Charles Leclerc's Ups and Downs of 2022
Written by Alejandra Guajardo Lozano, Edited by Yu Xin Wang
Born and raised in Monaco, Charles Leclerc is a Formula One driver for Scuderia Ferrari. Besides having the longest Ferrari contract in F1 history, he has showed outstanding results during his time at Ferrari so far, including getting his maiden win during his first year in Ferrari at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix. 2022 started off looking like Leclerc’s year, giving him hope of winning the championship, but that hope soon started disappearing as the season went by.
The 2022 season opener race in Bahrain was an amazing start to the season for the Scuderia and the Tifosi. Not only did Ferrari already show dominance throughout the pre-season testing, but Leclerc also got the first pole position and first win of the season, with a Ferrari 1-2. The Ferrari driver expressed his excitement through his team radio, “Let's go! Let's go, come on! That’s exactly how we should start the season, come on! 1-2, baby! 1-2! Yes!”
Saudi Arabia was also a great race for the Monégasque. He finished P2 behind Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, after some amazing wheel-to-wheel action.
Moving on to the Australian Grand Prix, Leclerc showed absolute dominance. He achieved his first grand slam, making him only the second Ferrari driver in the last 18 years to do so.
"Honestly, what a car today. Of course, I did [well] all weekend but it was not possible without the car. And this weekend especially in the race pace we were extremely strong. Tyres felt great from the first lap to the last lap, we were managing the tyres extremely well and I am just so happy," said winner Leclerc to the media.
"Obviously we are only at the third race, so it is difficult to think about the championship, but to be honest, we have a very strong car and a very reliable car too…so I hope it continues and if it does, we will probably have chances for the championship."
From there, Leclerc’s season started going a little bit downhill. At the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, he didn’t have the pace to battle his rival, Verstappen. After making a change to soft tyres, he clouted the kerb at the Variante Alta chicane while chasing Mexican Red Bull driver Sergio Pérez for P2, thus spinning his Ferrari into the barriers. This forced another pit stop for a nose change, allowing him just to gain only a few positions and cross the chequered flag in P6.
“It is a big shame,” Leclerc commented. “The spin should not have happened today. I mean, P3 was the best I could do, we didn’t have the pace for much more and I was too greedy and I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points compared to my third place I was before.
“It is a shame, it’s seven points that are valuable at the end of the championship. For sure, this shouldn’t happen again.”
Miami was a decent weekend with a P2 finish for the Ferrari driver, giving him hope again to continue fighting for the title. However, the Spanish Grand Prix had other plans for him. After leading 28 laps, he had his first DNF of the season, as he had to retire his car after losing power.
The Monaco Grand Prix, Leclerc's home race, was also a disappointment for him and for the whole Scuderia. He had been laughing off questions about his supposed “Monaco curse” during media interviews throughout the practice and qualifying sessions of the weekend. Despite getting the pole position and having complete control over the race, his luck changed on lap 22. He was called in to box by his race engineer, Xavier Marcos Padros:
"Box now, box now, box now, box now.... Stay out! Stay out! Stay out!"
But it was already too late for them to correct their mistake. Ferrari had double-stacked their drivers, throwing to the trash any chance Leclerc had of winning the race and even of being in the podium. Leclerc finished the race in P4.
"No words," he said on his radio after the race. "The season is long, but we cannot do that."
P5 in Canada and P4 in Great Britain, after yet another strategy screw up, weren’t good enough results to fight for the championship. However, there was a little light of hope in Austria, where Leclerc managed to finish P1 even though he had some issues with the throttle. Sadly, that ray of hope disappeared in France, where many spectators realised that he was no longer in a position to fight for the 2022 World Drivers' Championship.
After leading 17 laps, he lost the rear of his F1-75, spinning off into the tyre barrier. A furious Leclerc, who later said he thought the spectators couldn’t hear his radio, went on the radio and let out a shuddering scream. His race and hopes for the championship were over.
“It’s my fault and if I keep doing mistakes like this then I deserve to not win the championship,” said Leclerc to the media.
Despite Leclerc getting a few podiums and a good amount of points after that, Verstappen was showing absolute dominance. After a close fight with Pérez, Leclerc managed to secure second place in the standings finishing 146 points behind Verstappen and hoping for a better 2023 season.
Three rounds into the 2023 season, Leclerc hasn't had the results he wanted. With a DNF in Bahrain, a P7 in Saudi Arabia, and his latest DNF in the Australian Grand Prix, this has been his worst start of season since 2018 when he was at Sauber.
“The start of the season is a disaster, it’s really not the start of the season I was hoping for,” said Leclerc to Sky Sports at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.
“A lot of frustration. It’s been three weekends and everything has gone wrong. Problems, penalty.”
“DNF in Bahrain, penalty in Jeddah, and DNF here. Really not the start of the season I was hoping for.”
He added: “We were waiting so much for this race because we could have done something very interesting.”
“We made some set-up changes and I think in terms of race pace we could have seen a good improvement.”
Leclerc has shown that he is capable of fighting for a title, after delivering many high performances. He is a fast, competitive, talented, young driver waiting for another shot for the championship. What are your thoughts on Charles Leclerc? Be sure to leave them in the comments.