Jean Alesi says he takes huge pleasure from watching Charles Leclerc’s performances for Ferrari – although they also make him anxious.
Leclerc entered this season with two Formula 1 victories to his name, both achieved in 2019, but has now more than doubled that total with three wins that have put him second in the Drivers’ World Championship standings.
As a former Ferrari racer himself for five years, who won the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix, Alesi is enjoying seeing his former team back at the front after a couple of lean campaigns – but of course 2022 could already have gone so much better, for Leclerc in particular.
The Monegasque’s title chances at this point could have been far greater had he not endured a hugely frustrating five-race spell between the Spanish and British Grands Prix – when he could have added four more triumphs had things gone his way.
But at least the 24-year-old returned to the top step of the podium in Austria last time out.
“After Charles Leclerc’s victory in Austria, he is the driver who absolutely brings me enjoyment and joy in waiting and watching a grand prix,” said Alesi in his column for Corriere della Sera.
“Great stress and great joy. There is nothing comparable to the fun Leclerc brings every Sunday.
“I think he’s the driver who, for years, has led me to wait and then watch a GP with the utmost attention, total enjoyment. He attacks and overtakes, performs classy manoeuvres. Truly exceptional.”
Alesi also touched upon sprint qualifying in Austria, where Leclerc engaged in a brief battle with Carlos Sainz for second place before getting the upper hand to finish runner-up to Max Verstappen.
“Contrary to what has been said, there was no counterproductive fight,” said Alesi.
“Leclerc was trying to save his tyres at the start. Sainz got a great start and attacked and then left room for his recovering team-mate. Nothing that compromised the chase of Verstappen.
“Leclerc gets the advantages on his own, on the track, and it is right that Sainz feels he is in contention, useful to the team, without excessive braking.
“I think Ferrari is winning everywhere. It lacks reliability and that’s a shame. But it is better to reinforce a competitive car than to run with a reliable but losing car.
“I think of Mercedes – solid but far away. And this is true for today and for the future, when they have solved the problems at Maranello, knowing they will have a very strong Rossa from now until the next few years.”
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