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.