Martin Brundle crowns F1 title hopeful ‘very fastest driver’ of 2023 over one lap

Oliver Harden
F1 drivers, Abu Dhabi

F1's class of 2023 line up in Abu Dhabi.

Sky F1 pundit Martin Brundle has hailed Charles Leclerc as the fastest driver of the F1 2023 season, but believes the Ferrari star must “stop throwing it in the wall” if he is to realise his full potential.

Despite enduring arguably the most difficult year of his F1 career, Leclerc still finished up with six podium finishes and five pole positions – including one inherited from Max Verstappen at Spa – in 2023.

After a challenging mid-season run in which he was beaten to pole by team-mate Carlos Sainz in consecutive outings at Monza and Singapore – as well as crashing at the same spot twice in 24 hours in Miami – Leclerc was back to his best following a Ferrari floor upgrade in Japan, setting pole at three of the final five races in Austin, Mexico and Las Vegas.

Martin Brundle assesses differences between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz

Leclerc remains stuck on five career wins despite claiming 23 poles since arriving at Ferrari in 2019, with his last victory occurring at the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix. Sainz, meanwhile, was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race in 2023 in Singapore.

Speaking during Sky F1’s 2023 season review, Brundle is convinced Leclerc remains a faster driver than Sainz – and is hopeful that Ferrari will be among the teams capable of taking the fight to Red Bull next year.

He said: “I’ve always been a fan of Carlos Sainz from a long time ago because I like his spirit and I know his dad well and I know his mentality, so you watch Carlos creeping up on things.

“I think Charles is outright faster, if I’m honest, and you could argue that Charles is perhaps the very fastest driver on the grid in 2023 in terms of some of his pole position laps, but he hasn’t converted any of the last 12 poles into a victory.

“It’s not all his fault. I think Verstappen has played a big role in that and the car and reliability and a couple of dodgy strategy calls and that sort of thing.

“I think you’ve got two different drivers in that Charles is just devil may care, let’s throw this thing around the place, and Carlos puts it together and that’s why he won that race in Singapore.

“I think it’s a really exciting driver pairing and we’re all desperately – fingers crossed, toes crossed – hoping that all of these teams can close the gap to Red Bull. Then they’ve got everything they need then to win more races.”

Asked what Ferrari need to compete for the title in 2024, Brundle responded: “A little bit of everything.

“They need more power, more downforce, better strategies – Charles has got to stop throwing it in the wall quite so often – and just maximise the full potential of everything they’ve got there.” recommends

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Brundle’s fellow pundit Naomi Schiff added: “I think Charles has got an incredible raw speed. I think Carlos, on the other hand, is a real thinking driver. He’s very much on top of everything that’s happening around him.

“So I think if you could actually put the two of them into one, you have a mean driver on your hands. If they can take a little bit from each other, they both definitely stand a chance.”

Leclerc is said to be close to extending his Ferrari contract, with a lucrative new five-year deal until the end of the 2029 season reportedly on the horizon.

Negotiations with Sainz are reportedly more complex, but it was claimed last week that Ferrari are willing to agree to the Spaniard’s wish of a multi-year contract extension.

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