“Leclerc behaves as if he is the leader, but he is not” says Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 world champion, who believes that Charles Leclerc behaved as if he was the de facto leader of the Ferrari team last Sunday at Silverstone when the Monegasque made it clear over the radio that he was faster than his teammate on the track.
In the first phase of the race, Charles Leclerc was setting a much faster pace than his team-mate Carlos Sainz on track and found himself in the exhaust of the Spaniard’s car very quickly. On lap 16, Leclerc picked up his radio and asked his team: “What do you want me to do? I’m screwing up my race”, before Ferrari finally asked Carlos Sainz to pit four laps later, allowing Leclerc to take the lead.
In the end, the Monegasque driver would not win the British Grand Prix. This was mainly because Ferrari chose to bring Carlos Sainz into the pits to put new soft tyres on his car at the end of the race when a safety car was deployed following Esteban Ocon’s retirement, while Leclerc had to finish the race on worn hard tyres.
For Jacques Villeneuve, who is now a consultant for Canal+ and Sky Sports TV in the paddock, Charles Leclerc behaved as if he was the leader of the Ferrari team, which is in his opinion, not the case: “What he needs to work on is his communication with the team. Of course Sainz was slower yesterday [Sunday], but a one-two was definitely possible. The moment they made a tyre change [at the Safety Car after Ocon retired at the end of the race] it made sense, because he was losing the race at that moment. But that was not the case in the previous phase,” said Jacques Villeneuve in his column for the Dutch website Formule1.nl.
“Then Leclerc spoke as if he was already the leading driver of the team, but he is not, including contractually. It’s too early for that, Sainz still has a chance [at the world championship].
“He scored a lot of points today [at Silverstone] and after a good result and a bad day for the competition, he can be back. Making a decision too early when both drivers still have a chance of winning the title can also cost the team.”
“Eddie Irvine gave Michael Schumacher many points in 1999 and eventually lost the championship. So I don’t think Ferrari will be too happy with the tone on the radio. Leclerc asked for a decision and it came: “Sainz has been asked to pick up the pace”. That should have been enough and the radio messages should have stopped there. There’s no point in insisting, it’s all out there and it’s not good for Ferrari either. It should be done behind closed doors after the race.”
“In any case, it’s the championship that is the big winner of this race, because it got even closer. Who knows, maybe this victory will trigger something in Sainz? Will he now start to take poles or win races more often? I’m really curious to see if the pressure of a championship does anything for him.
“He’s a smart, sensitive guy with a good car. Some people give in under pressure or take their foot off the pedal, while others are launched and are unstoppable as happened with Verstappen. One thing is for sure, Carlos Sainz is no longer the son of Carlos Sainz…he is Carlos Sainz.”
After the British Grand Prix won by Carlos Sainz, the two Ferrari drivers are separated by just eleven points in the standings, with Charles Leclerc third and Sainz fourth. With the halfway point of the season still to come, anything is still possible in the world championship.