As the 2022 Formula One season evolves the heroes and the villains are beginning to evolve and Charles LeClerc.s attitude is under the microscope. The Ferrari driver failed to out quality his team mate in Silverstone because he admitted making a mistake in the final qualifying run, yet his radio messages and subsequent media interviews suggest he believes he should be receiving preferential treatment from Ferrari.
In the current F1 media climate drivers need to manage their image carefully. Netflix ‘Drive to survive’ has brought a new found audience and the perception of the drivers isa becoming polarised amongst the fans.
Post the British GP I was chatting to a group of USA citizens who admitted they knew nothing of F1 until they watched the Netflix series. So captivated were they by the drama therein, they are fully engaged in this years F1 championship.
These new fans have no team allegiances or even historic driver preferences and even questioned me on my opinion on the result of the 2021 championship in Abu Dhabi.
Their love of this seasons F1 championship racing to date with no previous F1 history was compelling to hear, yet they have already formed opinions on matters the current F1 crop may not yet understand.
The wife of the younger couple was a George Russell fan, believing he just “got on with the job,” while she thought Lewis was persistently “complaining about the car”.
This group of fans revealed they are even watching all the practice sessions, qualifying and the races religiously.
Ted Kravitz said in his Silverstone notebook that the modern fans were “not supporting teams like the old days” but more driver focused. Yet our USA newbie husband told me he was a Red Bull fan and thought Christian Horner was the best team principal for honestly explaining the various situations that occurred.
His impression was in fact, “They always have Horner on the pit wall, and he makes sense over what is going on”.
This is a far cry from the younger Horner who during the Vettel quadruple winning years was vilified for his defensive and combative approach to the media.
One of the group questioned LeClerc’s response to the decisions Ferrari made during theBritish GP where the team received widespread criticism of their strategy. He felt the Monegasque driver sounded ‘entitled’ and ‘presumptuous’ over pit radio by demanding he should be the preferred Ferrari driver during the race.
Ferrari subsequently took the unprecedented action of issuing a statement to explain their decisions at Silverstone. In that statement buried amongst the cop[orate speak, Matt Binotto made it clear he didn’t care where his drivers were placed in the drivers’ championship, his focus was on the the Ferrari team’s performance.
As Ted Kravitz of Sky observed last weekend, “F1 has a new tranche of fans. Women, Families and young people”.
“They seem to have no allegiance to teams”, added the sky commentator. And as such these fans are seeing through the old F1 tropes and driver media performances.
Our group of USA fanatics said they felt Charles LeClerc was behaving as though he was entitled and ‘being a brat’ with his pit radio communications.
Given the new ‘personality cult’ Netflix has brought to F1, drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Charles LeClerc need to understand their every word is under scrutiny and their marketability will accordingly be affected.
No one wants a a climate change advocate, who moans about the car every time his team mate beats him.