Charles Leclerc can’t match Max Verstappen because ‘he’s an intelligent guy at Ferrari’

Thomas Maher
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, speaks to media.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc speaks to the media after qualifying.

Former Ferrari manager Peter Windsor reckons Charles Leclerc can never match Max Verstappen’s achievements while he’s racing for the Scuderia.

Charles Leclerc will never be in a position to match what Max Verstappen is doing with Red Bull, due to the fact he’s being stretched too thinly at the Ferrari team – according to respected journalist and former Ferrari UK manager Peter Windsor.

Leclerc is currently on a long-term deal with the Scuderia, a deal that ends at the conclusion of 2024, and the partnership has yielded little more than plenty of potential as Leclerc has been let down on umpteen occasions by unreliability and strategic errors on the side of the team.

Peter Windsor: It’s impossible for Charles Leclerc to achieve Max Verstappen’s level

Appearing on his own YouTube channel to address viewer questions, Windsor spoke at length about the challenges facing Leclerc and what the Monegasque needs in order to start turning potential into tangible results.

“Well, he needs to be in a Red Bull RB19 with Adrian Newey fussing around him all day,” Windsor laughed.

“Short of that, it’s not going to be easy. If he’s at Ferrari, I don’t know what he needs, but he needs a car as quick as a Red Bull and no politics. [It’s] impossible. He’s not gonna achieve Max’s level, in my opinion, because he’s got too much other stuff going on in his brain to focus on being as good as Max is right now.”

The fact that Leclerc is having to concentrate on so much more than just driving may also be the reason for Leclerc’s driving errors, reckons Windsor, who pointed to the egregious example of Leclerc’s crashing out of the 2022 French Grand Prix while attempting to stay ahead of Verstappen through the pit sequence.

“The big one was Paul Ricard last year, wasn’t it? And that was terrible,” he said.

“He was just going quickly, wasn’t he, and went off just before his pitstop. Obviously, the tyres were near the end, but no excuse, and he went off.

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“That’s why I say he’s got a lot going on in his brain. Max doesn’t, he’s in a much nicer place. There’s nothing a racing driver wants more than to know when he wakes up on a Monday morning, that he’s driving for a great racing team, and everything’s at peace with the world.

“All he has to do is focus on himself and his driving. Very few people in motor racing can say that and feel that way, but I think Max is one of them. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve that. Of course, he does. He’s earned that position and he’s enjoying it and making the most of it.

“But Charles isn’t in that position. That’s why he does odd things – doesn’t go very well in the wet sometimes, doesn’t go very well when tyre temperatures are down, doesn’t go very well when the tracks clear and he’s got nobody in front of him and he’s got to do a quick lap… he’s made a lot of mistakes.”

Windsor also pointed out that Leclerc, to this day, doesn’t appear to drive every well once the grip is sub-optimal on track.

“At the moment, Leclerc has looked pretty bad when the temperatures are not good and it’s semi-wet,” he said.

“So if you’re Charles Leclerc, you’re thinking I need to make sure I’m quick in the wet and I need to work out what’s going on there.

“To my mind, he’s trying too hard in the wet and he needs to let the car float more with no brakes and throttle mid-corner and let the car settle. He doesn’t seem to be doing that particularly well at the moment. When he doesn’t have tyre temperature, he’s trying to get the temperature the wrong way by being hard on the car, rather than just extending the corner, going in and making it a longer corner – he’s having to work the tyres a bit harder. So I think that’s what’s what he needs to do.”

Is Charles Leclerc too hard on himself as an F1 driver?

With Leclerc becoming well-known for being incredibly hard on himself, publicly berating himself whenever he makes an error, Windsor said that his level of self-criticism likely doesn’t have a negative effect on his driving.

Instead, Windsor reckons that Leclerc’s high level of intelligence is what’s causing his partnership with Ferrari to not get quite correctly.

“I think he’s quite a hard guy,” he said.

“I remember watching him at Monza in Formula 2, in his last year when he was with Prema. A good team doing a lot of winning but he wasn’t very good in qualifying – I remember I chatted to him afterwards and said it’s surprising you’re not quick here Charles.

“And he said ‘I just didn’t drive very well. I just wasn’t very good. I wasn’t very good on the braking at the Parabolica, never really very good into the first Lesmo’.

“I thought ‘Wow, this guy is unbelievably self-critical – this guy’s bound to become World Champion!’

“You could say maybe he’s a bit too self-critical. Maybe, but I’ve always felt self-criticism is an incredibly powerful tool of how to improve and, generally, I think I’m right. Maybe Charles is a little bit too self-critical. But I don’t think it’s hurt him really.

“I think it’s more just being an intelligent guy at Ferrari – I think it’s a difficult thing to be – intelligent, and at Ferrari – unless it’s your Ferrari and you’ve created it as Michael [Schumacher] or Niki [Lauda] did!”

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