2022 F1 driver rankings #3: Charles Leclerc · RaceFans

In motorsport, the previous cliché that ‘second place is the primary loser’ has change into a lazy technique of dismissing what an achievement a second place end might be – particularly within the unequal world of System 1.

However when Charles Leclerc travelled to Bologna to gather his second place trophy on the FIA Gala – a token of his highest ever end within the collection – his downbeat manner betrayed simply how badly Leclerc and his Ferrari staff had been overwhelmed by Max Verstappen and Crimson Bull in 2022.

It began so promisingly. Ferrari arrived in Bahrain in with a real probability of preventing for the win and Leclerc promptly made essentially the most of it, pipping Verstappen to the primary pole place of the season. Within the race, he confronted down the brand new world champion fearlessly, preventing side-by-side with the Crimson Bull in a battle that was as exhausting because it was honest. Earlier than Verstappen’s retirement within the closing laps, Leclerc had greater than earned the primary victory of the season, and ended Ferrari’s win drought and set up them because the early title favourites.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2022
Two early wins established Leclerc as a title hopeful

One other intense duel with Verstappen adopted per week later in Jeddah, the place Leclerc finally needed to accept second. However in Melbourne, he dominated. He stormed to pole by virtually three tenths of a second and managed all the race, main each lap to safe his second win in three races. Abruptly, Leclerc sat atop the drivers’ championship with virtually double the factors haul of every other driver and virtually two full race wins’ value over Verstappen.

However regardless of such a commanding early place, Leclerc proved he was not infallible the subsequent spherical in Imola. After making Verstappen work exhausting to win within the dash race, he dropped two locations firstly of the grand prix, operating behind Sergio Perez in third. Then, whereas making an attempt to chase down the second Crimson Bull, he misplaced management on the Variante Alta and skidded into the limitations. Thankfully, he might proceed, however his entrance wing was in want of restore. He finally recovered to sixth, dropping a good quantity of factors to Verstappen, who leapt up into second place within the championship.

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Pole in Miami was the right manner for Leclerc to regain confidence. However within the race Verstappen was just too robust to withstand and he and Ferrari needed to accept second. In Spain, Leclerc appeared unstoppable. He was quickest in each session and stormed to his fourth pole in six rounds – regardless of a spin on his first try in Q3. After beating Verstappen to the run to show one, Leclerc couldn’t have appeared extra comfy out entrance. Then, with out warning, his turbo immediately exploded on lap 27. Race over. Zero factors.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2022
Turbo failure in Spain was the turning level

Heading to his residence grand prix in Monaco, Leclerc was now behind Verstappen within the championship for the primary time. But once more he took pole, and even managed to start out there, not like final yr. However whereas his automotive had let him down in Barcelona, Ferrari’s pit wall had been those to damage his race in Monte Carlo. A combination-up throughout a change to slick tyres left him down in fourth and completely unable to do something to enhance his place across the cramped avenue circuit.

Then in Baku, Leclerc’s suffered one more setback. His fourth consecutive pole additional demonstrated his uncooked pace – particularly in contrast together with his staff mate Carlos Sainz Jnr – however a second energy unit failure whereas main in three races solely dialled up the frustration to larger heights. In consequence, he took a back-of-the-grid energy unit penalty in Montreal, although he managed to get well to fifth place by the end.

At Silverstone, one other probability of a win disappeared utterly when he was disregarded on previous, exhausting tyres when the Security Automobile was deployed late within the race. Leclerc was powerless to cease Sainz passing him and fell to fourth on the end, regardless of placing up a powerful battle in opposition to Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton. Leaving Britain, Leclerc’s deficit to Verstappen was now 45 factors – a outstanding turnaround in comparison with how robust his place sorted the primary three races. However that reversal had largely been despite Leclerc’s efforts, not due to it.

By unusual coincidence, Leclerc’s luck would change on the circuit named for his rivals. Leclerc missed out on pole to Verstappen and needed to maintain off Sainz within the dash race, however on Sunday, he was unstoppable. He overtook Verstappen for the lead of the race three separate instances, then overcame {a partially} sticking throttle over the ultimate laps to take his third victory of the season and throw himself proper again into competition for the championship title.

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Following that up in France can be essential to assist Leclerc regain much-needed momentum heading into the summer season break. He gave the impression to be on his manner when he comprehensively took pole at Paul Ricard, with just a little assist from his staff mate. For the primary time for the reason that early races, Leclerc fought head-to-head in opposition to Verstappen as soon as extra and managed to fend off his assaults by means of the early laps.

However after Verstappen pitted and Leclerc needed to push, he threw away his complete weekend by dropping management of his automotive at Beausset and spinning into the limitations – his third retirement from the lead of a race within the season and the primary for which he was totally accountable.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Austria proved his last win of the yr

After one other head-scratching technique determination by Ferrari on the Hungaroring left him in sixth place and 80 factors behind Verstappen, any practical hopes of Leclerc clawing himself again into competition had been virtually useless. He caught extra unhealthy luck in Spa when he collected a tear-off in his brake duct early within the race which compelled Ferrari to pit him early, then an try on the quickest lap level backfired comically when he broke the pit lane pace restrict, costing him a place for zero acquire.

By now, Verstappen and Crimson Bull had been untouchable. As Verstappen continued to march in the direction of the championship, Leclerc no less than had the continued measure of staff mate Sainz. Again-to-back poles at Ferrari’s residence race at Monza after which Singapore helped pad his stats, however Ferrari had used up their growth finances by this stage and commenced to be caught by Mercedes. Leclerc continued to battle exhausting on race days, nonetheless, even pushing the envelope too far within the case of the ultimate lap at Suzuka, the place he was demoted to 3rd behind Perez after lacking the ultimate chicane. That determined the title in Verstappen’s favour with 4 races.

As Ferrari struggled to maintain up with the Crimson Bulls close to the top of the season, Sainz started to beat his staff mate to the chequered flag for the primary time in the course of the yr. However Leclerc was once more getting no favours from his staff, who determined to ship him out on a still-dry Interlagos on intermediate tyres in Q3, then name him into change again to slicks too late.

However in Abu Dhabi, with nothing to race for apart from the ‘honour’ of being the primary driver to misplaced to Verstappen, Leclerc put in his finest drive over the second half of the season. He pushed himself and his tyres to the restrict to make a one-stop technique work and maintain simply out of attain of a pursuing Perez to carry onto second place on the end. As typical of Leclerc’s season, he had toiled exhausting, however was finally rewarded with little or no.

Leclerc’s most profitable season with Ferrari had additionally been his most irritating, the place his early goals of preventing for the world title for the primary time in his profession vanished into air like smoke from the rear of his automotive. However no less than for the primary a part of the season, Leclerc demonstrated he has the steely nerve required to battle in opposition to a world champion like Verstappen on an equal footing. And together with his former Sauber staff principal Frederic Vasseur guiding him subsequent season, Leclerc is aware of he can head into 2023 extra assured of his personal sensible skills than ever earlier than.

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