F1 pundit on why Charles Leclerc is under more pressure than Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton

Michelle Foster
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Racing for Ferrari, Charles Leclerc is under more pressure than the likes of Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton with Johnny Herbert saying their team bosses also help relieve some of that for the latter two.

Taking Ferrari’s reliability and strategy mistakes out of the equation, most of the headlines involving the Scuderia are driver focused.

At Mercedes and Red Bull that focus is often on the team bosses as Toto Wolff and Christian Horner go at it in the media.

Already this year the Mercedes motorsport boss has fired his first shot at Horner, saying he lives in the Red Bull team boss’ head “rent free”. Horner has yet to respond but, based on their past public slanging matches, it’s only a matter of time.

It has been suggested that it’s a tactic to take the attention off their drivers, and if it is, it’s one both used to full effect during their 2021 championship fight.

For Leclerc, though, there’s just pressure and, unlike with Verstappen or Hamilton, that also comes from his team.

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“There is pressure on Charles,” the former F1 driver turned pundit told Total-Motorsport.com. “With the Tifosi, the Italian media, Ferrari itself.

“Just being a Ferrari driver brings pressure which I don’t think Max or Lewis have.

“Toto and Mercedes, Christian and Red Bull try to take that pressure off their drivers to allow them to breathe more easily.

“I think that’s where they have been able to deliver more consistently throughout the season.”

To publicly criticise or not to publicly criticise

The 58-year-old also touched on the different ways Verstappen and Hamilton have when it comes to dealing with mistakes made by their respective teams.

While Verstappen let rip a few times last season, Hamilton is seldom heard over the radio having a go at Mercedes.

Verstappen justified this last season, saying: “I like the critical approach because when I f*ck up, they can also tell me that you know, I make a mistake. And I think it should be the other way around as well.

“Because that’s how we keep each other heading into the right direction, because we want to be perfect, and we don’t want to be good. We want to be perfect.”

Herbert reckons the two contrasting approaches ultimately get the same results.

“You have got to work with them [the drivers],” he. “Max has been very outspoken when the team makes a mistake and that’s part of putting people a little bit on edge.

“When a driver starts to say that, it’s surprising how that does change people’s mentality. That’s actually a strength of Max.

“I think you get the same situation, maybe not as visible, with Lewis. It’s a much calmer, different way of doing it.

“But behind the scenes, I’m sure he will be putting the pressure on and that is where the whole synergy of a team has to come together.”

Will Formula 1 see a three-way fight in 2023?

Three teams, even if it’s just one driver from each, fighting for pole positions, race wins and the Drivers’ Championship title.

Last season, after the intense Verstappen v Hamilton battle of 2021, that failed to materialise as Ferrari imploded and Mercedes only entered the fray late in the season.

This year pundits and fans are hoping Ferrari have resolved their reliability problems and Mercedes have a handle on their porpoising problems.

That, coupled Red Bull’s budget cap penalty, could see a three-way fight between Formula 1’s heavy-hitters.

That’s the dream, isn’t it?

But, given Red Bull’s massive advantage last season, Ferrari’s blunders and Mercedes’ bouncing putting them on the back foot when it came to developing the car, 2023 is likely to see the gap close but not to the point that three drivers from different teams will fight for the title.

Wins, yes, title, not yet but fingers crossed for 2024.