For Charles Leclerc the clock is ticking. By the time his Formula One contract with Ferrari expires at the end of next season, the Monegasque driver will be 27.
No longer the up and coming ‘youngster’ Leclerc believes he has an F1 world championship or two within him but he may be starting to look at the experience of his two predecessors and wonder whether its tome to think about moving on from Maranello.
Ferrari strategy errors mount up
Neither double world champion Fernando Alonso or quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel could haul the Scuderia to the top of either championship. Despite their new enthusiastic boss Fred Vasseur, Ferrari are once again displaying the characteristics of a team that is disconnected and repeating the same mistakes time and again.
Strategy decisions cost Leclerc dear last season while he still remained a realistic possibility of winning the drivers’ title. Having claimed a crucial pole position in Monaco Leclerc saw his lead stolen by quick thinking Red Bull strategy as the wet track dried.
At the Belgian Grand Prix Ferrari decided to pit Leclerc late in the race in an attempt to claim the point for fastest lap. However, Charles returned to the circuit and had lost a place to Alonso.
Albon makes early change
While he did regain the position he was penalised for speeding in the pit lane and the resulting penalty dropped him back behind the Alpine in the final classification.
Once again the changeable conditions this time in Canada threw the Scuderia strategists into chaos. Towards the end of Q2 and with a drying track Alex Albon fitted the dry weather tyres and went on to clock the quickest lap of the session.
Meanwhile Max Verstappen had set a good banker lap time on the intermediate tyres that despite Albon’s dry tyre run time was good enough to see him through to the pole position final ten shootout.
Leclerc denied his choice of tyres
Leclerc also realised the track was changing and slicks were a good option. He told the team he wanted to go to the soft tyre and they told him no because Verstappen was fitting another set of intermediates.
Most of the remaining field then fitted slick tyres but the opportunity was gone for Ferrari and Leclerc. By copying Red Bull they missed the moment and Leclerc could only set the 11th quickest time of the session.
At the end of the session, Leclerc was furious and referred to the pattern of strategic errors the team had developed over recent years.
Charles “sick and tired” of Ferrari mistakes
“We need to do a step forward now because this is not the first time it has happened,” he said.
Then using a turn of phrase which suggests Leclerc’s relationship with the team is a rock bottom Charles added;
“I’m getting a bit sick and tired of this, guys’.”
At the recent Monaco Grand Prix, Leclerc was penalised for impeding Lando Norris during qualifying. Yet instead of informing him about the approaching McLaren, the team were busy telling Leclerc about Verstappen’s latest lap time.
Ferrari obsessed with Red Bull
Whilst Verstappen and Red Bull are the class of the field it appears Ferrari are obsessing over their every move which is affecting their own ability to make good decisions.
Leclerc was recently asked whether he was considering leaving Ferrari at the end of his contract. Specifically the question was framed “Have you spoken to Mercedes?”
“No, not yet,” was the response which set the assembled media buzzing.
Leclerc will surely depart Scuderia
Ferrari last won an F1 title back in 2008 and their 2023 challenger the SF-23 is fourth best in the field behind Red Bull, Mercedes and Aston Martin.
Further it seems the Scuderia’s next best chance of developing a championship winning car is when the FIA make their next big regulations change in 2026.
Leclerc then would be starting his eight year with the team should he stay. Yet the Monegasques current level of rhetoric would make it surprising if he agrees a new contract with Ferrari as the grains of sand in their hourglass of trust are quickly running out.
READ MORE: Norris criticises McLaren team
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 18, 2023