Admitting Ferrari’s mid-season form was “frustrating”, Charles Leclerc says he didn’t get “much satisfaction” out of splitting the Red Bull drivers as he didn’t put up a sustained fight for the World title.
Leclerc was the early season leader in 2022, the Monégasque winning in Bahrain and Australia to race out to a 34-point lead in the Drivers’ standings, 46 ahead of Max Verstappen.
From there, however, it fell apart, Leclerc managing just one more race win, Austria, while reliability issues and strategy blunders cost him several wins.
He also isn’t without blame, hitting the barriers at Imola and then crashing at the French Grand Prix while leading the race.
By the summer break it was clear to everyone that Leclerc was fighting for second in the standings, with it being only a matter of time before Verstappen wrapped up the Drivers’ title.
He did just that in Japan, Leclerc and the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez fighting for second place through to the chequered flag. Leclerc secured that by three points ahead of the Mexican driver.
Asked if splitting the Red Bull drivers gave him any satisfaction, he said as per Motorsport.com: “Not too much satisfaction, to be honest.
“Looking back at the season, I think it’s been a good season, especially looking at 2020 and 2021 that have been two very difficult years for the team.
“It wasn’t a given that we would do such a step forward and finish second in the Drivers’ Championship and also second in the Constructors’ Championship. So for that I’m happy.
“But then obviously, looking a bit more into the season closely, there’s been the middle part of the season that has been very frustrating, where we didn’t really put everything together coming to Sunday. And that was that was frustrating.
“So mixed feelings about this season. But second place is quite good. I just hope it is a step forward, and that for next year, we can do another step forward.”
Admitting he was frustrated at various stages of the season, Leclerc famously received a finger wag from team boss Mattia Binotto after the British Grand Prix where yet another strategy call from Ferrari’s pit wall cost him a potential win.
That was one of a potential six wins lost, the others being Spain and Baku, where he retired while leading due to reliability problems, Monaco where it was strategy, France when he crashed and Hungary where he was put onto the slower hard tyres.
“I think in the heat of the moment and in the heat of the season, races are coming quite quickly,” Leclerc said about dealing with frustration. “So I think it’s OK.
“It’s just at the end of the season, then you look back at the season and you feel it a bit more. But during the season, it wasn’t that difficult.”
Strategist and No.1 is the first job for new Ferrari team boss
After two seasons without a single grand prix win, Charles Leclerc is correct in saying a season with three race wins and a runner-up result is “quite good”.
But “quite” isn’t good enough for Ferrari, nor the Tifosi.
It has been 15 years, 15 long years if you’re Tifosi, since Ferrari last lifted the Drivers’ Championship title. There have been near misses along the way with both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
And while Charles Leclerc’s P2 shouldn’t be considered a near miss, Ferrari bouncing back from two win-less campaigns to amass four in total, that the title challenge was undone by Ferrari’s reliability and Ferrari’s strategy errors and Ferrari driver’s crashes adds to the heartache.
But can they fight back next season?
2023 will see a new team boss at the helm, Mattia Binotto have tendered his resignation, but whether that team boss (said to be Fred Vasseur) will make changes to Ferrari’s strategy team remains to be seen. And whether he’ll pick a number one and stick to it is also another question that only time will answer.
Because those, aside from a fast RB18, are two things Red Bull had this season – a strategy goddess in Hannah Schmitz and a number one in Max Verstappen.
While most team bosses want to say race just don’t crash, the truth is most World titles are won with a number one and a number two driver. Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Michael Schumacher and whomever.
Ferrari need to pin their colours to the mast… but first they need a change in strategy team because Binotto perhaps paid the price instead of them.