Max Verstappen dominated the 2023 stats but Martin Brundle reckons Charles Leclerc may be “the fastest out there at the moment”, and would have more wins were it not for his Red Bull rival.
Verstappen blitzed his rivals in this year’s championship as the Dutchman claimed 19 wins in 22 races, the World title, and the season’s pole position crown.
However, it’s Leclerc who Brundle says may be the faster of the two at the moment.
Is Charles Leclerc the ‘fastest out there at the moment’?
Leclerc’s stats compared to Verstappen’s don’t make for pleasant reading with the Monégasque driver on pole position five times this season but without a single win on the board.
In all five races; Azerbaijan, Belgium, the United States, Las Vegas, and Abu Dhabi, it was a Red Bull driver who took the chequered flag with Verstappen taking four of those wins.
That brought the 26-year-old’s run of failing to turn a pole position into a race win up to 12 with his last pole position and victory coming at the 2022 Australian Grand Prix.
But given that many of this year’s pole positions were achieved in a Ferrari lacking in pace compared to the RB19, Brundle applauded the Monégasque driver’s speed.
“Charles Leclerc has shown his blistering speed on many a qualifying lap, you could argue that he’s the fastest out there at the moment,” he wrote in his Sky Sports column.
“But he’s failed to convert his last 12 pole positions into victories largely because of Mr M Verstappen, and partly due to lack of race pace, incidents, and sub-optimal strategies.”
Charles Leclerc came up with ‘cunning’ Abu Dhabi strategy
Leclerc ended the season fifth in the Drivers’ standings having overhauled Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris with his runner-up result at the season finale.
However, he wasn’t able to secure second place for Ferrari despite trying a “juggling act” strategy in the closing races to hinder George Russell.
Running second with Sergio Perez behind him, but facing a five-second penalty, and Russell fourth, Leclerc allowed Perez to pass him in the hope that the Red Bull driver could pull five seconds clear of Russell. But at the same time, Leclerc needed to stay within five seconds of Perez.
It was a difficult task and one that didn’t work as he’d hoped with Russell 3.9s down on Perez at the finish line. Mercedes took second place in the Constructors’ Championship by three points.
Brundle explained that “cunningly trying to destabilise” Russell’s chances, Leclerc, while “doing his mental championship calculations at 200mph, wanted Perez to pass Russell which could well have seized second place for Ferrari in the Constructors’.
“I’m reliably informed that it was indeed Leclerc generating much of this tactic, and so he let Perez past into second place on the road,” he said.
“Then he needed to try to delay Russell without himself falling more than five seconds behind Perez thereby giving up second and those crucial points.
“Now that’s a juggling act given how quickly an F1 car can cover ground.
“Leclerc received kudos all round for fair play in not blocking to slow Russell, but I expect that not losing second place was his biggest priority.