'I'll believe until the end' Leclerc keeps Formula One dream alive

‘I’ll believe until the very end’: Charles Leclerc vows to keep his Formula One world championship dream alive despite sitting 63 points behind Max Verstappen going into the Hungarian Grand Prix

  • Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc believes he can still win Formula One championship
  • He crashed out while leading the race last time out at the French Grand Prix 
  • The Monegasque currently sits 63 points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen
  • Leclerc set the fastest time during the second Hungarian Grand Prix practice 

You couldn’t see if Charles Leclerc was crossing his fingers behind his back as he said he thought he could still win the Formula One world championship this season.

‘I will believe in it until the very end,’ he said. ‘If we win all the races and Max (Verstappen) finishes second we will do it. I am relying on myself doing that. It is a very optimistic goal, but I don’t want to look into it any more negatively than that.’

Mathematically he is right, given there are 10 races, including Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, remaining: the Monegasque lies 63 points behind Verstappen and 268 are available in all. In a morale-booster, Leclerc set the fastest time in practice on Friday.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc currently sits second in the 2022 Formula One standings

In the last race he crashed out of the lead which handed a victory to rival Max Verstappen 

But the fact his championship hopes hang by a gossamer thread is immediately due to his unforced error on worn tyres a week ago in France, where he spun off while leading, before roaring ‘Noooooo!’ over the radio.

His actions as he climbed out of the car, in footage not seen at the time, revealed him to be as desperate as a man who had run over his labrador. He then took himself off to his Monaco apartment, shielding himself from the public eye.

‘I stayed at home,’ he said. ‘My mum and my brothers came to see me on Monday night and my friends on Tuesday night. I had support every day.’

He was speaking not long after Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement, marking a final twist in a spiral that began with the German’s failure to win the world championship during six seasons at Ferrari. 

A crash in light rain at Hockenheim in 2018 stood as a vivid symbol of his demise.

He never led the standings again, and mistakes crept in. Leclerc supplanted him as the Scuderia’s No 1.

The mood in Italy this past week has been more forgiving towards Leclerc than it was to Vettel four summers ago. Leclerc is 24 years old and sampling his first taste of the title battle.

More fingers are being pointed at the team around him for frittering away the advantage of outright speed with unreliability and strategic naivety.

It is those mistakes that are seen by the more sympathetic Leclerc observers to have contributed directly to his gaffe in France. Certainly, they offer mitigation.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen currently enjoys a 63-point lead atop the driver standings

At Ferrari, whether to pit or not is an endless discussion, along the lines of: ‘What are we going to do now?’ Too often they have failed instinctively to back Leclerc over Carlos Sainz, seemingly not realising that one or two extra points at the end of the season could be crucial. Red Bull understand this far better.

Some think Leclerc may be too nice. I don’t know. He has suffered greatly in his short life, with the death of his father Herve, his godfather Jules Bianchi and his pal Anthoine Hubert, the latter two at the wheel, and yet he has shown fortitude to prosper. Heavens, he even won the races that followed the deaths of his dad and Hubert.

He is, however, not hardened by table-topping F1 experience as Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are. That will take time. He also needs to cut out the occasional errors that have lightly punctuated his rapid rise.

Kimi Raikkonen was the last driver to win the driver’s title for Ferrari back in 2007

I asked him how heavy a burden it is knowing that Ferrari have not won a drivers’ title since 2007, when Kimi Raikkonen prevailed by a single point.

Is history preying on his mind? ‘No, really not, he said. ‘I don’t think about this. Even though Ferrari remains the Ferrari of 2007, the team is very different and we are in a different place.

‘The last two years have been difficult and we have taken an incredible step this season to be fighting for wins. Obviously the goal remains to be world champion, but it doesn’t add pressure that it has been so many years since we accomplished that.’ Well, perhaps, Charles.

Immediately behind him on the timing screens as the sun scorched here 16 miles north of Budapest was McLaren’s Lando Norris. Their upgrades are delivering and the Englishman is in good form.

As for Hamilton, he was a lowly 11th, complaining about his ‘unstable’ Mercedes.

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article