Damon Hill questions Charles Leclerc’s ‘courage’ to challenge Ferrari’s decisions

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

Compared to the likes of Max Verstappen and Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill questions whether Charles Leclerc carries that kind of authority.

Strategical errors have cost Ferrari on multiple occasions in 2022, this flaw returning during qualifying at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

With rain incoming at the start of Q3, Leclerc was the only driver to go out on intermediate tyres onto a track which had been driven on slicks. The other drivers got a lap on the board on dry tyres while Leclerc was left seriously lacking grip and pitted for slicks.

It proved to be too late though as George Russell spun his Mercedes into the gravel, bringing a red-flag delay as the rain fell during that time, which meant no stronger lap times could be posted. P9 on the grid then for Leclerc for the sprint.

Leclerc made his disgruntlement clear with Ferrari over team radio, although 1996 World Champion Hill said Leclerc must also take responsibility as he should be asserting himself and driving Ferrari in the direction he sees fit.

“They just have to do the fundamental things right, that’s the problem,” Hill told Sky Sports F1. “I mean, what is going on at Ferrari? Who will take charge of this situation? Because it’s been going on all year.

“And it’s very upsetting in a way because they’ve got the potential and I think you can see Charles is sort of criticising the team on the radio effectively by saying ‘nice one guys, thanks very much’, but he has to assume some responsibility as well.

“Maybe they are not letting him do that, or he hasn’t got the courage to assume it for themselves. I mean, can you imagine Max Verstappen saying ‘oh, what are we doing?’ His personality is such that he commands attention and I think that’s part and parcel of being a leading driver in a team.”

Asked if it is almost institutionalised at Ferrari that no driver is bigger than the team, Hill replied: “They did though, they had it with Ross Brawn and he took charge, he took responsibility and everyone trusted him, they knew they just looked to Ross, he’d keep their backs covered, provided they did a good job.

“And someone like Michael Schumacher in the team, such a solid driver, they know they just give him the right equipment and he’ll do the job, calls the shots and they will listen.

“And so that’s my point, I think it’s very difficult. Maybe it’s – we often ask this thing with Ferrari – is it because they live in Italy, they are Italian, their life is hell if it goes wrong and nobody wants that responsibility? And whether you take someone from outside to do it?”

Read more – Charles Leclerc on latest Ferrari blunder: ‘Beautiful, f***ing beautiful’