Charles Leclerc feels a ‘much more complete’ driver for 2022 experiences

Jamie Woodhouse
Charles Leclerc sitting in his Ferrari. Mexico October 2022

Charles Leclerc sitting in his Ferrari in the garage. Mexico October 2022

2022 may have been a difficult season to stomach for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc, but he emerges feeling the most complete yet in Formula 1.

Leclerc became the early title favourite in 2022 as he scored two wins from the opening three rounds, but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen would ultimately turn the tide in dominating fashion, going on to win 15 of the 22 grands prix, a new record for most victories in a single season.

Ferrari’s cause was not helped by their strategical and reliability issues, plus some driver errors from Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, though Red Bull’s rampant form, especially in the second half of the season, was a storm which Ferrari were always going to struggle to weather.

Nonetheless, back in the hunt for regular podiums and wins, Leclerc feels the 2022 campaign has been very useful for him in building himself into a more complete driver.

In that regard, Leclerc feels at his strongest yet, as he now looks ahead to next season and working on those finer details.

“The discipline I’ve had this year was much better compared to my previous years, just in general,” Leclerc told The Race.

“When I mean discipline it’s not so much on track, but it’s mostly off track, coming back home and having the discipline of relaxing in between races, which was a thing that I never knew before this year. Basically, I was always moving right and left and I would be destroyed from the sixth race onwards during the season. And that wasn’t helping.

“I do believe that fighting for wins and fighting back for podiums also helped me personally. I just feel more complete and every year you just learn from the previous experiences. I think this has always been a strength of mine.

“I’ve always been very honest with myself and tried to learn from my mistakes and try to strengthen my weaknesses.

“I think the first few years it was always very clear where I was. For next year, it’s all about working in the details and just trying to improve in every single area by a little.

“That will make a difference in the end. But I feel a much more complete driver than I was.”

It was nonetheless an impressive recovery season for Ferrari, who after two years in the midfield, clawed their way back into the fight at the front, which is where Ferrari found themselves in during Leclerc’s debut season in 2019.

So to have returned there after a couple of campaigns in the wilderness was very much welcomed, Leclerc explaining that there is more of a normality when it comes to fighting for wins with the weight of Ferrari on his shoulders.

“You’ve always got the pressure whenever you are a Ferrari driver,” Leclerc stated.

“I’ve always had it. It doesn’t change to be fighting for top positions this year, if anything, it feels a bit more normal.

“You probably feel even more pressure whenever you are fighting for seventh or eighth with a Ferrari because you know the team doesn’t belong there. So you are pushing yourself to come back as quickly as possible to the top.

“It definitely felt nice, at least for me personally. It was a relief to be fighting for top positions after two very difficult years.

“Especially as I did my first year in Ferrari and everything was pretty strong. I was fighting for mostly podiums and sometimes wins. But then to do such a step back in 2020 and 2021 wasn’t easy. So, I’m very happy to be back.”

Charles Leclerc maturing like Max Verstappen did

Although Leclerc was in the hunt for wins back in 2019, Ferrari were unable to put together a sustained title push against Mercedes, so 2022 was his first true experience of such a situation.

He did receive a fair bit of criticism during the campaign, his crash while leading the French Grand Prix the main target, but as Leclerc himself said, he now feels at his most complete yet, a journey which Verstappen also went on.

The Dutchman would likely have been too rough around the edges to deliver a title-winning campaign if Red Bull had have provided the car in his earlier seasons, but by 2020, it was clear that Verstappen had developed into a more well-rounded driver who was pumping in the results behind a dominant Mercedes team.

His chances came in 2021 and 2022, and he took them both.

Leclerc then will take his 2022 experiences into next season feeling a stronger driver for it, and if Ferrari are in the fight, then we will find out if Leclerc has reached that level of driving maturity that Verstappen is already at.

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