Leclerc too soft for title challenge? Ferrari leader under fire again
In Miami, Charles gave Verstappen the lead without a fight – and this is his third misstep in recent races.
At the Miami Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc lost to Max Verstappen for the third time in the last four races, and after the finish, several experts immediately criticized the Monegasque for giving way too easily to his main rival on the ninth lap.
And this is not the first time that the Ferrari leader, who was considered the main favorite of the 2022 season, had questions … Let’s figure out how good Leclerc is in the fight against the reigning world champion.
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The simplest overtaking
In Miami, Leclerc started from pole position, but missed Verstappen on the ninth lap and at that moment he de facto lost the race – the departure of the safety car in the end did not change the balance of power. And immediately two ex-pilots of Formula 1 drew attention to the fact that the leader of the Ferrari practically did not defend himself at the moment when the fate of the race was being decided.
“I don’t understand why Leclerc didn’t immediately close the inside position and let Max drive inside,” says Vitaly Petrov. – Most likely, Max would sooner or later overtake, but I don’t understand why Leclerc didn’t close the position even in the fight. After all, before the turn, Max only caught up with him, and did not drive past. If the car allows you to fight for victory, the rider has to defend himself.”
Verstappen overtakes Leclerc on lap 9 of the Miami Grand Prix
Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Jolyon Palmer, in addition, draws attention to an error in the 17th turn: Leclerc passed it too wide, thanks to which Red Bull was able to even more closely pursue the opponent before the starting straight. “Charles, for some reason, did not resist at all and entered the racing line from the outside. Verstappen ended up with the simplest overtaking in the fight for leadership, says Palmer. “These pilots had great battles, but in this case, Leclerc, having made a mistake in the 17th turn, did not resist overtaking at all.”
Both experts cite Charles as an example of a partner. When, five laps to go, Perez attacked Sainz in the fight for third position, Carlos took the inside trajectory on the straight and eventually forced Cheko to make a mistake and go off the track – in their duel, this particular episode became decisive in the end.
For Leclerc, an error in the 17th turn was already the third blot in the last three Grands Prix. So, a departure in Imola cost the championship leader three positions and seven points in the championship, and in Melbourne, Charles almost flew off the track at the restart, when the tires on his Ferrari cooled down against the backdrop of a slow safety car. In Australia, Leclerc did not lose position, but if not for a mistake at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, he would have been 26 points ahead of Verstappen, not 19.
The current champion, unlike Leclerc, does not make mistakes in races. It cannot be said that he spends every weekend perfectly – in Jeddah he was slower than his partner in qualifying, and in Miami he made a mistake in the second Q3 attempt. Nevertheless, in each of the races, Max either achieved the highest possible result, or went for it until the car broke down. In the fight against Leclerc, Verstappen behaves in the same way as with Hamilton a year ago, and tries to gnaw out every point and every centimeter of the track.
Verstappen and Leclerc at the Australian Grand Prix
Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Charles’s manner was traditionally more careful and not so obviously intimidatingly aggressive. In a sense, the difference between the drivers is illustrated by their first big skirmish in Formula 1 – the Austrian Grand Prix – 2019. Then Leclerc also let the opponent into the inside trajectory, but at a very narrow exit, he did not leave Ferrari a place outside and took the victory .
After racing in Bahrain and Jeddah, Leclerc became the main favorite for the championship, but Red Bull is progressing rapidly, and now Verstappen is celebrating three wins in four races. The changed status quo and the fading lead in the overall standings will force Charles to act more aggressively than ever before – and then his battle with Verstappen will reach a fundamentally new level.
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