Former F1 racer Juan Pablo Montoya believes Leclerc feels more pressure than Verstappen, which is why he believes the double world champion is “in a really good place mentally”, which will not only help him in 2022, but also increase Red Bull’s title chances in 2023.
The duel between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen was particularly exciting at the start of the 2022 Formula One season, when new aerodynamic regulations allowed Ferrari to once again challenge for the top positions and battle it out with Red Bull. In addition to reliability issues, Leclerc also made strategic mistakes when it mattered most, spinning in a battle with Sergio Perez at Imola and crashing the Ferrari he was leading into the wall at the French Grand.
Verstappen is better than Leclerc…
“He knows he can beat anyone,” says Montoya with regard to Verstappen.
“When you are in that position and you have the equipment you need, it’s good and he does his job. I would say [his 2023 World Championship chances] are pretty high. I think Max is in a really good mental situation at the moment.”
“Last year he had to step up his game. If you look at Checo at the beginning of the year, he took a massive step. And Max really had to play his best game. And when he did that, it was cool to watch him.”
“I wouldn’t say he’s on the same level. Because I think Charles is very good, but Max has more experience. And I think the more experience, the more wins and the more championships you have, the more pressure comes off you.” muses Montoya.
Montoya believes that a huge amount still depends on the car saying:
“So for Max it’s much easier to win the championship than for Charles. Because for Charles it would be the first championship. And to tell you the truth, if Carlos is comfortable in the car, I think he can do a really good job.”
“If you look at the old cars at the end of the year, not last year but the year before, Carlos beat Charles every week. So it comes down to the driver’s comfort level in the car.”
Verstappen better than Perez
“If you look at the beginning of the year when Max wasn’t feeling well and Checo could drive the car, Checo was faster than him,
“Is Checo a better driver than Max? Honestly, not really. He’s a really good driver, but I don’t think he’s on the level of Max,” Montoya said.
“But he could drive the car and Max couldn’t. And that’s where the team is doing a really good job. They understand what he needs and they do it better. That’s where I think it’s going to be really cool.”
Red Bull car development crucial
“What Red Bull have always done well is the progress they make with the car. They can really develop the car. The same is true for Mercedes. The pace of development of their cars is in a different league compared to everyone else,” he points out.
“You can say that Ferrari had the best car at the beginning of the year. Ferrari had the fastest car, no doubt. But it’s like they found three tenths of performance and Red Bull and Mercedes found one second. Because if you look at Mercedes at the end of the year, they had the pace to be closer to Ferrari than Ferrari was to Max and to Red Bull.”