Fred Vasseur: ‘Impulsive’ Charles Leclerc guilty of pushing ‘more than he should’

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc has his head down, Sergio Perez in the background. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has his head down, Sergio Perez in the background. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur believes an “impulsive” Charles Leclerc was sometimes guilty of pushing “more than he should” in a challenging first half of the F1 2023 season.

After finishing as runners up to Max Verstappen and the dominant Red Bull team in 2022, Leclerc and Ferrari had entered this season targeting the World Championship.

However, the SF-23 car has not performed as hoped with Ferrari sitting a disappointing fourth in the Constructors’ standings after the first 12 races of 2023. More than a year has now passed since the last grand prix victory for team and driver.

Charles Leclerc’s season assessed by Ferrari team boss

Despite leading the field away from pole position in Azerbaijan and Belgium, Leclerc’s season has been marred by a series of disappointments including an engine failure in Bahrain, a first-lap retirement in Australia, two crashes at the same spot in Miami and embarrassing early qualifying exits in Spain and Canada.

Leclerc was fiercely critical of the team after being eliminated at the Q2 stage in Montreal, where Ferrari missed the window to switch to slick tyres on a drying track and left him stuck in 11th on a weekend the car potentially had the pace to compete for victory.

Having finished 62 points ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz in the final classification in 2022, the Ferrari drivers are separated by just seven at the halfway point of this season.

In an assessment of both drivers, Vasseur admitted that Leclerc has been his own worst enemy at times with his mistakes a function of Ferrari’s failure to meet his expectations for 2023 – and he questioned the wisdom of Leclerc criticising the team in public when things go wrong.

He told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport: “You can always do better, as a team and also as drivers.

“Charles didn’t expect a season like this and at the start he pushed more than he should, now he seems to have digested the situation better. Carlos is very consistent and for this reason he’s a good reference for us.

“As a character Leclerc is impulsive, if something doesn’t go well he doesn’t hold back. However, for his own good and that of the team, sometimes it’s better to calm down before speaking. In the heat you don’t have all the information you need to form a definitive judgment and in front of an open microphone it’s better to take your time.

“He’s always very fast, but this year if you look at qualifying Carlos was more up to him than in the past.”

Vasseur is a long-time ally of Leclerc having handed him his grand prix debut with Sauber in 2018, with the Frenchman’s appointment as Ferrari’s new team boss last winter widely interpreted as a move specifically designed to appease the disgruntled 25-year-old.

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With his current contract set to expire at the end of next year, Leclerc has increasingly been linked with a move away from Ferrari and rumours have persisted since late 2022 that he has a pre-contract agreement in place with Mercedes to eventually succeed seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

In Baku in April, Leclerc was cagey when asked if he had held negotiations with Mercedes, commenting: “No, not yet. Not for the moment.”

However, last week a report by French outlet Sportune claimed Leclerc had agreed to remain with Ferrari until the end of 2026 (below) with an option for a further three years.

The report added that Leclerc’s manager Nicolas Todt, son of former Ferrari team principal and FIA president Jean, had held conversations with Mercedes, Aston Martin, Alpine and Red Bull before opting to remain at Maranello.

Leclerc has just five grand prix victories to his name in four-and-a-half seasons as a Ferrari driver to date, having first arrived at the team in 2019.

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