Charles Leclerc has learned the value of “patience” as a Ferrari driver, having gone without a victory for over a year in Formula 1.
Leclerc’s Saturday form has been excellent for Ferrari, but none of his last 12 pole positions have been converted into victory through a combination of a lack of pace compared to Red Bull, driver error and strategy issues.
A frustrating statistic from Leclerc’s perspective will be that Max Verstappen has won more races when Leclerc has started on pole than the Monégasque driver himself, which he will look to rectify over time.
Charles Leclerc taking lesson of ‘patience’ with him at Ferrari
Having finished his fifth season as a Ferrari driver, his 2019 debut year with the Scuderia in only his second season in Formula 1 feels a long way away in some respects, having earned two stunning victories and a five-year contract extension – the longest deal ever handed to a Ferrari driver.
But a succession of underperforming cars and Leclerc’s own errors have contributed to a leaner period than he would have liked at this stage of his career, though the man himself remains unperturbed in his goal of becoming World Champion with the Scuderia.
“I’ve got older and more mature. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at Ferrari, it’s patience,” Leclerc told German publication Auto Motor und Sport.
“The dream of my life is to become World Champion with Ferrari. You can’t force that. This long period is worth being patient.”
Red Bull were comfortably the quickest team of anyone in 2023, particularly when the RB19 was in the hands of Max Verstappen, with only Carlos Sainz taking a win from a non-Red Bull driver in Singapore this season.
While this could be demoralising for some, Leclerc is keeping his chin up as Ferrari work behind the scenes to try and bring themselves back on terms with Red Bull next year.
“At the beginning, we were confused by the fact that we were able to keep up with them in qualifying. Our speed on one lap didn’t match our race pace,” Leclerc explained about the start of the 2023 car.
“You have to accept it for what it is. You have no other choice. I somehow felt reminded of 2020.
“After a good 2019 season with my first victories, I wanted more and then came this setback.
“We learned from back then that it’s super important not to lose motivation when things aren’t going so well.
“The reaction of the team this year was incredible and very different to 2020. Nobody gave up.
“There is a much greater will to change things during the season. Step by step, as we understood our weak points, the factory went all in to complete certain upgrades earlier to maybe improve something this year.
“Yes, we made some progress, but it wasn’t enough to catch up with Red Bull. To do that, other things would have to be changed on the car, which unfortunately is not possible during the season.”