After a spin in FP3 at the Belgian Grand Prix, Sky F1 commentator David Croft says these errors are making Charles Leclerc a “B+” driver.
A spin late in FP3 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix saw Leclerc find the barrier at Turn 11, an incident not too costly in terms of damage, but concerning in the wider context.
Although only breaking a front-wing endplate as Leclerc escaped the gravel and returned to the pits, this was another unforced error in what has been a frustrating season for Leclerc.
Ferrari have very much played their part in Leclerc’s 80-point deficit to Championship leader Max Verstappen, but Leclerc too is not without blame, most notably having crashed out of the lead of the French Grand Prix, a disaster all of his own making.
Leclerc also spun back at Imola while he was pursuing P2, costing himself valuable points as he crossed the line P6.
And while commentating for Sky Sports F1 at the time of Leclerc’s Spa spin, Croft suggested that Leclerc has the potential to join the likes of Verstappen as an elite driver of Formula 1.
But, he feels that this error-prone streak is stopping the Monegasque driver from ascending beyond “B+” level.
“For me, Charles Leclerc has the potential to be up there with the elite of the grid,” Croft suggested, “when I say elite, it’s a [Lewis] Hamilton, a Verstappen, I’m going to put [Fernando] Alonso in that bracket as well.
“But at the moment he’s not an A-Star, he’s a B+.”
Ex-F1 racer Anthony Davidson would then suggest that Leclerc is currently an “unreliable driver”, adding that the errors he makes cost him the chance to become a champion in Formula 1.
“He’s a brilliant driver, he’s super quick, but he’s an unreliable driver in many ways,” said Davidson, “and if you’re a team boss, taking someone like that on, it comes with vulnerability, and to win a world championship you cannot make errors like this.”
Croft would then ask Davidson whether he feels that Leclerc is making a habit of pushing the Ferrari F1-75 to places that it cannot be pushed in these key moments?
Davidson would look at the setup style which Leclerc prefers, arguing that at tracks like Paul Ricard and Spa-Francorchamps, he is “playing with fire” with such an approach.
“It’s all relative, you push the car to the level you feel you can,” said Davidson, “whether you’re in a Williams, a Haas with all due respect, or Red Bull or a Ferrari, you drive up to the grip limit.
“And he said it opened himself when he crashed in Paul Ricard that ‘look, I like to hustle the car, I like to have a car that is strong in the front end, with the rear flapping around’. That’s just his style, it’s the way he likes to set the car up.
“And when you set a car up like that on a track like this, or Paul Ricard, you are playing with fire.”