40, that’s the number of laps Charles Leclerc led the 2019 Bahrain GP before an engine issue cost him his maiden F1 win. He took it later the same season at Spa-Francorchamps and immediately added a second win to his name the following race at Monza with the Ferrari home crowd going wild. For the last 2 seasons, the Monegasque driver has had quite a different experience.
While Ferrari had been able to regularly fight for wins in previous years, 2020 and 2021 proved difficult for the team. Despite believing they had a good car concept and a strong PU before the 2020 season started, Ferrari was not able to live up to their own expectations. Consequently, Leclerc could not replicate his success from the previous season. After the delayed season start, and as Ferrari’s lack of performance became obvious, it almost seemed as if Leclerc might lose his head when being challenged with a poorly performing car. At the second race of the 2020 season, Leclerc took out teammate Sebastian Vettel in a hara-kiri-like move. This was only the first of many DNFs for the Ferrari driver.
Leclerc finished on the podium twice that season despite all the car troubles and risky moves and had almost three times the amount of points as departing teammate Vettel, earning him P8 in the final championship classification.
2021 went better than the year before. With a better performing car from the start, Leclerc was able to consistently be “best of the rest”. At his home Grand Prix in Monaco, he even managed to claim the theoretical pole position. However, he did not start the race as a result of his Q3 crash that caused a broken driveshaft – another setback in Leclerc’s way back to the top.
Then, at the next race in Baku, Leclerc yet again scored the pole position and, this time, could start the race from first position. However, he did not win this race either or finish on the podium. Only a few races later at Silverstone, the Monegasque driver then almost secured a win – only to be denied his third F1 career triumph in the final 3 laps.
After more improved results, such as his impressive “best of the rest” results of 4th place in Italy, Turkey, and the US, and disappointments, such as his P15 at Sochi Autodrome, Leclerc arrived at the final race of the season in P5 of the championship classification. As had been the case before, everything looked promising, but then, again, Leclerc’s bad luck struck.
A Virtual Safety Car on lap 35 of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix did not play out in the Ferrari driver’s favor, and he finished in 10th – his third-lowest position of the season after P16 in France and P15 in Russia. His unusually low finish gained him only one point in the championship classification and, consequently, made him lose P5 to his new Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.
Now, as the new season begins, it is Leclerc who secured his 10th F1 career pole at the Bahrain GP- more than a tenth in front of reigning champion Verstappen. After 57 long laps of fighting with Verstappen, the wait was over for both Leclerc and Ferrari: the win they had been waiting for since 2019 was theirs.
With 45 points as we head into the third race of the year, Charles Leclerc leads the World Championship for the first time in his F1 career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chiara Schanno was introduced to Motorsport through their family at a young age. Getting really into F1 in late 2016, they soon started to watch more series and is now particularly interested in electric racing like Formula E and feeder series racing like Formula 2. A non-motorsport related (fun) fact about Chiara is that they have stage experience in both acting and singing. They are based in Germany.
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