part seem to get looked over. It’s probably a good thing that Leclerc is getting the teams backing the same way Hamilton and Verstappen does, just sad that Vettel who still has so much to offer has been unceremoniously kicked to the curb and left out in the cold.

  5. He crashed. It happens. Bit of an invalid article tbh.

    I think the most likely reason for crashing is Leclerc has got too used to racing on games during lockdown, games which don’t have the same repercussions as real life racing does.

    Nothing more to it than that.

  6. Once again, thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment on it. The point you make about SIM racing is valid and the racing (crashing) without(real) consiqience may have impacted on this race as you suggest. However, that does negate the driver of responsibility for the outcome in the ‘real’ world (not that you implied it did). Wasn’t a similar thing said about Verstappen a couple of years ago?

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