The writing may be on the wall for Charles LeClerc Ferrari career if the latest comments from Piero Ferrari are taken at face value. Ferrari started the 2022 campaign looking like potential Formula One champions with LeClerc some 43 points ahead of Verstappen after just three races.
Yet the wheels came off Ferrari and the Monegasque’s challenge in spectacular style due to a combination of mechanical failures, strategic blunders and driver errors.
Ferrari high hopes dashed for 2023
Come the end of there season LeClerc was battling Verstappen’s team mate for second place finishing the year some 146 points behind the champion.
Ferrari’s hopes were high for this year having concentrated on improving the power unit’s frailties and together with upgraded aerodynamics the drivers believed they would be in the fight with the Red Bull’s.
After just five rounds LeClerc is languishing down in seventh with his Spanish team mate two places ahead in the drivers’ championship.
A disgruntled LeClerc was critical of the SF-23 after the Miami Grand Prix where he could manage only just seventh place after crashing during qualifying.
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LeClerc critical of Ferrari car
“The window of our car is so narrow. Whenever you go a little bit out there is a huge consequence. It’s from one corner to another.
You can have huge understeer in one corner that goes to huge oversteer in another. This is not ideal to have confidence in the car. Consistency is what we are lacking at the moment.”
LeClerc is believed to requested a meeting after the poor start to 2023 with Ferrari chief executive John Elkann to discuss the team’s unacceptable start to the season.
With his contract due to expire in 2024 there have been rumours the Monegasque driver will take his services elsewhere unless Ferrari’s fortunes improve quickly. The 25 year old is believed to have sought assurances from Elkan that the Scuderia will deliver a car capable of challenging for the title before committing his career beyond 2024.
Son of Enzo praises Verstappen
Piero is the son of the legendary Enzo Ferrari and currently the vice chairman of the iconic sports car brand. He believes while LeClerc has the potential to improve at present he is no Max Verstappen.
“He is incredibly fast. He was already driving in F1 when he didn’t even have a driver’s license in his possession,” said the Italian of Max Verstappen.
“I was there when he got his first victory in Barcelona. He made his mistakes after that, his accidents. Now he is young and already has a lot of experience. He is a great driver who is now at the peak of his career.”
Piero goes on to admit that LeClerc has to develop substantially before he can match the current F1 world champion.
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“can do better” LeClerc report
“Charles has the speed to be equal to Verstappen, but he has less experience, in terms of number of GPs. Leclerc can still grow, he will grow.”
Ferrari believes the team’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz has room to improve though interestingly does not suggest he has the capability to match Verstappen.
“I think we have not yet seen his true full potential, we are waiting for it,” Piero said.
The “can do better” school report on the Scuderia’s drivers from the son of Enzo Ferrari may well be a not so subtle attempt to remind them of their place in the greatest F1 racing team of all time.
Ferrari “is better than they say”
There are others who believe the Ferrari pairing should be doing better and complaining about their car merely masks their deficiencies.
Ralph Schumacher has been recently critical of LeClerc and Sainz stating they are not good enough to deliver at the highest level.
“The car isn’t great, but it’s better than they say,” claims the ex-Williams driver.
“One driver mis-brakes at the pit entrance, while the other hardly finishes a fast lap without crashing. Frank Williams would have clipped me around the ears.
Schumacher slams LeClerc
“The trend just isn’t good. I see the biggest problem with the drivers. For me, they’re just not consistent enough.
“With his mistakes, Leclerc shows that he either doesn’t have the maturity or maybe, at the end of the day, he’s not consistently good enough to win a world championship for Ferrari.
“And Sainz was eight-tenths away from Leclerc in one weekend. To be honest, the Ferrari team is currently doing a better job than both drivers.”
Recent rumours have linked LeClerc with a move to replace Lewis Hamilton who may only be offered a one year contract extension by Mercedes.
Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff were confident at the Mercedes’ F1 car launch this year that his contract renewal would be done and dusted in “a few hours”. Yet almost half way through the year no announcement over the seven times world champions future has been forthcoming.
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Hamilton 🆚 Verstappen
Max had to get his elbows out as he took P1 from Lewis after starting P3 👏#F1 #ImolaGP pic.twitter.com/D2vakpd0UZ
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 15, 2023