‘Charles Leclerc is a match for Hamilton/Verstappen, George Russell not far behind’

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc congratulates George Russell after F1 qualifying. Hungary, 2022.

Charles Leclerc congratulates George Russell after F1 qualifying. Hungary, 2022.

Formula 1 analyst Peter Windsor has delivered his assessment of the respective driving styles of Charles Leclerc and George Russell, claiming Ferrari driver Leclerc is up there with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Leclerc and Russell are among the most exciting talents to have landed in F1 over recent seasons, having arrived on the grid in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

While Leclerc graduated to Ferrari after his debut season to overshadow four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, Russell spent three years at backmarkers Williams before being promoted to Mercedes as Hamilton’s team-mate in 2022.

Russell took the German manufacturer’s only win of 2022, with Leclerc having 18 pole positions and five grand prix victories to his name.

Both are widely regarded as potential future World Champions but, speaking via his YouTube channel, Windsor – a close confidant of the esteemed driver coach Rob Wilson – feels Leclerc has a slight edge in terms of technique.

He explained: “I think they both have absolutely the raw speed.

“I’ve always bracketed Charles up there with Lewis and Max.

“I think he has all those things that the great racing drivers have and it shows in his driving and it shows in his ability to put in amazing qualifying laps even if the car isn’t great, Melbourne aside.

“It shows in his ability to just get into a groove in the race, manage the variables and bring the car home – assuming Ferrari don’t mess up the strategy too much.

“Absolutely Charles can do that and I think George as well.

“George is slightly different in that he’s just got this incredible pace which is absolutely on the edge.

“He’s got less margin with which to play when things don’t go quite the way maybe the engineers would predict with the setup of the car or when the variables come into play.

“I don’t think George has got quite as big a vocabulary as Charles in that respect, but he’s so quick and he’s so courageous and brave and confident.

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“The way George drives he does need to have a touch of bravery, whereas I don’t think the great, great drivers – Lewis, Max, Charles – need necessarily to be brave because they’re manipulating the car.

“They’re anticipating what the car’s going to do, whereas George is one of these guys that’s so confident in his own ability that he will push the car to a point where he’s not exactly sure what it’s going to do but he knows he can handle it.

“And that’s fine – until he doesn’t handle it.

“It won’t be a big moment, it’ll be just a slight thing – ‘I didn’t get that quite right’ – and the next corner or next lap he’ll leave a tad bit of margin, whereas a Charles will just let that get into the brain cells and just compute it into what he needs to be doing to manage the car to make sure he’s ready for that when it happens next time, rather than just backing away from it.

“I think that’s the very subtle difference between the two.”

Windsor is convinced that Russell, in his role as Hamilton’s team-mate, will have the opportunity to learn a trick or two from the seven-time World Champion and smooth out his slightly rougher edges.

But that, he argues, will depend on Russell having the humility to accept there are areas where can improve having already achieved a certain level of success.

“George may well change and he’s intelligent enough to look at the way Lewis works and drives, probably, to start to think about that a lot and I think he probably will,” Windsor added.

“But I’ve got to say here that what I just talked about is not the sort of thing you would ever be able to replicate on a simulator. That’s not a sim thing.

“That is a, ‘hmm, I’m beginning to understand what Lewis does now’ type thing.

“And that’s quite a big thing for another driver who’s also quick and has won a grand prix now to do because most racing drivers think, ‘this is the way I do it and this is the way it works for me and I’m going to do it this way’ – understandably so [as] they’re the guy in charge of the car.

“I would put Charles a little bit ahead of George in that respect, but not by much.”