The conclusion of the world championship left a bad taste in Charles’ mouth, next year it will be that of the truth, also because in the contract …
True love is one that resists even storms. For Charles Leclerc, whose heart has always been beating for Ferrari, it must not have been easy to digest the way his 2021 World Cup ended. first safety car that cut off his legs, relegating him to tenth place. While team-mate Carlos Sainz was placed immediately behind Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, the duelists for the title, conquering the fourth podium of the debut season with the red. One of Charles ‘worst results coincided with Carlos’ best performance since driving for the Cavallino. Knowing the healthy competition that exists between the two, it must have had a lot to do with Leclerc’s pride, preceded by the Spaniard (and Lando Norris) also in the final classification of the championship.
Leclerc’s year wasn’t all plain sailing, despite an improved car compared to the disastrous 2020, which had seen him outclass Sebastian Vettel in a rear-end battle. The arrival of Sainz, immediately put in conditions by the team to perform at their best, created a new antagonism that perhaps was not expected. The Little Prince at the end of 2019 had rightly been invested with the role of leader, after the resounding victories at Spa and Monza in the season of his debut with Ferrari, when he had also obtained 7 pole positions and another 8 podiums. But Sainz was able to stand up to him very well, especially in the race, the strong point of the Spaniard, who is nicknamed “Smooth Operator” for his ability to manage the race.
Internal competition effectively calls Leclerc’s position into question. Even if team principal Mattia Binotto considers the comparison positive: “Charles and Carlos have pushed each other all year, making the team progress. I expect they will fight again in the future.” The personal relationships between the two are very good. There is respect, esteem and friendship. Both are aware that the priority is to get Ferrari back to win and therefore they are also willing to put aside personal ambitions at times. But Leclerc is a heritage to be protected and there is no hope of his “stomach ache”. The Maranello team has in fact invested heavily in the baby talent discovered by manager Nicolas Todt, the son of the FIA president, making him grow in the Academy and tying him with a long-term contract until 2024. The desire to stay together to return to the top does not has never been questioned.
However, Leclerc is not “armored”: his contract would include a termination clause if in 2022 Ferrari does not finish at least in third place among the Constructors, as this year. Therefore, to keep him tight and avoid temptations elsewhere (for example at Mercedes if Hamilton were to retire), it is necessary that the red is competitive and that the driver feels the confidence and consideration from the team as at the beginning. Indeed, next season will be a key year both for the relaunch of Ferrari and for Leclerc’s definitive success. Furthermore, a possible return of Jean Todt to Maranello in the role of super consultant would change the scenarios.
This year Charles scored only one podium against Sainz’s four, but finished fourth on six other occasions, including Monza. At Silverstone he was the protagonist of a monstrous performance, close to victory, overtaken by Hamilton with 2 laps to go. He was very fast, signing the team’s only two pole positions, in Monte Carlo and in Azerbaijan. But he wasted the chance to triumph in the home race due to the accident at the end of qualifying that forced him to retire before the start, while Sainz took a great second place. He also made a few mistakes too many, especially in practice, in search of the limit. A sign that he pushed hard to look for something more from the car, but he was not always at ease. The disappointment of Qatar is eloquent, when he confessed: “This time I really have no explanations. I lacked the feeling with the car”. It will be important for the Ferrari of 2022 to support him. In Maranello we have been working tirelessly for a year to build a winning F1 taking advantage of the opportunity offered by the turning point in the regulations and the return to ground effect. If Charles has a fast car in his hands, his talent will shine again as in 2019: look at what Verstappen, a rival in the days of karting, did as soon as he was given a Red Bull capable of fighting with Mercedes.
December 16, 2021 (change December 16, 2021 | 08:16)
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Ferrari, in 2022 you have to win (also to keep Leclerc)